Yoan Moncada

Red Sox Minor League Notebook: Getting to know top prospects with Single-A Greenville

Ryan Hannable
August 20, 2015 - 2:04 pm
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The Red Sox have one of, if not the best farm system in major league baseball. Of the top 100 prospects rated by MLB.com, the Red Sox have seven of them, including four currently with Single-A Greenville. While the team may not have many prospects major league ready, the future looks bright with the number of young, talented players at the lower levels of the organization. With new president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski coming aboard, he could use some of these prospects to acquire proven major league talent, or he could hold on to them and see them rise through the organization and eventually reach the major leagues. Here is a closer look at the four top 100 prospects currently with Single-A Greenville: Yoan Moncada (Rated No. 9 by MLB.com) The 19-year old was signed to a record $31.5 million deal this spring after coming over from Cuba. The second baseman spent an extra month and a half down in Fort Myers at extended spring training to get acclimated to playing in America before getting the call up to Greenville in mid May. Things didn't get off to the best of starts, as he batted .208 over his first 20 games, but even though the numbers weren't there, the Red Sox organization was never concerned. "Even when he was struggling you saw flashes of that potential," Red Sox minor league hitting coordinator Tim Hyers said. "Dealing with young players you see a lot of different players. It was just get your work in, go through the process, develop your routines. If you put the work in it's going to show up on the field. The athletic ability, strength, size, quickness, it was easy to see. It was putting that together and it would show up at game time." After getting settled in with his new team in Greenville and putting in the work pregame, the results are now starting to show. In the second half of the season, Moncada is slashing .344/.433/.558. "You just have to put yourself in his shoes and there's a lot of things going on his his life and changes were made," Hyers said. "Just getting conformable with professional baseball -- the routines and what is expected of you. He's learning how to be a professional, how to prepare every day and when he started to feel comfortable I think that's when the numbers started to turn around. He's definitely a special athlete and special player." Moncada is also a switch-hitter, which should only be a positive as he begins the climb through the Red Sox' organization. As it stands now, he's batting .322 from the right side and .276 from the left. "It's such a benefit to be a switch-hitter," Hyers said. "A young man, new to the game and professional baseball so he will need to learn things from both sides of the plate. He has to take almost twice the number of swings as everyone else and not only one side. You get one side going really well and the other breaks down so you have to manage both sides of the plate, which is difficult to do. He's done a good job to put the work in and the focus to get better to work on some of his weaknesses." Overall with Greenville, Moncada is hitting .292 with seven home runs and 33 RBIs in 36 games. Rafael Devers (Rated No. 14 by MLB.com) Devers is the second-ranked Red Sox prospect despite being only 17 years old. The third baseman played in the Futures Game this year in Cincinnati and was the second-youngest player on either Team USA or Team World. Hyers said sometimes he and members of the organization forget just how young he really is. "We have to watch ourselves and not get our expectations out of whack just because of the age," he said. "They are going to make mistakes. There is learning, but the production, the things he's proven to us so far, the excitement he has with the bat is a special player. There's phases where he's just learning and he'll hit his slumps, but that is part of growing as a professional hitter." He is currently hitting .276 with 11 home runs and 61 RBIs over 99 games. The most impressive thing is the 11 home runs, as he stands barely 6-feet and 200 pounds. "Just how physical he can be at the plate and how the ball jumps off his bat," Hyers said of what is most impressive. "When he's on time and he's behind the ball, he has really strong hands and a quick bat to be a big guy. Just the quickness with his hands, being a corner type player and when he connects the ball really sounds different off his bat." Andrew Benintendi (Rated No. 70 by MLB.com) Benintendi, the Red Sox' first-round pick of this year and No. 7 overall, has only been in Greenville for two games, but he's already made an impact as he hit two home runs Wednesday. Hyers saw the center fielder in short-season Lowell before his promotion and came away impressed. "I really like him," Hyers said. "Wow, what a wonderful kid. Really solid player that the way he goes about his business is very mature. Really good work ethic. Really good sense about how to play the game. His swing works, really good bad speed, ball has a different sound off his bat than a lot of the other hitters. He's going to be a really good one." Even though Hyers didn't get a chance to see him in person at the University of Arkansas, he understands why the team selected him No. 7 overall. "Definitely. I can see why he was drafted that high," he said. "You can check a lot of the boxes with him. I didn't see many weaknesses. He's a very consistent player. Really smooth swing. Quick bat. Smart player with a good head on his shoulders, understands the game and what pitchers are trying to do with him. We just don't see that every single day." The 21-year-old struggled out of the gates, batting .185 over his first eight games, but quickly hit his stride, hitting over .400 in his last 10 games before being promoted Sunday night. Benintendi said it took some adjusting to the wood bat, which is something Hyers said a lot of college players deal with, as well as the day-to-day grind of professional baseball. "The guys coming in, using the wood bat, I think it's just using it every day," he said. "That's the grind and they have to learn, preparing every day and playing at that level. In college they have days off and can recover. Yes, throwing the wood bat in their hand plus swinging every single day, it takes a little while. If you look at his numbers and his short career, when he had the thumb injury and he got the break, I think he got his legs underneath him and was able to take a deep breath and evaluate. When he came back he was on fire." The Arkansas product seems to be on the same path as another recent college player selected in the second-round last year -- Sam Travis, who is now with Double-A Portland. Travis started in Lowell and was promoted to Greenville Aug. 1. He began this year with High-A Salem, but was promoted about midway through the season. "The higher drafted hitters out of college you'll see that -- the maturity level and they show us really early that they can handle the lower levels and once they can handle it and show us what they can do, we have to make a decision of when to promote them," Hyers said. "Both those guys are very talented hitters and it's not shocking they've been moving through our system." Javier Guerra (Rated No. 86 by MLB.com) Guerra is most known for his defense, but the 19-year-old has had a break out season at the plate, as he's hit .281 with 16 home runs and 60 RBIs -- a main reason why he's cracked the top 100 list. While many around the game have been surprised with the offensive output, it hasn't surprised Hyers. "Not for me," he said. "Javier has a smooth swing. He's an incredible worker. He has a knack for hitting in my opinion. There's things that he has to work on and he can get too aggressive at times and kind of look to the pull side, which gets him into trouble with secondary stuff. All in all, I didn't see the number of home runs he's put up, I didn't see that coming. I thought he was going to hit home runs, but he's done a really good job putting the work in." Since he's still 19 years old, it's hard to predict what type of hitter he will turn into, but Hyers said he has the potential to be a power-hitting shortstop. "I think the jury is still out. He's still growing," Hyers said. "He's still filling out. He has bat speed, so I don't count that out as far as the power. I think his swing works better and more consistent when he stays gap-to-gap and stays to be middle of the field, but he has sneaky pop to the pull side and when he moves up to different levels, it's how many fastballs can he get in his zone and connect with. With his bat speed I wouldn't rule out anything."

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