Yoan Moncada

Yoan Moncada's promotion offers a few reminders

Rob Bradford
May 19, 2015 - 5:19 am

Why should you have taken note of Yoan Moncada playing for the Greenville Drive Monday night? There were a few reasons. First, was the good fortune the Red Sox had to possess such potential. As one executive for another club passed along, "The Sox got a very good lottery ticket here, albeit an expensive one." In his first game wearing No. 24 for the Drive, Moncada went 0-for-3 with a walk and two runs, while making a few above-average plays in the field (along with an error). "Compared to when he first came to Spring Training, he has made some significant strides defensively," Greenville manager Darren Fenster told reporters regarding Moncada "With his swing, it's more under control from both sides. "We broke camp here the first couple days in April, so it's been about a month and a half since we saw him. It just looks like everything is a little bit more under control than when he first signed, and that's a huge step and a testament to the staff we had down in extended spring training that was with him every day and got him to the point where everybody felt like he was at the point where he's ready to be here. I don't see any reason why he can't continue to progress on the same path." With the Major League Baseball amateur draft a few weeks away, it seemed appropriate to poll some big league executives regarding where Yoan Moncada might fit if lumped into the annual event. It was principal owner John Henry, after all, who proclaimed that one of the reasons he had no problem allocating $63 million to signing the 19-year-old was because the club viewed Moncada as the equivalent of a No. 1 pick. According to the consensus of those asked, Henry isn't far off. Every one of the decision-makers asked said Moncada would have definitely been in the top five of this year's draft, citing the switch-hitter's possession of the rarest of skill-sets these days -- the ability to impact a baseball. (One executive identified Bryce Harper as the last draftee to possess the kind of overall offensive punch Moncada carries, of course without the same opportunities to display his stuff to scouts leading up to his arrival.) Watching Moncada man second base, it is easy to compare his presence and stature to Seattle's Robinson Cano. He's already that big. But whether or not he remains at the position, the payoff figures to be the aforementioned power potential. The Red Sox have 19-year-old Rafael Devers as a third baseman who could provide future power. And many in the organization are high on first baseman Sam Travis, the second-round draft pick last year who looks to be the type of player who could supply pop. But there's a reason why the Red Sox were proactive when committing to Hanley Ramirez. Finding players who can routinely hit the ball with authority is simply the most difficult feat there is when building today's baseball's teams.Xander Bogaerts was supposed to be one of those players, yet he has yet to display the kind of 25-30 home run potential many predicted. Lesson: you can't wait around to draft the next Kris Bryant, hence the checks totaling $63 million (half to Moncada, the other half to MLB). Speaking of Bogaerts, he offers another reminder when it comes to the Moncada dynamic. It's one thing to anticipate immediate returns from newcomer Rusney Castillo. He is, after all, 27 years old. But a player the age of Moncada is another story. While the Red Sox have been somewhat more aggressive in promoting their young talent to the big leagues, they haven't gotten the same production as when the likes of Dustin Pedroia and Jacoby Ellsbury were eased into their existences. Mookie Betts was relatively the same age as Moncada when starting the 2013 season in Greenville. By the end of the next year he was playing in the major leagues, and two seasons later found himself at the top of the big league lineup. What has happened, however, is that, unlike Pedroia or Ellsbury, Betts was being counted on to be an integral part of the Red Sox' lineup out of the gate. After a successful postseason run, Bogaerts was thrust in a similar situation a year ago. Thus far, such a progression has been uncomfortable. When Moncada's time does there has to be the sort of offensive expectations we're seeing with Blake Swihart, who isn't a focal point of the lineup like his early-20's brethren. It seems like a logical continuation, but it is one the Red Sox have found themselves getting away from recently with less-than-ideal results. Right now, the Red Sox are keenly aware of the importance of taking it slow with Moncada. General manager Ben Cherington admitted that the organization most likely rushed another Cuban 19-year-old, Jose Iglesias, when the brakes should have been applied. But when you have t-shirts and authenticators lined up to celebrate a Single-A player's first game, everybody's patience is tested. Welcome to the world of a very unique prospect, who finds himself in a very unique situation.