Tony La Russa: Yoán Moncada 'close' to busting slump originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago
It hasn't been a good stretch for Yoán Moncada.
Thankfully for the Chicago White Sox, Eloy Jiménez and Luis Robert are back in the middle of the lineup and currently tearing the cover off the ball, with José Abreu on his usual August tear and Andrew Vaughn showing an offensive approach well beyond his rookie status.
So even with the starting third baseman slumping to the tune of a .179/.257/.263 slash line in his last 25 games, the offense is far from broken, and it's actually looking far more like it was supposed to than it was when Jiménez and Robert were sidelined.
But there's no doubt that it would look even better — even more capable of powering a World Series run — if Moncada were swinging it well.
"The most important way Eloy and Luis and (the currently rehabbing Yasmani Grandal) help us is if the other six guys in the lineup continue to take the responsibility like they did when they were missing," White Sox manager Tony La Russa said earlier this week. "If we do that, we're dangerous."
Moncada finding his groove again would indeed make the White Sox an even more dangerous threat come the postseason. But right now, the results are making things look like a struggle, even if he is feeling OK at the plate.
"I'm feeling good, comfortable. Maybe not where I want to be, but I'm in a good spot," Moncada said Friday through team interpreter Billy Russo. "In a good spot, probably not where I want to be.
"I'm not in the best feel right now, not in my moment, my groove, I will say."
Multiple White Sox players have said the team needs to be peaking at the end of September, carrying momentum into the postseason, so there's still plenty of time for Moncada to join the fun that the other guys are having on a nightly basis.
So how close is he to getting right?
"Close," La Russa said Friday. "Got a little sluggish. Sometimes you're getting hits, an extra hit or two, because you're hot and the ball's falling. Other times, you can't buy a hole in the defense. ... Just like everybody else, if he hits the ball hard in a key situation and doesn't get a hit, it's a little frustrating. But I think he's close.
"In the first half of the year, (he) had one of the best on-base percentages, not just on our team but in the league. And when he swung it, it especially meant he was a tougher out with runners in scoring position. Lately, he's kind of switched. He's fallen behind in the count and gone outside the strike zone to get the ball in play and then struck out.
"The RBI total has stayed in the 40s for a while, but you see a guy working and you know the talent is there. I think he's close. You can see where he's determined to get it back, just needs some success to get him really feeling like he's King Kong up there."
As the White Sox showed throughout the first half of the season, they were capable of keeping their World Series hopes afloat without their big boppers. As they showed this week in taking three of four against the Oakland Athletics, they're capable of winning against their fellow contenders, even without Moncada being one of the main contributors.
And just like the White Sox were always going to be better — much better — once their injured stars got healthy, they're going to be better if Moncada can figure things out come October.
And if that happens?
Like La Russa said. Dangerous.