Yoan Moncada

Red Sox Minor League Notebook: Yoan Moncada 'starting to get comfortable' in Greenville

Ryan Hannable
June 18, 2015 - 8:38 am

No Red Sox Single-A player has ever received more hype than Greenville second baseman Yoan Moncada. After the 19-year-old Cuban signed a minor league contract with a $31.5 million signing bonus in March and then spent over a month in extended spring training, Moncada made his professional debut May 18. Through the first month of his professional career, the switch-hitting second baseman hasn't blown anyone away with his numbers -- posting a slash line of .220/.312/.317, while committing nine errors in 16 games in the field. It's worth noting he hadn't played organized baseball in over a year before coming to America and signing with the Red Sox, so he is still getting acclimated to the American game. "I've seen a guy who is finally starting to get comfortable just in the daily routine of professional baseball," Greenville manager Darren Fenster said via phone. "I think slowly, but surely the work that we put in before seven o'clock is paying dividends. He's more understanding of the expectations that we and the staff are putting on him every day in terms of not sure how he's playing the game, but more importantly how he's working between 2:00-7:00." Moncada has spent much of his pregame work with hitting coach Nelson Paulino in the cage and also working on everything involved with playing a fundamentally-sound second base at the professional level. "It's everything from cage work with our hitting coach Nelson Paulino every single day where he's hitting off the tee, he's hitting soft toss, to really get a good understanding of his own swing so he understands what it feels like where he needs to be from both sides of the plate," Fenster said. "It's a mechanical thing, it's an approach thing that we are hammering at him every day. Nelson Paulino, that's his baby in terms of the work they do in the cage and during batting practice. "From a defensive standpoint he's on the field every day just getting consistent with fundamentals of fielding ground balls and turning double plays. More fundamentals we stress every day from relays, to communication, run downs, all the stuff that you see at seven o'clock we are working on that stuff far before the gates have even opened. He embraces the work and he's a big part of what we're doing right now." The Cuban was thrown into a somewhat overwhelming situation when he first signed as he was the talk of the entire organization, even at just 19 years old. He didn't know anyone with the Red Sox, all the coaches were new and he was at JetBlue Park along with almost 200 professional players, including the major leaguer's for his first experiences playing baseball in America. There was an adjustment period needed, as he was being taught things he never had been taught before by coaches he just met, so there was a trust factor that needed to be established. "He's been great in terms of being open to us trying to help him," Fenster said. "I don't know if that was the case when he first signed, and that was probably just a product of him not really knowing anybody and not having a relationship with anybody back in the beginning of March. He got to Greenville and it wasn't like he was coming into a completely foreign environment. "The way things are set up in spring training with the major league clubhouse and then 150 other minor leaguer's so he walked into our clubhouse of 24-25 guys and the majority of them he already knew and had relationships with since he arrived in Fort Myers. In the time that we got to spend as a staff with him in spring training also gave us a little bit of credibility so it wasn't a brand new staff of coaches that he had to learn. Credit the guys down in extended spring training in Joe Oliver, Iggy Suarez and the rest of the staff down there that got him into a consistent routine that we've been able to build on here." The errors have stood out, as making nine in 16 games is a pretty alarming number. Fenster believes this will take care of its self with Moncada's early work and getting back to playing a fundamentally sound second base. "I think just the consistency of defense mechanics that we're trying to get him in," Fenster said. "If he gets five groundballs we're trying to get him to stay consistent with how he's going after those five. This is one of the better athletes that is in professional baseball right now and when you have a guy who is athletic as he is, sometimes those guys rely on their athletic ability to play. "And that is a good thing, but also it's a double edged sword from time to time as by relying on athletic ability you're going to make mistakes on plays that you don't need to be more than a fundamentally sound player. I think some of his errors have been from just rushing plays that don't need to be rushed. Others have been just him not putting himself in a good position to field or throw the ball. It goes back to his foot work that we're trying to get hammered into him." While one day Moncada could be an impact player at the major league level, he still has some work to do, which is why Fenster enjoys coaching players like Moncada on their way to reaching the big leagues. "Anytime we get an opportunity to work with guys who have major league potential, I think I described Yoan as a guy who has some major league tools, but he's not a major league player just yet," he said. "There are other guys like I mentioned that are on this team, and all of these guys have a common thread of really embracing the work and loving to play. When you have those two traits along with some talent, you can't help but get better. You can't help but get excited to work with guys like that because you know they are going to continue to work hard every day." LIGHT'S MINDSET It's been a little over a week since starter-turned-reliever Pat Light was promoted from Double-A Portland to Triple-A Pawtucket. Light has continued his success even at the next level as he hasn't allowed a hit in his three innings of work, which have included two saves and four strikeouts. The hard-throwing right-hander described his mindset when entering games. "For me I am coming in, doing my thing and it's my best pitch versus your best swing and see who wins because I am coming at you with my stuff," Light said recently. "I am not pitching around you or pitching to your weaknesses, just here it is, let's see if you can do it." The Red Sox' first-round pick in the 2012 draft said he has touched 100 and 101 mph. While he wasn't a closer until this season, Light said as a kid it was something he dreamed of doing. "I've grown up watching baseball my whole life so seeing [Jonathan] Papelbon back in the day, everyone watched Mariano Rivera -- I've seen a lot of great closers," Light said. "Closing the game on the ninth inning is a lot of fun. It's always exciting. What kid doesn't envision something like that?" Being a reliever for roughly three months, Light still realizes there is a lot to be learned, which will come with each passing day and appearance. "Yeah, I've only been doing this for two months," he said. "It's not like I've been doing this for a long time. The adjustment has gone well, but knowing where my arm is at, where my body is at, how to take care of it, it's been a change." DRAFT UPDATES The Red Sox announced Wednesday night they have signed five players, including right-handed pitcher Ben Taylor (seventh round), infielder Tucker Tubbs (ninth round), infielder Mitchell Gunsolus (10th round), left-handed pitcher Matt Kent (13th round), and infielder Chad De La Guerra (17th round). In addition, fourth-rounder Tate Matheny, son of Cardinals manager Mike, was present at the Lowell Spinners' media day Wednesday, so it appears his signing is close. As for first-round pick Andrew Benintendi, general manager Ben Cherington spoke of him to reporters prior to Wednesday's game in Atlanta. He said he expects a deal will get done soon. "We expect for that to get done some time soon but we don't have anything to announce right now," Cherington said. He will likely report to short-season, Single-A Lowell in early July following the presentation of the 2015 USA Baseball Golden Spikes Award, which he's a finalist for. The ceremony will be held on June 23. 3 STARS OF THE WEEK 1. Sam Travis, 1B, Salem -- Travis, a 2014 second-round pick was named an All-Star this year and has been on fire at the plate of late. In his last 10 games he has hit .378 with two home runs and six RBIs. He is on a four-game hit streak. 2. Marco Hernandez, SS, Portland -- Hernandez has hits in nine of his last 10 games, hitting .357 in that span. For the season he's batting .316 and emerged as one of Portland's best players. 3. Trey Ball, LHP, Salem -- The 2013 first rounder had another solid start his last outing. He hasn't allowed a run in his last three starts and has lowered his ERA to 3.73.