#MLBPlayers411 | Yoan Moncada
The game-tying home run YoYo hit in the ninth inning and game-winning single he drilled in the 11th to give the White Sox an improbable sweep of the Astros on Thursday night may someday be fondly recalled as the 22-year-old Cuban super talent's coming out party in the big leagues.
Yoan Manuel Moncada Olivares won't win the Players Choice Award as the American League's Outstanding Rookie but today's #MLBPlayers411 subject may be the game's most highly anticipated young player to come along this season as well as the one with the highest upside considering he was the game's consensus No. 1 prospect coming into the year.
The home run he hit was only Moncada's second over his first 27 games with the White Sox but it came on a 99-mph fastball on the outside corner from Astros closer Ken Giles, the kind of pitch most veteran major leaguers are just trying to foul off in a situation like that.
"I threw a good pitch," Giles said. "I looked at the video, right on the outside corner, right on the black. I have to tip my cap to him. He put a good swing on it and drove it the other way. You can't really be mad at it."
Amazed is more like it. The home run extended Moncada's hitting streak to six games, the single two innings later gave him his first walk-off moment and his first sport-drink shower.
“It was something indescribable,” he said through an interpreter. “My feelings, all my emotions were through the roof when I hit that ball and then when I was running the bases. It was something unique.”
YoYo insisted it was his first walk-off, at any level, but you get the feeling there will be plenty more of both before he's done playing in another decade or two.
“A star is born, yeah,'' manager Rick Renteria said. “That's big. He ties it, and then he wins it.''
The switch-hitting infielder is just beginning to reach a comfort level. He joined the White Sox from Triple-A Charlotte on July 19 and started slowly. His batting average is just .213, but he's now reached base in 17 of his last 31 plate appearances and his on-base average is .377.
While he may not have had any walk-off hits before Thursday night's, Moncada has been a rising star since childhood and he was playing for Cienfuegos (the elephants) in Cuba's Serie Nacional by the time he was 17.
While many previous Cuban-born players have defected with stories of harrowing escapes, the 6-foot-2, 205-pound Moncada was granted his release in 2014 by the National Baseball Commission and granted a visa and a passport by the Cuban government. He held a workout that November in Guatemala that was attended by nearly 100 scouts.
A bidding war among at least a dozen teams ensued in February 2015 when the then-19-year-old was declared a free agent and it narrowed down to the Yankees, Dodgers, Padres and Red Sox before Boston made the biggest offers ever made to an international free agent and paid Major League Baseball a 100-percent tax on top of that for going over its bonus pool allotment.
But with the Red Sox planning to challenge for the AL East title this season, they traded their most valuable prospect to the rebuilding White Sox last December for Chris Sale, who currently leads the AL with 14 wins, a 2.57 ERA and 229 strikeouts.
Moncada made his big-league debut last September when he got 19 at-bats over eight games with the Red Sox and he had a .285 average, .390 on-base average and 35 homers over 1,020 minor-league at bats before joining the White Sox on July 19 this year.
While it seems everyone in baseball has sky-high expectations for Moncada, Yo-Yo himself is trying to keep it simple.
“My only wish is just to stay healthy and to be able to play every day and do my best on the field,” he said.
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