2020 Projection: After A Breakout 2019 Is A Regression Inevitable For Yoan Moncada?

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There has always been much hype surrounding Yoan Moncada since he defected from Cuba, and in 2019 the talk became reality as he emerged as one of the better young hitters in the game:

511 At Bats
.315 Batting Average (161 Hits)
25 Home Runs
79 RBI
83 Runs
10 Stolen Bases
.367 On Base Percentage
.548 Slugging Percentage
.406 Batting Average on Balls in Play

The big development was in his batting average, a year after he hit .235 over 578 AB for the White Sox.  Just by looking at the stat line his BABIP jumps out as an unsustainable mark, but is that the only reason to think his average will plummet?  Could he sustain an elevated BABIP?  Let’s break it down:

BABIP

There are a lot of reasons to think that Moncada can maintain an elevated BABIP over a full season:

  • Oppo% – 26.0%
  • Hard% – 39.3%
  • Flyball Rate – 34.5%

So he uses the entire field, hits the ball relatively hard and wasn’t swinging for the fences. Throw in some speed and it’s the perfect package to maintain an above average BABIP, but is a .406 mark really sustainable?  Keep in mind that it was the highest mark among qualified hitters in ’19 (and he was one of only three players to post a BABIP above .361).  In fact the .406 mark was the highest of the decade, with Moncada being the only player to carry a .400+ mark for an entire season (since 2000 there have only been two other players to carry .400+ BABIP, but no one higher than Moncada’s from last season).

Strikeouts

Sure Moncada cut his strikeout rate to 27.5%, but his SwStr% actually jumped from 12.2% to 13.9% and he continued to struggle making contact against all types of pitches (Whiff%):

  • Hard – 9.76%
  • Offspeed – 16.24%
  • Breaking – 23.71%

Maybe he’s not a 30% strikeout player, but would it be surprising if he was?

Those two things alone are going to call his average into question, but you also have to wonder if there’s any further growth in his power available to him (his flyball rate went from 40.1% to 34.5% in ’19).  Throw in an approach that also regressed (O-Swing% went from 23.3% to 32.7%) and it’s fair to wonder if what we saw in ’19 was the best that he has to offer and it creates the following projection:

2020 Projection:

.262 (144-550), 27 HR, 80 RBI, 85 R, 12 SB, .338 BABIP, .331 OBP, .489 SLG

Obviously those are strong numbers, but they aren’t elite at a position that has become deep.  In fact they don’t put him within the Top 10 at third base, and would it be surprising to see him fail to reach these marks?  There’s value, and you don’t want to ignore that, but don’t pay for last year’s production.  It’s far more likely that he comes up short and you ultimately regret the decision.

Sources – Fangraphs, Brooks Baseball

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