The Boston Red Sox made an impact to their minor league system by making a record-breaking signing of 20-year-old Cuban infielder Yoan Moncada. The Red Sox have made big international signings before, fellow Cuban Rusney Castillo for one, but there is something different with Moncada. Something that people can’t quite put their finger on. Something that absolutely screams future possibilities, which has placed him sixth on MLB’s Top 100 prospects list.
Not that anyone can put a finger on Moncada, literally, anyways. Take a look at this video from MiLB.com:
People say speed kills. This is more than speed; this is ruthless velocity.
Boston sent Moncada from Spring Training to Class-A’s Greenville Drive, hoping to see what he could do against professional baseball pitchers in the United States. Moncada countered with 15 stolen bases in 15 attempts. With speed like that, it’s not surprising.
Moncada is hitting a slash line of .272/.357/.426 with four home runs and 20 RBIs. His hits include nine doubles and two triples, stretching out singles to advance his team’s chances to score. He strikes out a great deal more than he walks (46 to 15), but his on-base percentage is showing that he finds a way to get to the base paths safely, regardless. Besides, the impetuousness of youth will settle down at the plate. Let’s just hope his aggressive talent does not.
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Moncada has played second base, third, shortstop, and center field in Cuba; however, scouts have said his best fit is second base. Is that true or just pandering to the young man who admitted earlier this year that he wishes to be a second baseman? The point is that he should be a huge offensive threat moving up the minor-league ladder quickly, no matter what position that he finds himself in defensively.
MLB.com reports that “Moncada offers more offensive potential than most middle infielders. He’s a switch-hitter with electric bat speed who makes consistent hard contact from both sides of the plate. He could deliver a .280 average and 20-25 homers on an annual basis […] He’s young and may need a couple of years in the Minors, but he looks like a star who will be worth the wait.”
When your scouting grades are as follows, you see what that means:
- Hitting – 60
- Power – 60
- Running – 65
- Throwing – 60
- Fielding – 50
- Overall – 65 rating
When Minnesota Twins top prospect Byron Buxton, the top prospect on the MLB list, earns an overall rating of 70, Moncada does not fall far behind. Buxton is in Double-A and only a year older than the young Cuban, which means we could see Moncada promoted soon. If not this season, then certainly next year if everything trends the same way.
The scary thing is that Moncada’s numbers would have been even better if he had not had a slow start to the year. He made nine errors in his first 18 games.
Can you blame him? It’s not Cuba; it’s South Carolina. No disrespect, as it’s a beautiful state, but it’s also as opposite to Moncada’s home as it gets. Alex Speier of The Boston Globe spoke with his agent, David Hastings about the matter:
"Leaving his parents, going to different countries, establishing permanent residency, coming to the United States, going through all of the different tryouts we had, meeting all the people, signing with Boston, going out to live in [Fort Myers, Fla.], being a little bit disappointed that he wasn’t shipped up with the team at the beginning and was kind of held back to get more acclimated, taking English lessons, then going up to Greenville and having to work into the lineup after they’d already been playing for a month or two months . . . I just can’t imagine the process that one has to go through to kind of feel a little bit more normal, just like everybody else."
Yet, Moncada’s progression, defensively and offensively, have been incredibly positive and rapid. “In 13 second-half games entering Thursday night, he’s looked like as impressive a prospect as there is in the Red Sox system, hitting .380 with a .458 OBP, .520 slugging mark, six extra-base hits (one more than he had in 25 first-half games), and 10 steals in as many attempts.”
Jun 24, 2015; Boston, MA, USA; Boston Red Sox second baseman Dustin Pedroia (15) at Fenway Park. Mandatory Credit: Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports
It’s not a question, anymore, about whether Moncada can play big-league ball or not. It’s a question of when. In March The Globe and Mail reported the young man saying, “My goal is to find out if I can make it to the big leagues in a year,” the day after his contract was finalized. He said these words through an interpreter, as he couldn’t speak English well enough to answer questions that day. Talk about impetuousness!
Moncada’s dream position with the Boston Red Sox is being filled, presently, by Dustin Pedroia who is expected to make his return from injury after the All-Star Break. Pedroia is a four-time All-Star and the 2008 American League MVP award winner a year after he was the rookie of the year in 2007. Moncada looks great, and has fans foaming at the mouth for him to be promoted, but knocking out Pedroia from his spot seems highly unlikely any time soon. Pedroia’s 2015 slash line is currently .306/.367/.452 against major-league pitching.
It’s often said that you have to be able to walk before you can run. In Moncada’s case, it’s important for Red Sox Nation to remember that he needs to be able to talk before he can walk. Before he worries about which position he wants to play and how quickly he can move up to Boston, he has to be able to hit like Pedroia against minor league pitchers on a consistent basis before he can start making his dreams a reality, while fielding questions like groundballs with ease. Otherwise, everyone’s going to be watching another Castillo-like player trying to find his game in Triple-A Pawtucket another year, and getting paid a boatload of money to do it.
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