Considering the White Sox season was effectively over in April or May, it’s difficult to blame fans for checking out early this season. However, a few interesting developments have occurred after the all-star break that are worth noting, either because they impact the future of the organization, or because they provide context behind the performance of particularly notable players.
Yoan Moncada‘s return to form
Yoan Moncada has looked quite good at the plate lately. His increased power and overall comfort resemble how he looked in the first couple weeks of the season prior to his first major back flare-up. Whether this is a case of a player finally being healthy or playing in low-pressure games is up for debate, but what cannot be denied is the uptick in performance.
Since August 9th, Moncada is hitting .331/.362/.565 (.926 OPS, 152 wRC+). The 7:43 walk:strikeout ratio is a concern, but is less of an issue for Moncada, who has shown a propensity to take walks throughout his career, than it would be for a younger or less disciplined hitter.
In the month of September, Moncada has a .379 xwOBA (league average is .321) and 95.2 MPH average exit velocity (league average is 88.4 MPH). Considering 2024 will be a contract year for the third baseman, it will be very important for Moncada to show that he is capable of performing at a high level for a full season rather than just a couple of months. It’s a tale as old as time — if he can stay healthy, he will likely perform well. But health has been a significant issue over the last two seasons.
Luis Robert Jr.‘s under-the-radar consistency
Luis Robert Jr.’s fantastic season sometimes gets reduced to a torrid June surrounded by inconsistent months. This is not actually the case — while Robert did put up an astounding 1.040 OPS in June, he also had a 1.013 OPS in May and an OPS above .800 in June and July. April was shaping up to be a May/June kind of month for Robert Jr. until a nasty slump at the end, but Robert Jr. has otherwise been surprisingly consistent this season.
Considering his gaudy May and June statistics, it may come as a surprise that Robert Jr.’s highest xwOBA in a single month this season came in August (.420, edging out June’s .412). Robert Jr. still performed quite well in August (.910 OPS, .379 wOBA), but this was a month that came with some bad luck, including multiple barreled outs to the deepest parts of different ballparks.
Had the White Sox been playing meaningful games, this probably would have been noticed by a wider audience. Regardless, fan sentiment is of course what drives public perception of players, and Robert Jr. did his part in 2023 to drop the once accurate “inconsistent” label.
Eloy Jimenez‘s sharp decline
On the other hand, there is Eloy Jimenez. Entering 2023, Jimenez was in an interesting place — he had been constantly injured over the prior two seasons but was a truly elite hitter when healthy in 2022. This season, Jimenez has been much healthier, as his only major absence this season was due to an appendectomy, which is of course not a baseball-related injury.
While Jimenez deserves credit for staying on the field more this season, his offense has not held up. He has a meager (for a designated hitter) 102 wRC+ on the season, down 41% from his 143 mark in 2022. This has largely been due to his sharp late-season decline — after a fairly solid start to the season, Jimenez produced only a .301 xwOBA in August and a .242 xwOBA (so far) in September.
Jimenez simply has to hit better in order to be a full-time designated hitter. He has the talent and prior results to back up his role, but 2024 will be crucial for him too, as the White Sox have the option to buy him out of his contract after the season for $3 million (in lieu of paying him $16.5 million for 2025). If Jimenez cannot rebound next season and get at least somewhat closer to his 2022 self, then the White Sox may conclude that $16.5 million is not worth the price for a designated hitter.
Barring a surprise trade, the White Sox do not have to make any big decisions about Moncada, Robert Jr., or Jimenez this winter. However, 2024 is a key year for Moncada and Jimenez to prove that they are worth keeping in Chicago, and it will also be important for Robert Jr. to prove that his 2023 — more in terms of health than performance — is repeatable.
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