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January 11, 2016 at 7:00 AM

2015 Top 40 Season in Review: Yoan Moncada

Today, we finish recapping the Top 40 with the top-ranked player in the SoxProspects.com season-end Top 40. Wednesday will mark the beginning of the 2015 Graduates in Review series. All entries in this year's Top 40 Season in Review series can be found here.

#1 Yoan Moncada, 2B
2015 Teams: Greenville Drive
Final stats: 363 PA, .278/.380/.438, 8 HR, 42 BB, 83 K, 49 SB
Peak Ranking: 1 (current)
Report: Red Sox have agreement to sign Moncada for $31.5M
Cundall: Scouting Scratch, March 27
2015 SoxProspects Pre-Season All-Stars
Dunne: System Restart 2015: Middle Infielders
Yoan Moncada to debut with Greenville on Monday
Cundall: Scouting Scratch: August 18
Moncada's big year nets him multiple South Atlantic League honors
August Player of the Month
2015 SoxProspects.com All-Stars
Travis, Moncada highlight Red Sox minor league awards

2015 Season in Review: At this time a year ago, Yoan Moncada had one of the brightest futures of any amateur player in the world. What he did not yet have was a team. After leaving his native Cuba in a move that did not follow the usual defection narrative in June 2014, Moncada established residency in Guatemala and was granted free agency by Major League Baseball in November. The 19-year-old phenom’s status as a potentially franchise-altering talent made him one of the most talked about players of the winter. The Moncada thread on the SoxProspects.com Forum had already surpassed 20 pages of posts even before the report came in that he and the Red Sox had agreed to a contract.

The Moncada signing was made official on March 12, and he was introduced in Fort Myers the following day. While his signing came too late in the spring for him to get ramped up for game action while the SoxProspects team was in Florida, his initial workouts were impressive enough to get the attention of SoxProspects.com Director of Scouting Ian Cundall. Cundall noted Moncada’s physical maturation was apparent compared to others his age, stating that he “lived up to the hype in this first look,” showing “true five-tool potential.”

Moncada remained in Fort Myers for extended spring training when the regular season began, with his first assignment to the Low A Greenville Drive coming six weeks later. He made his much-anticipated professional debut on May 18, walking and scoring a pair of runs as part of an 0-for-3 evening. He picked up his first professional hit the following game, leading off the eighth inning with a single. Whether it was rust from not having played against full-speed competition in nearly 18 months, a cultural adjustment, the higher level of play, or simply a slump, Moncada’s first several weeks were inauspicious for a potential franchise player. In his first 32 games, he hit an unremarkable .222/.311/.308, with only one home run, and striking out nearly four times as often as he walked.

Whatever the reason for his initial struggles, things turned around in a big way. On July 4, Moncada went 2 for 3 with a walk and an RBI, launching a stretch where he would be one of the most productive players in all of minor league baseball over the rest of the 2015 campaign. In his final 49 games, Moncada feasted on South Atlantic League pitching with a .312/.419/.519 slash line, delivering 14 doubles, seven homers, and 32 walks against 45 strikeouts. When he wasn’t making pitchers’ lives miserable from the batter’s box, Moncada was doing it on the basepaths, stealing 40 bases (while only being caught three times) in that stretch. He homered in three consecutive games in July and followed that with a .333/.451/.573 August that won him SoxProspects.com Player of the Month. The combination of production and tools earned Moncada recognition as the South Atlantic League Most Outstanding Player and from Baseball America as 2015’s top prospect in that circuit. - James Dunne

Scouting Report and 2016 Outlook: Listed at 6-foot-0, 210 pounds, Moncada has a strong, athletic frame. He stands out on the field physically, with a very muscular upper body and sturdy lower half as well. A switch hitter, Moncada has a similar swing from both sides of the plate. He has a fluid, short swing with a two-hand finish. To go along with his natural bat speed, Moncada clears his hips well. His approach is surprisingly developed given the time he was away from the game, but he can at times get overaggressive and exposed by solid secondary offerings. Moncada’s ultimate upside will likely be determined by how his power develops. He has the frame and strength to hit for power and has shown plus raw in batting practice, but in games, his swing has tended to lead to more hard line drives in the gap rather than over the fence. The power is in there; the question is whether he develops into someone with fringe-average game power or solid-average to plus. Moncada also put up big time stolen base numbers this year, showing off plus-to-better speed and solid instincts on the bases. He is the type of athlete that should be able to maintain his speed as he matures and be a threat to steal 30-plus bases at the big league level.

Defensively, Moncada will show off very intriguing tools, but concentration and fundamentals let him down last season, leading to 23 errors in only 71 games in the field. Moncada has plus arm strength and athleticism that would play at any infield or outfield position. He also has quick hands and has shown the ability to make very difficult plays. Overall, he has plus defensive potential, but needs to become more consistent. Moncada struggles with the routine plays, too often pulling his head up early or attempting to field a ground ball off to the side rather than getting in front of it. These mistakes are easily correctable and with consistent repetitions in practice and games, Moncada should clean up that area of his game.

When taking a look at Moncada’s entire skill set, it is not a stretch to project him to have five at least average tools, and that is on the conservative side. Moncada is one of the top prospects in baseballsomeone who has potential to impact the game offensively, defensively, and on the basepaths from the top of the order. How his power develops will determine whether that is from the leadoff spot or two-hole, or from the middle of the order in the ideal scenario. Moncada will most likely start 2016 in Salem, and it's not a stretch to project him to reach the high minors this year if his improvements from the first half to the second half of last year carry over. - Ian Cundall

Photo credit: Kelly O'Connor