By Chris Emma–
CHICAGO (CBS) — Standing ovations kept coming for Yoan Moncada, the cornerstone to this White Sox rebuild.
They stood when he first emerged from the third-base dugout and ran to left field for stretches, eager to get a glimpse at baseball’s top prospect. Then they rose again when Moncada’s name was announced pregame, batting sixth and playing second base.
The White Sox faithful got to their feet as Moncada stepped into the batter’s box on the South Side for the first time, then stayed with each pitch as he worked back from 0-2 to earn a nine-pitch walk.
A roar came when Moncada ripped a pitch some five feet foul of the right-field line in the fourth inning, then again in the sixth when he lined a shot to center field hard enough for Joc Pederson to haul it in. Many even were willing to wait out a deluge of rain in the eighth inning with the hopes of seeing one more at-bat from the newest member of the White Sox.
“I was excited for all that atmosphere and excitement in the ballpark,” Moncada said through a translator after the 9-1 rain-shortened loss to the Dodgers, a game overshadowed by his White Sox debut.
Hope like this has been lacking on the South Side since that magical season of 2005. The White Sox have attempted to build patchwork teams with the hopes of October, an effort that merely covered the lack of organizational depth and produced mediocrity.
Winning takes players like Moncada — young talents with tremendous potential coming up together. The White Sox have that, with Wednesday bringing the debut of their brightest star. Moncada will be just the first of many to run through the pipeline and reach the big leagues.
“The fan base is obviously very, very excited about what the organization is doing just in general,” manager Rick Renteria said. “For them to be able to see one of the young men that they ended up getting in the (Chris Sale) trade, having him now here with us, they’re very excited to kind of get a little taste of what the future’s going to look like.”
Indeed, the future for this White Sox organization is bright thanks to the work of general manager Rick Hahn. His latest work came not even 24 hours before Moncada’s debut in Chicago, with the acquisition of another top prospect in 20-year-old outfielder Blake Rutherford. By bundling Todd Frazier, David Robertson and Tommy Kahnle, the White Sox added another key piece to their prospect puzzle in a four-player return.
The White Sox now have a whopping 10 prospects ranking among MLB.com’s top 68, with Moncada leading the way. He’s a five-tool talent at second base and potentially a transformational player for this organization.
For all the hype surrounding Moncada’s arrival, he was cool as can be Wednesday. Nerves didn’t seem to be a factor at all. That certainly showed in the game, when he worked back from down 0-2 to Dodgers right-hander Kenta Maeda and kept working the count to his favor.
The game seems to come naturally for Moncada — even in what he said felt like a second major league debut after he first was called up late last season by the Red Sox.
“He looked very comfortable,” Renteria said.
“He didn’t look overwhelmed.”
On Wednesday night against the best team in baseball, the White Sox looked like a rebuilding team. They may struggle to reach the Dodgers’ current win total of 66.
Winning once again will be long process for the White Sox. After all, Moncada is only the first of Hahn’s prospects to enter the fold. Lucas Giolito, Reynaldo Lopez and Carson Fulmer should be called up sometime this season. More will follow in 2018, and the window contention may open in 2019 if everything goes right.
There’s a long way to go for the White Sox, but the promise should be worth the wait. Those results could be extraordinary.
Right now, they only have hope in the form of Moncada, and they’ll gladly stand for that.