For the September roster expansion, the Boston Red Sox have promoted infielder Yoan Moncada to the major league roster. Widely-regarded as the top prospect in baseball at present, Moncada should be an exciting presence down the stretch and in the Boston lineup for years to come. Let's take a look.
Here's how things looked pre-season, from the 2016 Baseball Prospect Book.
Yoan Moncada, 2B, Boston Red Sox
Bats: S Throws: R HT: 6-2 WT: 205 DOB: May 27, 1995
2015: Grade A-
The Red Sox spent $31,500,000 to sign Cuban Yoan Moncada in February, 2015. That put them way over their international bonus limit so they had to pay an additional $31,500,000 to MLB as taxes. This may very well be worth the money. Moncada got off to a slow start in late May and June while working the cobwebs off his bat (he hadn’t played a real game in well over a year), but he was amazing in the second half, hitting .310/.415/.500 with 34 walks and 45 steals (in 48 attempts) in his last 56 games. When he signed, the scouting reports said he combined speed, aggressive baserunning, power potential, and good plate discipline into one complete offensive package. Those reports were correct. The glove needs work: he made an unacceptable 23 errors in 71 defensive games at second base. He seems to have the athleticism for the position and can make some spectacular plays, but tends to lose concentration and mess up routine stuff. That may or may not get better with experience. There’s been some talk of him winding up in the outfield or at third base, where his arm should play just fine. We’ll have to see about the glove, but the bat looks special and I have no problem going with a Grade A.
2016 couldn't have gone better: Moncada opened with a .307/.427/.496 line for High-A Salem in 228 at-bats, then continued hitting after moving up to Double-A Portland, slashing .277/.379/.531. Overall he hit .294/.407/.511 this year with 31 doubles, 15 homers, 45 steals in 57 attempts, and a 72/124 BB/K ratio in 405 at-bats. His overall level of production was actually higher this year than last year: he rang up a 156 wRC+ at Salem and 152 at Portland, compared to a 135 mark in '15.
Speed, power, plate discipline, everything has carried forward. You want tools, he has tools. You want skills, he has skills. The only real caution flag here is a rather elevated strikeout rate, but the walks help compensate for that. He's not likely to hit .300 right now, but given his age and proven ability to make adjustments, I wouldn't rule it out down the road. Even if he is "just" a .250-.260 hitter, he should post robust secondary averages. He may lose some speed with age but his power could increase as the speed declines.
The offense will be elite; what about the glove?
Moncada is still just so-so at second base. He has the athleticism but isn't a refined fielder yet; Eric Longenhagen at Fangraphs writes that Moncada's "infield actions are sometimes clunky and inefficient, especially around the second-base bag." Other reports agree with that assessment, as do the statistics, which show mediocre range factors and error rates. On the other hand, Moncada has reduced the number of miscues compared to last year, and he has a strong arm that could play anywhere including third base or right field. He has been playing third base recently for Portland and has shown the requisite range and arm strength for the position, though (as you'd expect) he's still error-prone there.
The hype factor for Moncada is high, and it should be: he has everything needed to be a star. Keep in mind however that he IS a human being, and immediate automatic success in the major leagues is not guaranteed. Remember the recent Bosox examples of Xander Bogaerts and (especially) Jackie Bradley Jr., who needed time to adjust to MLB despite having all the talent in the world.
"He's human" cautions aside, I agree with the general consensus that Moncada is the best prospect in baseball, a Grade A prospect if there ever was one.