Jose Abreu

Why Yoan Moncada's hot streak is important for the White Sox confidence and his

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USA TODAY

Why Yoan Moncada's hot streak is important for the White Sox confidence and his

HOUSTON -- Don’t think the White Sox front office isn’t enjoying every second of Yoan Moncada’s tear.

Everyone can breathe a little easier knowing there are fewer questions for baseball’s top prospect to answer headed into 2018. Pleased as they’d been with Moncada’s patient plate approach, the club desired a breakthrough before Oct. 2 for the confidence boost it would provide him alone. Moncada continued a torrid run on Wednesday night that should have him bristling with poise when he arrives in Glendale, Ariz. next February. He homered as the White Sox fell 4-3 to the Houston Astros at Minute Maid Park.

“We’ve been looking for him to continue to try and make adjustments,” manager Rick Renteria said. “There was probably a point there where people were a little concerned. Truthfully, when you see some of the talent these kids have, you recognize that their skillset is going to play up, it’s just a matter of getting the repetition.”

The White Sox have been impressed with Moncada’s improved awareness as he gains more experience.

One area in which Moncada has made the most gains is pitch recognition. The book has been that second baseman has had trouble with offspeed since he arrived in 2016, hitting .154 against sliders and .238 against curveballs entering Wednesday, according to Brooksbaseball.net.

But Moncada is trending upward. The first-pitch slider from Astros starter Brad Peacock that Moncada ripped for a go-ahead, two-run homer in the fourth inning was his fifth hit of the trip on a slider or curveball in 11 at-bats. On the trip, Moncada -- who has 189 plate appearances this season -- is hitting .415/.477/.683 with three homers, eight RBIs and 12 runs in 41 plate appearances.

[MORE: Jose Abreu's gift to Yoan Moncada just keeps on giving

Given Moncada’s struggles in a brief 2016 tryout with the Boston Red Sox, having success is certainly helpful as he won’t head into another offseason wondering when it might happen for him. Moncada doesn’t compare the two situations because of playing time -- he was limited to 20 plate appearances over a month in 2016. But he agrees his recent play is good for the psyche.

“It’s important for my confidence, especially thinking about next year,” Moncada said through an interpreter. “With this run, I have been able to have more confidence and believe in myself and my talent, and I think that’s something I can carry into next season.”

“This offseason is going to be different because I’ve been able to play almost every day. I have more confidence in myself. I know the game better. Last season I had an opportunity to be at this level a little bit, but it wasn’t the same. This year is the opposite because I’ve been playing a lot and have been able to handle good and bad stretches at this level.”

While a reduction in strikeout-rate is still needed to be more effective, Moncada has begun to establish himself as a major league hitter. It’s exactly how teammate and mentor Jose Abreu hoped Moncada would spend his time this season.

“He has to get to know a lot of things at this level,” Abreu said through an interpreter. “The game, the pitchers, the culture here -- there’s a lot of little things he has to get to know here. The way you can work through it is give your best every day and try to learn as much as you can and try to use all your knowledge and to pool your knowledge on each play in the game. That’s the only way you can get results and you can build on those results and this experience for the future. I think he’s finally doing it and that’s important for him and for us thinking of the next season and beyond.”

Renteria not only likes the pitch recognition but the way that Moncada has tried to hit through the shift several times against Houston. Though the White Sox never wavered, they’re certainly happy to see Moncada produce the way they thought he eventually would.

“He’s starting to slow it down a little more,” Renteria said. “He’s starting to see more of the landscape and making adjustments in general. It’s been a good run for him. We thought he would show signs of growth at the end of the season and he’s doing that.”

Jose Abreu's gift to Yoan Moncada just keeps on giving

abreumoncada.jpg
USA TODAY

Jose Abreu's gift to Yoan Moncada just keeps on giving

HOUSTON -- Yoan Moncada took Jose Abreu’s advice to switch to a lighter bat and the White Sox rookie has been on a tear ever since.

The veteran first baseman thought Moncada would benefit from a slightly smaller piece of lumber and purchased it. Moncada began to use the bat at the start of the team’s current 10-game road trip and has since produced the best stretch of his career. Moncada is hitting 432/.488/.649 with 16 hits, including a triple, two home runs, six RBIs and 11 runs scored in 37 plate appearances.

