White Sox third baseman Yoan Moncada is a prominent member of the team's impressive young core, but he hasn't lived up to expectations in this, his age-25 season. Quite possibly, those relative struggles are a lingering consequence of Moncada's earlier battle with COVID-19.
Moncada had the virus prior to the delayed start of the 2020 season and was largely asymptomatic. However, now it appears that perhaps the virus had more of an effect on him than he realized at the time. Moncada recently spoke to James Fegan of The Athletic about how COVID-19 is still affecting some six weeks after he returned to the team. Moncada told Fegan through an interpreter:
"Definitely my body hasn't felt the same after the virus. I feel a lack of energy, strength, it's just a weird feeling. It's different.
"When I got to Chicago before I tested positive, I was feeling strong and with energy. Now, it's like a daily battle to try to find that strength, that energy to go through the day. But I think that's something that I have to deal with and it is what it is. I have to find a way to get through it."
Fegan's story includes more and has some comments from medical professionals on how even asymptomatic COVID patients can suffer lasting consequences.
As for Moncada, he's hardly been a zero this season. In 32 games going into Friday's slate, he's batted .242/.333/.411, which is good for an OPS+ of 104. However, in the context of his 2019 breakout, when he put up a 140 OPS+ with 25 home runs in 132 games, it's an alarming reversal.
In related matters, Moncada has also struggled to drive the ball in 2020. Note these batted-ball indicators:
Season/batted ball metric
Average exit velocity
Weakly hit percentage
Moncada in 2019
Moncada in 2020
As you can see, Moncada in 2020 has been completely different and significantly inferior hitter this season. Given that his age is such that he should still be improving or at least sustaining his peak level, you'd normally worry about an underlying injury in light of these numbers. Indeed, Moncada has dealt with some left leg issues this season, but the real driver may be the loss of strength and stamina that he says he's experiencing.
On the one hand, the most important thing is that Moncada recover over time and suffer no long-term deficits from COVID. On the other hand, it's at least somewhat encouraging that there's an explanation for Moncada's decline in 2020. The hope is that as the days and weeks go by he gradually starts to get back to normal and resumes his ascendancy in 2021.