Ah yes, Moncada and Odor. Both players were drafted, or kept, with high expectations. Looking at 16-team leagues, Odor was selected at the end of the fifth round, and beginning of the sixth, while Moncada was selected in the tenth round. Both were high picks, and great production is expected when selecting players this high. While Odor has turned his season around, after a slow start, Yoan Moncada still hasn’t produced the way we expect after he was a major piece in the trade that landed Boston Chris Sale. This week, I want to look through the microscope at both players in “That’s Amore!” The Curious Cases of Yoan Moncada & Rougned Odor.
Last season was the first look at White Sox prospect Yoan Moncada. In 199 at-bats, Moncada slashed .231/.338/.412. While the average wasn’t very impressive, there was much to be noticed in his OBP (.338). While he did draw 29 walks in 231 plate appearances, the plate discipline, mixed with being over matched, played into his 74 strikeouts (37%). Fast-forward to 2018, and much of the same has played into this season. Entering Monday, Moncada has slashed .222/.305/.400 with 48 walks and 154 strikeouts (38%) in 405 at-bats.
I understand the White Sox are in rebuild mode, and not very competitive, but striking out 38% of the time doesn’t cut it for a leadoff hitter, and that’s exactly where Moncada has hit for a majority of the season. Not only has accumulated 48 strikeouts in 149 leadoff at-bats (32%), but it’s put the White Sox in a hole early, with less talented players coming up to bat with no one on base. Even so, he’s been miserable with runners in scoring position slashing a combined .179/.260/.417. While Moncada is only a few months removed from turning 23, I believe it would’ve been beneficial for him to iron out some of these issues in the minors.
At no point in the minors has Moncada shown improvement in terms of strikeouts. After advancing from A ball, he’s averaged a K% of around 30%. One noticeable numbers is his BB%. It’s declined every season since rookie ball as has his on base percentage. One thing I’ve noticed are his batted ball rates. Since 2015, he’s seen his line drive (LD%) and ground ball (GB%) percentages decrease 6% and 8% respectively, while his fly ball percentage (FB%) increased in double digits since his time in AA and AAA. I attributed a lot this to him turning, and driving, on nearly every pitch which has a direct correlation to his Soft% and Med% (11.8%/50.4%) being quite higher than his Hard% (37.8). He’s simply not making great contact consistently.
Looking at Moncada’s plate discipline, one thing that I noticed was his dismal Z-Contact% (contact at pitches inside the zone) of 79.6%. I’m not sure if you think as I do, but when I see 79.6% I immediately round to 80%, and assume this number seems fairly reasonable. However, when compared to Joey Votto (87.5%), Mookie Betts (93.7%), and Mike Trout (91.1%) it’s easy to see why 79.6% isn’t anything to be impressed with. I understand I’m comparing Moncada’s numbers to some of the best hitters in Major League Baseball, but even guys like Cesar Hernandez (89.9%), Brett Gardner (93.1%), and Shin-Soo Choo (83.7%) have substantially higher Z-Contact% numbers than Moncada. One notable statistic is the strikeout. None of the aforementioned players have a strikeout rate as high as Moncada’s, nor is their SwStr% as high.
What improvements need to be made? Moncada must learn to control the strike zone and cut down on his strikeouts. One player I thought of immediately was Javier Baez. He, too, was a player that had high numbers of strikeouts in the minors, but even then, they were not at the rate of Moncada. Also, when Baez made contact, it was noticeably greater than that of Moncada. Still, Moncada has the time to develop into a better hitter, but does he have the discipline and desire?
I believe Moncada can still become a solid hitter, but I don’t see him being the next great thing like he was tabbed to be coming out of Cuba. I feel he was drafted too high in fantasy baseball, and his owners have suffered all season long. A lot of it can be attributed to playing for a lackluster club in the midst of a rebuild, but even then, he hasn’t been the shining spot on the White Sox. There have been numerous players, with less talent, that have outperformed Yoan Moncada. Other than keeper leagues, I can easily see Moncada’s stock falling in 2019 drafts.
After slashing .271/.296/.502 with 33 home runs in 2016, Odor saw his production decrease mightily during the 2017 season slashing .204/.252/.397. While he still reached 30 home runs for a second consecutive season, he did see his strikeout total grow from 135 (2016) to 162 (2017). This was one strikeout per game as he played in all 162 games. Early into the 2018 season, Odor season was looking to replicate his 2017 after slashing a combined .184/.250/.250 in March, April, and May with only one home run. In June, however, he started to heat up slashing .259/.354/.412 with three home runs. Fast-forward to July and August, and he’s been one of baseball’s hottest hitters slashing a combined .385/.505/.884 with nine home runs.
One thing I noticed, that’s lead to Odor’s turnaround, was not only moving up and down in the order, but cutting down on the swings and misses. Through March-June, Odor racked up 54 strikeouts, but has since only had 27 strikeouts in July and early-August. He was striking out in more than a quarter of his at-bats in the first half, and has since lowered this number to 20% since (post All-Star Break). After being reluctant to use the opposite part of the field, Odor has gone the opposite way more often in July and August. Also, he’s seen his Z-Contact% (86.1%) get closer to the 88.2% he posted in 2016. By cutting down his strikeouts in the past two months, he’s also on pace to set a career-best in SwStr% with a 10.6% which is down 2% from the previous two seasons.
A lot of the adjustments made had to do with identifying pitches outside the zone, and having the discipline to lay off these pitches. He credits a lot of this to teammate Shin-Soo Choo. Believe me, when you’re behind in the count, it’s very hard to lay off breaking balls outside the zone. When you see the pitch coming, your brain starts the process of swinging, and before you know it, the pitch is outside the zone. It takes great discipline, and repetition, to not only identify the breaking ball, but have the ability to lay off. Odor has done a superb job at making this adjustment.
What can we expect for the rest of the season? Odor’s adjustment to identifying “bad pitches” has not only cut down on strikeouts, but it’s lead to a decrease in swings and misses. I’ve said this in numerous articles, but having the ability to hit the ball up the middle, and the other way, leads to great success for hitters. This is another thing Odor has been doing more frequently, and the hot streak should continue. I’m not saying he’s going to have an OPS better than 1.300 the rest of the way, but an OBP of around .340 isn’t out of the realm of possibility. If he continues his hot streak, he should come close to 25 home runs which is a great achievement after starting the first three months with only one. Odor is definitely a player I tried to acquire before the trade deadline in fantasy leagues.
Major League Fantasy Baseball Radio Show: Join host Brian Roach, Jr, and Cole Freel live on Sunday July 29th, 2018 from 8-9:30pm EST for episode #131 of Major League Fantasy Baseball Radio. We are a live broadcast that will take callers at 323-870-4395. Press 1 to speak with the host. We will discuss the latest information in the world of fantasy baseball.
Our guest this week is Joe Iannone. Joe is a writer with majorleaguefantasysports.com. His articles publish every Sunday and he focuses on spot starting pitchers for the coming week.
Major League Fantasy Football Radio Show: Join host Corey D Roberts, and James Wilk live August 2nd, 2018 from 8-9:30pm EST for episode #87 of Major League Fantasy Football Radio. Call in number is 323-870-4395 press 1 to speak with the host. We will hit free agents, rookies, and fantasy football as a whole for each team for 2018. This week we will discuss everything NFC South!