White Sox Notebook: Streaking Yoán, Scuffling Yermín, and Depth Delights
Yoán Moncada is red-hot, Yermín Mercedes is not; and the bench has been other-worldly lately.
All-Star Game voting has commenced, and the White Sox have at least, at least, one player who should be a lock to make the trip to Colorado next month, Yermín Mercedes is scuffling at the dish, and bench mates Billy Hamilton and Jake Lamb are playing out of their minds right now.
Yoán Moncada is on Fire
Yoán Moncada, after struggling in 2020 as he battled the lingering effects of COVID-19, is reminding the league that he is one of the best at the hot corner.
Moncada, 26, is slashing .299/.426/.444 with five home runs, 30 RBI, 29 runs scored, a 153 wRC+, and 2.6 fWAR through his first 54 games this season. By comparison, Moncada posted a wRC+ of 96 and just 1.6 fWAR in 52 contests during the 2020 season, a season in which he was often visibly hampered by the effects of COVID-19.
In 2019 Moncada looked like the version of the player that the White Sox traded for when they dealt Chris Sale to Boston following the 2016 season, a player that they could pencil in as a staple of the lineup for years to come, slashing .315/.367/.548 with a wRC+ of 140 and 5.6 fWAR.
This version of Moncada, here in 2021, is even better than that 2019 version. Moncada is in total control of his at-bats, swinging at fewer balls than ever before while offering a higher rate of pitches in the zone than ever before. Sure, the power numbers aren’t quite at 2019 levels just yet, but they’ll come if Moncada continues to approach at-bats as he has thus far.
Moncada owns the second-highest OBP (.444) in the entire American League on June 4. He’s getting on-base at a torrid pace, and mostly via hits. Through his current seven-game hitting streak, Moncada is slashing .478/.556/.783 with a pair of home runs. He’s pounding everything he makes contact with, an average exit velocity of 96.9 mph, and his .783 slugging percentage shows that the power numbers are on the way.
Entering play today, Moncada ranks first in the American League in fWAR (2.6), wRC+ (153), and OBP (.444) among third basemen. If Yoán Moncada isn’t in Colorado at next month’s All-Star Game, it’ll be a crime.
Yermín Mercedes is Scuffling
Mercedes took the baseball world by storm in April and won Rookie of the Month honors for his torrid offensive pace, but May hasn’t been as kind to the 28-year-old rookie thus far.
A .415/.455/.659 slash line with five home runs, 16 RBI, a 212 wRC+ netted Mercedes American League Rookie of the Month honors, his own signature cheeseburger, and countless new fans across Chicago and the baseball world.
The month of May has not been as kind to Mercedes. The 28-year-old rookie slashed just .221/.292/.326 with two home runs and a wRC+ of just 78 in his second month at the major league level.
Some have floated the notion that Tony La Russa impacted Mercedes with his decision not to have his back after Mercedes crushed a 3-0 offering from fellow position player Willians Astudillo back on May 17, but that’s just silly.
From May 1 to May 16, Mercedes hit just .244 with no home runs and a wRC+ of 82. Mercedes’ struggles started well before the now infamous 3-0 bomb off Astudillo.
Easy. The pitchers figured the rookie out. This happens to nearly every rookie, and now it’s on Mercedes to make a counter move by adjusting himself. Relax, it’s a long season.
Losing Eloy Jiménez and Luis Robert to long-term injuries could have been a dagger to the postseason hopes of the White Sox. Still, they’ve received some notable performances from depth signings Billy Hamilton and Jake Lamb to help keep them atop the American League Central to date.
In 20 games this season, Lamb is slashing .265/.400/.531 with four home runs and a 164 wRC+. Tony La Russa has deployed Lamb primarily against right-handed pitching (57 plate appearances versus RHP compared to just three plate appearances against LHP), which jives with Lambs career splits (110 wRC+ versus RHP compared to a wRC+ of just 58 versus LHP).
So, credit where credit is due, La Russa has done a great job of deploying the 30-year-old Lamb in situations that will allow him to make positive contributions to the White Sox lineup.
Billy Hamilton’s huge weekend against Baltimore earned him major points with the fans after Hamilton scuffled mightily at the plate for what seemed like an entire month.
After collecting three hits in his first 27 trips to the plate from Opening Day to May 11, Hamilton is slashing .279/.273/.581 with two home runs, eight RBI, eight runs scored, two stolen bases, and a 129 wRC+ since May 12.
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