More confident Yoan Moncada tells White Sox he wants to be leadoff hitter

Chris Kuc, Chicago Tribune on

Published in Baseball

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Set to embark on his first full season as the White Sox second baseman, Yoan Moncada is in a much better place when it comes to expressing his opinions about where he should bat in the lineup than he was a year ago.

So when he sat down with manager Rick Renteria last week to discuss his role for 2018, Moncada didn't hesitate to share his thoughts.

"I feel more comfortable now and I can express myself with more honesty and I can communicate about the things that I like or dislike," Moncada said via a team interpreter.

That explains Moncada's spot at the top of the Sox lineup when they faced the Padres in Cactus League play Sunday at Camelback Ranch. The 22-year-old batted second, fourth, fifth, sixth and seventh during his 54 games with the Sox last season, but never in the spot in which he is most comfortable: leadoff.

"I've always liked being a leadoff hitter because I get to see more pitches and better pitches," said Moncada, who went 0 for 3 with two strikeouts in the Sox's 7-6 loss. "Because of the type of player I am, I can take advantage of that position. I was the leadoff man last year in Triple A (Charlotte) and I did well and I liked it. If I have to be down in the three, four or five spot, I can do it, too, but I feel more comfortable and I have more confidence in the leadoff spot."

Renteria said the Sox will experiment with Moncada batting leadoff and try to take advantage of his speed and ability to get on base. Moncada was at his best batting near the top of the order last year. In the 34 games during which he hit second, the switch hitter batted .265 with an on-base percentage of .346. For the season, Moncada batted .231 with a .338 on-base percentage after coming on strong in September.

"His on-base percentage just in general over the course of his career has been very high," Renteria said. "The human element is that he feels very comfortable (batting leadoff), so we're trying to allow him the opportunity. ... He's happier doing that right now than I've seen him hitting anywhere else in the lineup. We're going to give it a shot."

Batting leadoff will also give Moncada an opportunity to use his speed. He stole 49 and 45 bases in the minor leagues with the Red Sox in 2015 and '16, respectively, and had 17 in 80 games at Charlotte last season before the Sox called him up in July.

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"That is also a factor in why I feel comfortable in that spot and ... Ricky agreed with me," Moncada said of his speed. "I think I can take advantage of my strengths in that spot in the order."

The possible switch to the leadoff spot along with last season's experience has Moncada thinking big for 2018.

"I've always believed in myself and the things that I can do," Moncada said. "I also know that I have to work hard to be the kind of player that I want to be.

"I'm working to accomplish my goals, and one of those goals is to be in the All-Star Game. That's why I'm doing all the preparation that I need to do to position myself in the best spot to have success."

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