Moncada expecting success in first full season with Chicago White Sox

There has been a mixed bag of news coming out of the Chicago White Sox's training camp this spring.

On the strictly baseball side, the biggest news involves second baseman Yoan Moncada.

The No. 1 overall prospect in baseball before joining the Sox on July 19 last season, Moncada has been hitting out of the leadoff spot in Cactus League play, and it looks like he will continue batting first when the season opens at Kansas City on March 29.

On the roster side, the Sox signed two veteran left-handed pitchers — Hector Santiago and Robbie Ross.

Santiago is versatile enough to work out of the bullpen, but he also can move into the starting rotation if Carson Fulmer's Cactus League struggles (22.50 ERA) continue.

Ross, who saved six games for the Boston Red Sox in 2015, is an established reliever trying to come back from an elbow injury and back surgery last season.

On the injury side, Jake Burger is out for the season after rupturing his left Achilles tendon running to first base last week in an exhibition game. The third baseman was the White Sox's first-round draft pick last year.

Outfielder Eloy Jimenez played in the Sox's first Cactus League game but has since been sidelined with tendinitis in his left knee.

On Tuesday, White Sox general manager Rick Hahn said pitching prospect Alec Hansen is dealing with right forearm soreness but an MRI was “100 percent clear.”

As for Moncada, when he made it to the South Side midway through last season he didn't look like he was ready to face major-league pitching.

“At the beginning, it was a little difficult for me to adjust to the way the pitchers pitched here,” Moncada said earlier in spring training. “But I made adjustments. I got used to it, and by the end of the season I did good. I think that all those adjustments that I made the last part of the season can carry to this season and I can have success.”

In his first 33 game with the White Sox, the 21-year-old Moncada batted .179 with 3 home runs and 11 RBI. Over his last 21 games, the switch hitter batted .299 with 5 homers and 11 RBI.

“I think Yoan, when he first got called up, he had a tremendous command of the strike zone,” Sox manager Rick Renteria said. “He was swinging through a lot of off-speed, a lot of the secondary pitches. He wasn't flailing and chasing pitches but just swinging through some of those pitches.

“I think he started to understand with his approach what guys were trying to do with him.

“Toward the end, the last four or five weeks, he really turned it up a notch and his batting average started to rise. His on-base has always been good; obviously he has a very good eye.”

Even when he was scuffling early, Moncada never panicked. His patient approach resulted in 29 walks in 231 plate appearances. He also struck out 74 times, frequently taking called third strikes.

As he enters his first full season in the big leagues, Moncada is poised to flash his multiple skills. Look for the batting average to rise, more stolen bases and athletic plays at second base.

“I learned that you have to be more patient at this level, and you have to make adjustments and you have to have your plan,” Moncada said. “But what I learned the most is just to be patient. I learned and applied that by the end of last season, and I think that was a big part of my success at the end of the season.”

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Chicago White Sox second baseman Yoan Moncada runs to the dugout during a spring training baseball game against the Chicago Cubs, Tuesday, Feb. 27, 2018, in Mesa, Ariz. (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio)
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