GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Yoan Moncada and Tim Anderson are trying to build a special rapport in the middle of the diamond for the White Sox, with Moncada learning English and offering to teach Anderson some Spanish to improve the communication on and off the field. If the pair pans out
GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Yoan Moncada and Tim Anderson are trying to build a special rapport in the middle of the diamond for the White Sox, with Moncada learning English and offering to teach Anderson some Spanish to improve the communication on and off the field. If the pair pans out as envisioned by the South Siders, they will be linked as double-play partners for the foreseeable future.
In the 2018 lineup, however, Moncada and Anderson are likely going to be separated for the betterment of the run production. Manager Rick Renteria likes the look of the lineup with Moncada in the leadoff spot, Avisail Garcia batting second and Anderson batting seventh.
That's the look Renteria rolled out in a lineup heavy on regulars for Friday's 6-3 loss to the Cubs at Camelback Ranch -- in which Moncada connected on his second spring homer -- and it's one you can probably expect to see at the start of the regular season.
"A lot of it, for us, is setting up and giving us an opportunity to use those guys that get on base a lot," Renteria said.
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The Sox have real -- and rare -- speed weapons in both Moncada and Anderson, and it's tempting to think about the damage they can do together in setting up RBI opportunities for Jose Abreu and Garcia. But that only works if they're getting on base. And while both of those guys have some serious swing-and-miss issues that, if addressed, would improve their OBPs, Anderson's strikeout-to-walk ratio is especially -- and literally -- striking. He struck out 162 times against just 13 walks in his first full season in 2017 and has just a .289 OBP through 1,037 big league plate appearances.
"They used my aggressiveness against me last year," Anderson said. "It didn't feel good. But I've been working on it this offseason and I'm excited."
Though Anderson has logged time in the No. 2 spot behind Moncada this spring, Renteria thinks batting him in or closer to the lower third is the better way to take advantage of his high batting average on balls in play (.347 for his career, to date) and limit the negatives attached to his K totals.
"I don't want to change who he is," Renteria said. "I don't want him to start thinking about how to get on base. I want him to swing the bat. He's got a very high on-base through the ball-in-play avenue. And on top of that, if we've got a lot of guys on base, he has the ability to drive a lot of guys in."
As for Moncada in the leadoff spot, it's a risk given the 22-year-old second baseman's 34.3 percent strikeout rate through 251 plate appearances in the Majors. Even in a resplendent Minor League career, Moncada struck out 30.3 percent of the time, but he nonetheless managed to maintain a .390 OBP.
"The strikeouts, over time, I think they'll go down," Renteria said. "Most of the strikeouts that come were in offspeed pitch counts. It's more to do with having a feel for the opposition and how the ball acts, the action that it has. He showed toward the end of the season last year, a really good adjustment. He started hitting and not missing those offspeed pitches. He's got a good eye, a really good feel for the strike zone. When he strikes the ball, he can impact it very well."
Moncada is thrilled with the leadoff role.
"I like it a lot," he said through interpreter Billy Russo. "I think I have the opportunity to see more pitches, to see better pitchers and to get on base. In that particular case, I can take advantage of one of my greater strengths -- my speed."
If Anderson improves his OBP this season in the lower third of the lineup, that could increase RBI opportunities for Moncada up top when the lineup flips over.
Just another way these double-play partners could speak each other's language.
Anthony Castrovince has been a reporter for MLB.com since 2004. Read his columns, listen to his podcasts and follow him on Twitter at @Castrovince.