Moncada's 2021 goal? Prepare for October

January 13th, 2021

CHICAGO -- Yoán Moncada believes a better individual season is coming in 2021.

But not just a better season compared to 2020, when the White Sox third baseman tested positive for COVID-19 during the intake process ahead of Summer Camp, didn’t feel nearly the same until the end of the 60-game run and hit .225 with a .705 OPS and 17 extra-base hits in 52 games. Moncada feels his upcoming campaign can surpass his MVP-caliber performance in '19.

“I truly believe that I can do more, that I can be better than what I was in 2019,” said Moncada through interpreter Billy Russo during a Tuesday night phone interview, marking his first comments since the season’s end.

“That’s why I’m working hard. That’s why I have a mindset to do the best that I can every day. That is why I’m working with a goal and a purpose.”

After striking out 217 times during his first full season with the White Sox in 2018, Moncada took steps toward improvement during that ensuing offseason through extra work in Arizona with manager Rick Renteria and hitting coach Todd Steverson. That work, along with a defensive switch from second to third, helped produce a .315/.367/.548 slash line in ’19, along with 25 home runs, 34 doubles, 79 RBIs and 83 runs scored.

Moncada worked just as diligently last offseason, with targets of playing every game in ’20 and strengthening his legs to avoid nagging injuries. He talked about stealing more bases, after swiping 25 total over his first three seasons with the White Sox, and felt good during Spring Training in Arizona. Then, the pandemic stopped Spring Training, causing uncertainty as to when play would resume.

“Once we restarted Spring Training or the training in Chicago, it was different because you have to rush everything up to try to get ready for the season. I got COVID,” Moncada said. “That part was difficult, because I set high expectations and I worked hard to accomplish those expectations and I couldn’t reach them. But this year, I’m in the same process. Working hard, working with a goal.”

During an interview in the 2020 season, the switch-hitting Moncada told the media he still didn’t feel back to normal after dealing with COVID-19 almost two months earlier. Moncada improved physically near the end of the season, but on Tuesday evening, he said the tiredness and weakness lasted weeks after the White Sox were eliminated from the playoffs.

Moncada simply rested at the start of the offseason to help bring back a sense of normalcy, spending quite a bit of time in Cuba before the new year. Moncada’s workouts on Instagram show he has now returned to that same intensity in regards to baseball and in the gym.

“It was something that I didn’t feel during the last season,” Moncada said. “But thank God I’m feeling very good right now. I feel like I normally feel. I’m doing all my stuff and I’m in very, very good condition. I feel strong.”

Moncada’s goal for 2021 seems to have a few components beyond numbers above his lofty ’19 results. He wants to stay healthy, and he wants to help the White Sox win a championship already discussed by some of his teammates and coaches. But Moncada doesn’t believe the ’20 season was a failure, when considering issues caused by the virus.

“Even though I wasn’t the Yoán Moncada that I was in 2019, and I wasn’t feeling like myself, I found ways to help the team,” Moncada said. “Probably not at my best and not at that level I once performed, but because of the virus I had to face, I don’t think it was a really bad season.

“I’m trying to put myself in the best position to have success this season, but I’m not thinking just in the regular season. I’m not thinking we are going to play into September. I’m thinking, ‘OK, we are going to have a deep run in October, and I have to be ready for it.’ That’s my goal right now. That’s the focus of my training right now. I need to be ready and prepare my body and my mind to play until October, deep in October. That’s my goal.”