CHICAGO -- There is some debate as to whether the White Sox rebuild began with their highly touted 2016 MLB Draft class or the trades of Chris Sale and Adam Eaton during the last Winter Meetings.
But Yoan Moncada's debut with the team in Wednesday night's 9-1 loss to the Dodgers at Guaranteed Rate Field moves this high-end rebuild from the "looks great on paper" stage to more of a reality.
Moncada, the No. 1 prospect overall according to MLBPipeline.com, was acquired from Boston as part of the four-player return for Sale. The switch-hitter was placed sixth in manager Rick Renteria's lineup Wednesday and assumed his post at second base, going 0-for-2 with a walk.
Fans reacted to Moncada's every move with the same frenzied energy in which they have embraced the rebuild. Actually, they went a step beyond as shown in his first at-bat with Matt Davidson on first and nobody out in the second.
Every moment of the nine pitch at-bat were cheered by the fans in attendance as if it was a playoff contest as opposed to game No. 92 for a 38-54 squad. Moncada drew a walk from Kenta Maeda, laying off several close offerings.
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"I felt good," said Moncada through interpreter Billy Russo. "I didn't get any hits but I hit the ball hard and I executed my plan. I was excited with the way the fans treated me and how they were cheering me. I was really happy in that at-bat and excited because all that atmosphere and the excitement in the ballpark."
In his second at-bat in the fourth, Moncada grounded out to first baseman Clay Bellinger. He just missed extra bases down the right-field line with a foul ball on a 2-2 fastball. He lined out to center off of Thomas Stripling with Jose Abreu on second to end the sixth, although he saw 18 pitches over the three plate appearances.
"He's a great player, he has all the tools," Davidson said. "We saw him at Spring Training and I'm excited to have him in the lineup, and we're looking forward to it. I'm sure he's been waiting for this for a while and he'll be good for us."
"That's fun. It was cool," White Sox starting and losing pitcher Carlos Rodon said. "It got very loud when he came up to the plate, as we expected. That was fun to watch."
Over 80 games for Triple-A Charlotte, the 22-year-old Moncada hit .282 with 12 home runs, 36 RBIs, a .377 OBP and 17 stolen bases. He also improved defensively, earning plaudits from scouts and the organization alike for his ability to turn the double play, which he did in the sixth inning Wednesday.
Becoming the team's starting second baseman and focusing on that one position should help Moncada improve from his .211 showing over eight games with Boston last September.
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There were close to 5,000 in walk-up ticket sales, and not just to see a Dodgers team with a 31-4 mark over its last 35 games. A new era was beginning, an era where general manager Rick Hahn hopes this level of excitement comes along with victories on a daily basis.
"Yeah I feel relieved after that game," Moncada said. "After the first one, it's going to be good."
"It's the beginning of what hopefully will be a transition from a lot of the youth we've been accumulating in the system," Renteria said. "The reality is he's also a young player who is going to have his ups and downs and hopefully we can allow him the opportunity to find out who he is. When we can, help, and when we can't, get out of his way."