Feb 26, 2021 4 min read

Will Yoan Moncada bounce back after battling COVID?

Will Yoan Moncada bounce back after battling COVID?

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Here's what we know right now about Yoan Moncada: He can perform a reggaeton love song while pretending to snuggle beautiful babes poolside in Miami. How do we know? His music video called "Desastre Personal," which somewhat predictably translates in English to "Personal Disaster," is streaming on YouTube if you like. And you probably will like. Moncada can sing. He's good!

Here's what we don't know about Moncada: Will his health and performance continue to suffer because of the virus? Is he over COVID-19 yet?

The White Sox began full workouts at spring training this week, and Moncada told reporters via video chat that he was feeling much better than he was in 2020. He's not burdened with chronic soreness in his legs and the inability to run 90 feet without tiring. He does have a sore throwing shoulder which, the White Sox assure us, is a temporary issue that has nothing to do with COVID.

Coincidentally, the team also announced this week that AL MVP Jose Abreu tested positive for COVID-19, but say he's completely without symptoms. Abreu will miss some time at camp due to protocols, they say, but otherwise he will be OK. Moncada's experience has been different from the start.

He was the team's best hitter in 2019, becoming what everyone hoped when they acquired him and Michael Kopech from the Red Sox in the Chris Sale deal. Life was so good that Moncada felt comfortable enough to record at a single and a music video sometime after the 2019 season ended and before the 2020 season began. Hey, what was your offseason job, Mordecai "Three Finger" Brown?

Moncada’s life wasn’t just song-and-dance for long. In July when he reported for camp at the belated re-start of the first pandemic season, Moncada tested positive. He had lost his senses of taste and smell, and otherwise felt lousy, before recovering. So he thought. He was cleared to play by doctors in time for Opening Day and even socked a home run. Not long after, Moncada started feeling instantly tired when he tried exerting himself.

Here's how Moncada's past two seasons looked statistically, extrapolating his 2020 numbers over 132 games played, his total in 2019:

Moncada didn't even attempt a stolen base in 2020 after going 22 for 31 combined during the previous two seasons. Still, he was alive, getting a lot better deal than many do with COVID-19, and the Sox were lucky to get what they got from Moncada. But there's still plenty to be concerned with.

Experts generally worry less about people in Moncada's demographic — 25 years old and otherwise healthy — but they also note that one in three COVID patients overall are long-haulers, stuck with aftereffects for an indeterminate time. Maybe forever. Midway Minute asked the White Sox if Moncada has been screened for the kind of heart damage that's associated with COVID, and while they didn't divulge specifics in their reply, team spokesman Scott Reifert said:

"We have very advanced medical capabilities available to all of our players for diagnosis and treatment of injuries, and our doctors provide world-class care for our players."

COVID, though, is a different ballgame for any doctor. It seems like no two patients respond the same way to it. Freddie Freeman of the Braves felt like he was on his death bed when he contracted COVID-19 in 2020. But he shed the virus, played a full 60-game season and performed well enough to win the NL MVP. This year at Braves camp, the talk is all about Freeman's wife, Chelsea, giving birth to twins, and Freddie possibly repeating as MVP at age 31. You just don't know with COVID.

Periodically over the offseason, Moncada posted workout videos on Instagram, showing himself making progress. He was able to warm up and sprint like he hadn't done without the ample discomfort he felt during the 2020 season. A great sign. It's still not proof or even evidence that COVID will let him handle the grind of a full major league season, but it's better than the alternative.

It is also a good sign that Moncada is excited to talk about "Desastre Personal" again. He said it's going to be his walkup song in 2021. In late August, he teased on Instagram that a video was coming, a move his music people delayed presumably because it would have been a personal disaster of epic proportions for Moncada to be talking up his music career while lamenting his poor health and disappointing baseball production. Sure enough, not long after the video tease, Moncada broke the news in September to Sox reporters that he was still marked by COVID.

At this point, it's a matter of having Moncada play out the season. It's telling, possibly, that the Sox haven't (yet) added a significant backup via free agency or trade who could start at third base in case Moncada is sidelined. Most of the free-agents have signed elsewhere. It's all up to you, Leury Garcia! (As long as Nick Madrigal doesn't hit any snags while recovering from shoulder surgery, and they need you to play second base). A lack of roster additions leads you to believe the Sox think Moncada will be OK. Are they right? We don't know yet.

So what happens when someone asks: "What worries you about the White Sox in 2021?" You could reply a few different ways. Manager Tony La Russa. Center fielder Luis Robert. Adam Eaton. The questionable depth at starting pitching. But none of these question marks loom as large as Moncada.

Longtime Chicago guy. A professional writer and editor since 1998. Member of Baseball Writers Association of America since 2013.

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