One player that seems to always be a hot topic every season is Yoan Moncada. After 2020, in which he was infected and had lingering effects from COVID-19, many were wondering if he would go back to his 2019 level of performance. While many of us thought he would, there was a considerable part of the fan base that still want to call him a bust. I would like to put forth here that while we all love home runs, players can be productive without them.
So at this point in the season, just after the All-Star break, I wanted to look at his performance thus far and figure out where the lack of power might come from – as well as how he has remained productive despite his lack of power.
The Lack of Home Runs
The biggest criticism of Yoan’s performance this season has been his low home run totals. That critique is understandable, especially with the lack of power by the team as a whole this year. With that being said, I will get into why his home runs are down. Overall, his exit velocity is down from 2019, from 93.1 to 90.4. This is not the end of the world, and it is up from 2020, but it is something to note.
The stat that most jumps out at me is his flyball rate. Besides his cup of coffee stint in 2016, Moncada has seen his lowest fly ball rate in his MLB career at 28.8%. Seeing his low fly ball rate led me to look at his average launch angle. In 2021, the average launch angle for his batted balls is 11.2 degrees. That is a full degree lower than 2019, and the lowest of his career outside of 2016 as well.
There is another stat that also caught my eye as a possible reason for a lack of pop. Yoan’s home run to fly ball ratio, or HR/FB, is almost 8% lower than 2019. It fell from 20.2% to 12.7%. This means that even on the balls he is putting in the air, less of them are leaving the park.
One metric that may explain this is Moncada’s exit velocity on fly balls. In 2021, his EV on fly balls is 91.8, compared to 94.2 in 2019 when his HR/FB rate was much higher. In other words, some of Moncada’s fly balls might just not be hit hard enough to carry out of the ballpark.
Why Moncada is Still Successful
As I mentioned earlier, a hitter can be successful without hitting home runs. Everyone loves home runs, but what most fans, coaches, and analysts alike will agree is that hitting a lot of line drives is good. So as you probably have guessed, this is where Moncada is succeeding. In 2021, he has a career-high line drive rate of 28.8%. To give some more context to this, that would rank 1st in the AL and 3rd in MLB. That puts him behind only Adam Frazier and Nick Castellanos.
Another reason I believe Yoan Moncada is still playing very well is his overall plate discipline. His walk rate is 97th percentile at 15.1%, a career-best. A concern one might have with that is in the past his strikeout rate was also sky-high when he had a high walk rate. But, this season is a different story. He is combining an elite walk rate with a career-low strikeout rate at 25.7%.
All told, Yoan Moncada has put together a nice season. The metrics explained above show how he has been able to come to a .274/.392/.417 slash with a 131 wRC+. His xwOBA is also at .364, a career-high, which means the quality of his contact has been awesome.
Moncada has very clearly been a great hitter this season despite the lack of home run numbers. He has been just as good as he was in 2019, albeit in a different manner. There’s no clear answer to how Moncada can begin to get those power numbers back, however, as it’s difficult to just say “hit the ball harder.” This is likely something he and Frank Menechino have been working on.
Regardless, as long as Moncada continues playing this well, he should help keep the team in the World Series hunt.
Featured Photo: Chicago White Sox (@whitesox) / Twitter