Yoan Moncada

Roster Recap: Yoan Moncada Rises

Welcome to BP Boston’s Roster Recap series! Over the next four months, we’ll be breaking down every player on Boston’s 40-man roster and many of their top prospects in order to provide a comprehensive overview of the Red Sox roster’s strengths and weaknesses, as well as what we can expect moving forward. There’s no better time than the offseason to review the best (there was some best!) and worst (there was a lot of worst!) of the past year in red and navy. You can see previous editions of Roster Recap here.

Super-prospect Yoan Moncada has reached serious heights on BP’s Top 101 prospects list–number seven! We did it, fam!–following his first professional season. He’s still a world away from contributing at the major-league level, but today he’s one step closer to being an impact contributor for the Red Sox.

What Went Right in 2015

Moncada did exactly what the organization must’ve hoped for: he spent the 2015 season getting used to baseball in the U.S., and continued to show flashes of the skills that could make him an impact player at the big-league level. We’re contractually obligated to talk about his speed and athleticism first, considering that Moncada is an absolute specimen. Moncada stole 49 bases this season … which is great on its own. But getting caught just three times is even better. And Moncada didn’t even really turn on the wheels until later in the season. If he gets a green light for a full season, look out.

More importantly–but less decisively–the bat appears to be coming along. If you look at the stat line, he held his own at Greenville,  switch-hitting and putting up numbers that are roughly 35% better than the league average, including a 11.8 percent walk rate and a .278 batting average. That’s not so bad for an age-20 season, and his ripped physicality projects him to improve on his power numbers going forward. Look, at the lower levels, all you really can hope for is (1) continued development of tools and skills and (2) numbers that aren’t going to embarrass you or your coaches. Moncada succeeded on both counts.

Here he is going yard from the left side.

Oh, and he was the Sox’s Minor League Player of the Year. No big deal.

What Went Wrong in 2015

You could make the argument that the first half of his season went wrong. After starting the season late (he made his debut on 5/18/15, a day that will live in Sox lore, perhaps), he went .200/.287/.289 going into the halfway point of the season. He couldn’t hit for any power, only hitting one homer before mid-July. Of course it shouldn’t be terribly surprising that a 20-year-old in a new country playing real baseball for the first time in nearly two years had a little rust to shake off.

Dan Farnsworth at FanGraphs–a much finer scouting mind than mine–states that Moncada’s swing plane remains a little choppy, so that’s a ding on him. In addition, if he can’t stick at second base (where his bat could be dynamite) and has to move to the outfield, that could limit his long-term value.

But once the second half kicked in, it was almost all gravy for the Sox’s top prospect. The good way outweighed the bad.

Outlook for 2016/MLB ETA

I think even an aggressive development plan for Moncada has him spending 2016 in Salem, working on his hitting and continuing to acclimate to the pro game in the U.S. Sitting atop a Salem lineup that also features Rafael Devers and Andrew Benintendi … that’s just awesome for prospect hounds. I’m not sure that any minor league lineup has that sort of upside. If he crushes it–and more importantly, his skills continue to progress­–he’ll likely get a minute in Portland.

So long as his offense continues to develop, Moncada’s probably on track to take Fenway in September of 2017 or May of 2018. Sure, Dustin Pedroia will probably still be around by then, but Moncada will either move, or (gasp) maybe Pedroia will if the kid stays on this path. With his world-class physical gifts, Moncada is a rare guy with a high ceiling and a reasonable floor, provided he can figure out how to be an average defender. He’s the very definition of exciting, and his ultimate potential gives Sox fans something very special to look forward to.

[Editor’s note: Almost as special as his arms.]

Photo by Kelly O’Connor/www.sittingstill.smugmug.com

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