Yoan Moncada has reportedly signed with the Boston Red Sox for $31.5 million dollars. If you haven't followed the progress of the young Cuban, here is a timeline presented by one guy who has been on the situation from the start, Kiley McDaniel at Fangraphs.
I've been fascinated by the story since I heard he was missing and no one knew where he was. I was hoping it wouldn't turn into an ugly story, and thankfully it has not. Instead it has turned into a tour of one of the best young amateurs in the world showcasing his abilities. Unlike many players similar in skill to him, he will not be draftable and slotted a bonus, instead he is a free agent. His bonus only capped by a tax that is meaningless to the teams that have deep pockets and are looking for a place to spend money. The team that signs him will have to opt out of signing any other international players for the next two years. Several teams have already spent enough to do that. Others are unsure whether Moncada is worth losing that line of player acquisition.
To this point, there are only a handful of short clips and GIFs of the switch hitter but a few more videos have showed up on YouTube here and I have embedded the one in which he faces pitchers that I actually know something about.
In the 1st at bat, he faced Justus Sheffield, Cleveland's first round pick last June, and showed a good eye. He showed off his speed by beating a chopper up the middle off of him. Sheffield has the ability to make good hitters look bad. Moncada did well.
In the next AB, Jacob Nix, who was a 5th round pick last summer and looks like he could be a 1st round pick this June. He was intentinally walked to create a force situation at any base with one out. I'm not sure if there was any respect aspect to this or just a strategic move. Odds are the latter. In the third AB, he took an aggresive hack at an 89 MPH fastball from Nix. The next pitch, the runner took off and Moncada took the fading 80 MPH change the other way, exactly as he should have, whether a hit and run was on or not. An excellent piece of hitting. In his next AB, Nix showed excellent movement on his fastball and solid pitchability raising Moncada's eye level and blowing an 89 MPH fastball past him using a greater effective velocity by raising it in the zone.
In his final AB, he pushes a drag bunt down the 3B line against Luis Ortiz and burns down the line in about 3.7 seconds. He can fly. He tweaked his knee, or so it looked in the video doing it but it showed another aspect of the exciting young hitter. He looks like a 60 runner, if not a 70. I timed him at 4.1 down the line right handed twice. That's a 70. Watching the other two videos against Colombia and Taiwan, he showed very similar skills, though the competition was lesser. What the video below shows is a top talent faceing top talent of a similar age.
He is the same age as current college sophomores and 2013 MLB draftees. Keeping comparisons to infielders, Carlos Correa is the head of this class. He is a better prospect than Moncada. J.P. Crawford is the next best prospect of similar age and skill. Crawford is more likely to stick at SS. The skills seem fairly similar. Moncada may have more power. His swing looks like he will hit the ball with more authority but I have yet to see it in action. Travis Demeritte is a 2B with impressive power. Maybe more raw power than Moncada, maybe similar, I'm not sure. I think Moncada is a much better pure hitter than Demeritte but won't have the same game power as Demeritte.
The others similar in age in this infield group include Orlando Arcia, Franchy Cordero, Ryan McMahon, Raul Adalberto Mondesi, Miguel Andujar, Dustin Peterson and Drew Ward. On the college side, it would be C.J. Hinojosa, Richie Martin, Sheldon Neuse, John Sternagel and Ben Deluzio.
Orlando Arcia is a catalyst player similar to Moncada but Arcia is more of a shortstop and doesn't have the same physical presence. Franchy Cordero is the cautionary tale here, as he hit well in short season ball but struggled in A ball. While even at his best, he doesn't have the skills of Moncada but he is an exciting player in his own right. Mondesi is a skinny short stop that has a developing bat. Not very similar. The rest of the MiLB hitters are 3B types that aren't quick twitch athletes but more corner type players.
On the college side, Richie Martin has similar speed and bat to ball skills. He's a smaller guy but has the quick twitch ability like Moncada. He doesn't have the power upside as Martin is a average power guy at best and likely to be below average with a good amound of doubles as a gap to gap guy who can run into a few. He is more likely to stick at SS but isn't a lock. He is likely a mid to late first round guy this June. Sheldon Neuse has the best bat out of this group and has average power with potential to have plus power in the majors. I think that is Moncada's ultimate potential as well, at least from the left side. Neuse lines up as a mid to late 1st round guy in 2016. Ben Deluzio has that attention grabbing speed but not the caliber of skills beyond that, although he is an excellent hitter. The difference with Deluzio is that he was a 2B/SS in high school but is a center fielder at Florida State. That could be a direction for Moncada to go as well. His skills would allow him to play there if a team so chose.
In summary, looking at the players similar to him, J.P. Crawford doesn't have the bat Moncada does but can play short. I see them as similar prospects, value wise. He could be able to start in High A ball but could also struggle in ways in A ball, as Demeritte did with contact and Cordero did with everything.He is better than them but acclimating to the Midwest or South Atlantic league coming from Cuba is not simple. I could see a team starting him in High A just to see where he is at and challenge him. If a less aggresive team signs him, he may start in Low A ball and that isn't bad either. Guys like Martin and Neuse won't be there until '16 and '17 respectively. Moncada could be in the majors by the time they get to AA if all goes well.