March 27, 2015 at 10:48 AM
Before heading down to Fort Myers for spring training, the scouting staff identifies a list of players we need to see, ideally in both workouts and game action. Yoan Moncada was atop that list this year, but unfortunately because his signing was not official until March 12, he did not play in games while we were down there. However, he did take part in workouts, which included fielding drills, batting practice, and baserunning. As a result, this breakdown should not be seen as a complete scouting report. Rather, it is a baseline of what to expect from Moncada based upon watching these workouts for five days. Even though Moncada didn’t face live pitching, he showed off some of the tools in drills that led him to be such a sought after player that warranted a $31.5-million bonus.
The first thing you notice when you see Moncada up close is that he is not built like a typical 19-year-old. Moncada stood out physically on the field when working out with the Salem team, including 2014 college draftees like Sam Travis and Jordan Betts. The contrast was even starker when compared to other teenagers likely headed to extended spring training and then Lowell or the GCL. Moncada’s height doesn’t jump off the page, listed at only 6-foot-0, but he is just well built, with a physically developed, mature body. He has a very muscular upper body, and strong lower half that really fills out his uniform. Moncada doesn’t have much physical projection, and even with his current build, he is still very athletic.
At the plate, Moncada starts with an upright, slightly open stance from both sides of the plate. He picks his front foot just up off the ground before utilizing a toe-tap timing device. His stride is under control and he gets great separation in his swing. Moncada’s hands are very quick and he really gets his torso into his swing before whipping the bat through the zone. Moncada has plus bat speed and his swing is short and compact, but still powerful. He has a slight uppercut and two-handed finish. The ball makes a different sound off his bat.
After watching him take batting practice a few times, it was clear that his swing was more natural from the left side. It was also more fluid and quicker from the left side, but that's not to say his right-handed swing looked bad. Both swings have tremendous potential. During batting practice, Moncada showed plus raw power also, mainly from the left side. He showed the ability to drive the ball with backspin and all-fields power potential. Moncada’s in-game power may take some time to show up, but at his peak he has 20-plus home run potential.
In the field, Moncada looked a little rougher, but that is understandable since he hasn’t had nearly as many repetitions as a normal prospect, last playing in a game in December 2013. He doesn’t have the build of a typical second baseman, most noticeably when working out next to Wendell Rijo, who is listed at 5-foot-11, 170 pounds. Physically, he looks more like he belongs at third base. He does have the athleticism and his hands are quick enough for the position, but he struggled at times with routine ground balls. He doesn’t seem to have the softest hands and also had some trouble with his glove-to-hand transfer. He did show a tendency to field ground balls off to the side and propensity for flair, fielding a few balls off to the side and attempting to flip them with his glove. He has a plus arm, showing off a quick release and powerful arm when turning double plays. His arm strength could play at a variety of positions, including third base and the outfield. For now, it makes sense to start him out where he is most comfortable as he adjusts to the rigors of professional baseball in the United States.
During an intrasquad scrimmage on the last day we were in Fort Myers, Moncada was on another field working on his baserunning and showed off plus speed. Since he is already very muscular, Moncada should be able to hold his speed well into his career. He takes a little bit of time to get moving, but once he does, he takes long strides and is a very fluid runner. He really let it fly when he hit first base, showing a different gear when going from first to third on what would have been a triple.
Overall, Moncada was very impressive and lived up to the hype in this first look. There is true five-tool potential, but it looks the Red Sox are going to take things slow with him, allowing him time to adjust to the rigors of the minor league schedule. As a result, I expect him to start off in extended spring training for a few weeks before heading north to Low-A Greenville. With the combination of his physical tools and ability at the plate, he could succeed in short order there, but his long-term development could take some time and there will be some struggles along the way. Regardless, Moncada is a very exciting prospect, with a bright future ahead of him and high ceiling that does come with some risk.
That risk is one of the main reasons that we chose to initially rank Moncada as the number two prospect in the system behind Blake Swihart. However, they are very close and can be considered part of the same elite tier. Nothing Moncada did during our initial look at him diminished his stock, but there is more uncertainty with Moncada at this point. He is going to start in A-Ball and best-case scenario will need at least a year and likely more in the minors before he is even in the conversation for a major league call-up. Furthermore, since Moncada hasn’t played in a competitive game in over a year and a half, it is unknown how long it will take him to adjust to the rigors of pro ball. He might have a slightly higher ceiling than Blake Swihart, but Swihart is already on the verge of the major leagues and a better bet to be an All-Star at this point.
Photo credit: Yoan Moncada by Kelly O'Connor
Ian Cundall is Director of Scouting for SoxProspects.com. Follow him on Twitter @IanCundall.