“I just thought he wasn’t using the bats for him to take advantage of his swing,” Abreu said through an interpreter. “These new bats have better balance with the weight and are a little shorter than the other ones. I just did it thinking of him taking advantage of his power, his hands and to feel more freedom in his swing.”

Neither Abreu nor the White Sox have wavered in their faith in Moncada since his promotion from Triple-A two months ago. Baseball’s top prospect flashed plenty of talent in spring training and further convinced them by showing a consistently good eye at the plate after arriving in the majors.

But while Moncada had his share of highlights early on, he still hadn’t begun to receive the desired results on a consistent basis. Abreu saw him missing his pitch from time to time and suggested that Moncada use a smaller bat.

Moncada previously a 34-inch, 32-ounce bat. The ones purchased by Abreu are 33 1/ 2-inches and 31 ounces. Moncada has said the bats have produced a more fluid swing and he feels like he has a stronger swing since.

[MORE: Top 10 storylines from the White Sox minor league season] 

Manager Rick Renteria thinks it’s a combination of the new bat and Moncada having a better understanding for how teams are approaching him at the plate.

“Lighter bats can help you manipulate the barrel a little more, keep you on the ball,” Renteria said. “You don’t think you have to force yourself to get out in front too much. You can allow the ball to travel and do what it does, so you can see it as much as possible. Just in general, the at-bats and the experience and the sequence of pitches he’s been seeing over time now, he’s starting to understand and get a feel for hitting in the big leagues.”

Abreu said his own bat size has varied during a red-hot second half depending upon how he feels. Moncada’s mentor started the season with a 34-inch, 32-ounce Albert Pujols-model bat, but also began to use the 33-inch, 33 1/2-ounce at the All-Star break.

Abreu has enjoyed watching his protégé have consistent success over the past nine days.

“I knew he had the talent,” Abreu said. “I never had a doubt about it. It was just a matter for him to get to know this process and to get to know the league and for him to use the proper tools to take advantage. We are just seeing what he’s capable of doing and it’s a good sign for him building for next season.”

Tim Anderson records milestone as Jose Abreu inches closer to one with White Sox

Tim Anderson records milestone as Jose Abreu inches closer to one with White Sox

Here are some notables from the White Sox 10-4 win over the Detroit Tigers on Saturday night at Comerica Park.

1. White Sox offense erupts again

With Saturday's win, the White Sox have won six of their last eight games. In those eight contests, they have outscored their opponents 69-26. 

2. Reynaldo Lopez battles cold and Tigers

Lopez didn't have his best stuff on Saturday. In fact, he struggled quite a bit — even though his numbers don't exactly show that.

In the second inning, he allowed a double, a walk, a triple and a sac fly to quickly cut the White Sox lead in half, 6-3, at that point. The 23-year-old right-hander finished with only one strikeout but managed to hold the Tigers to four runs in seven innings on seven hits and two walks. It was also his longest outing of the season.

After the game, Colleen Kane of the Chicago Tribune reported that Lopez was dealing with a cold and that Yolmer Sanchez guided him through his rough second inning.

"It was a constant battle for me because I wasn’t feeling good, and under the circumstances, it was a very good outing," Lopez said.

3. Tim Anderson records a milestone

Anderson had his first career four-hit game against the Tigers, going 4-for-5 with three singles, a double and two stolen bases. The White Sox shortstop has been on fire as of late.

In September, Anderson is batting .428 with four doubles, two homers and eight RBIs to go along with 13 runs and seven stolen bases. He also has nine multi-hit games in his last 12 outings and extended his hitting streak to eight games, as pointed out by Kane.

4. Jose Abreu approaching 100 RBIs

The White Sox first baseman tacked on two more RBIs in Saturday's win, bringing his season total to 97. Should he record three more, it would be his fourth straight season with at least 100-plus RBIs — and 25 home runs. Barring any injury in the final few weeks, it's pretty much a lock. Not only that, but Abreu needs 10 more RBIs to tie his season-high of 107, set in his rookie year in 2014.

OTHER NOTES

— The White Sox have won the season series against the Tigers (10-8) for the first time since 2008.

— Yoan Moncada went 2-for-6 and recorded two hits, two RBIs and a run in Saturday's win. He also extended his on-base streak to seven games, according to CSN stats guru Chris Kamka.