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June 29, 2015

Prospect Profile

Yoan Moncada

by David Lee

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After sitting on a recent series filled with Yoan Moncada plate appearances and defensive chances, there was a consensus among scouts polled.

“It’s in there,” was the popular phrase.

It’s easy to get wrapped up in the dollar amount ($31.5 million, to be exact), the hype that comes with being a Boston Red Sox prospect, and workout grades that spelled out a five-tool phenom.

One scout who saw his workouts tabbed him a five-tool, first-division talent. Red Sox beat writers came to Greenville, S.C., and reported his every move during his official minor-league debut. By the time Moncada arrived in Greenville, his name was printed on shirts sold in the team store, all of this at 19 years old and out of Cuba.

During one of his first road series with Greenville, stadium personnel stopped what they were doing to watch his batting-practice sessions. Autograph seekers lined the first row of the third-base side, including new faces mixed with the usual card- and pen-carrying members. One traveled nearly two hours back and forth three days in a row to get the teenager to put pen to card every day.

“I was excited to get out of Fort Myers and play,” Moncada said through a translator. “Since then, I’m just trying to get better and get used to everything.”

Moncada doesn’t shy away from the camera or autograph seekers. He flashes a brilliant smile and has fun with teammates during pregame activities.

But, as multiple scouts and I noted, Moncada’s tools are also only flashing so far, a reminder that patience is required for a player still working to get into a groove after not playing organized baseball in more than a year. The Red Sox also recognized this by sending him to extended spring training first, and indications are they plan to move him along slowly to acclimate him to playing in a new country.

“I understand the process, but I was getting desperate because it’s a different level,” Moncada said of moving from extended spring training to Class-A. “I just wanted to play and have fun.

“I hadn’t played in a while, but I’m feeling good and taking it day by day and trying to get better.”

Moncada’s season to this point is also a reminder that scouts view the player as is without taking the hype into account. That’s why it may be difficult to find a scout who has recently sat on Moncada’s play and gives him a plus-potential hit tool, and none polled saw a franchise-altering player right now.

Moncada has a better swing from the left side based on looser hands and greater feel. He’s capable of spraying the ball to all fields with authority from the left side. He shows the ability to let the ball travel deep in the zone and barrel with some consistency. At the same time, he has a tendency to pull his head out in an effort to cheat velocity. He’s prone to whiffing on basic sequencing from both sides of the plate, and his recognition needs further development.

Moncada’s swing from the right side, while advanced for a switch-hitter his age, is more rigid and lacks the natural looseness he has from the opposite side. It makes sense considering he said he’s a natural left-handed hitter. He’s more limited to pull-side power from the right side, although that power might rival his natural lefty pop. He doesn’t tap into it enough, though, because he struggles barreling velocity as a right-hander at times. He can jam himself and struggle with separation. The hit potential is above average from the left side and average from the right side.

As mentioned before, Moncada’s power is similar from both sides. He has 60 (or plus) raw power that will play down slightly to 55 (or above-average) power in games.

Whether the hit tool allows him to reach this on a consistent basis is still in question. His physicality and immense natural strength pushed it to 55. (While on the subject, Moncada’s body is incredible. He’s the definition of “looking the part” by immediately standing out among his peers.)

Moncada does enough to play a good second base, but the glove lacks plus ability. He can play on his heels and doesn’t put complete focus on ground balls at times, settling on batting the ball down rather than seeing it into the glove. It’s frustrating because there’s a natural feel to his defense. He’s smooth out there, but he doesn’t always use it to his advantage. His range is above average. The total defensive package is an average glove and plus arm.

Moncada seems to go through the motions at times. His bat will drag and he’ll produce poor batting-practice sessions. He’s not the quickest on and off the field by any means. He’ll put his head down and walk back to the dugout at a slow pace after a big strikeout. He’s experiencing struggles for what is probably the first time in his baseball career, and it shows at times in his body language.

An evaluator’s job is to evaluate the player he sees, not the player he’s heard or read about. It would be easy to feed the hype and slap plus grades on Moncada across the board. He just hasn’t shown that type of ability at Greenville yet. He’s a future major leaguer. He could become an above-average everyday player and could turn in first-division years in his prime. Is he a franchise cornerstone? He hasn’t shown it yet, but an evaluator’s job on a player doesn’t end after one report. Just like Moncada needs time to adjust to playing in the United States, those who watch him need time to adjust their grades accordingly,

Yoan Moncada

Born: 05/27/1995 (Age: 20)
Bats: Switch Throws: Right
Height: 6' 2" Weight: 205
Primary Position: 2B
Secondary Position:
Most physically advanced 19/20-year-old I’ve ever seen; absolutely ripped; defined upper body; strong lower half; close to maxed; natural athlete.
Evaluator David Lee
Report Date 06/17/2015
Dates Seen 5/27/2015; 6/12/2015-6/13/2015
Affiliate Greenville Drive (Low-A, Red Sox)
MLB ETA Risk Factor OFP Realistic Role Video
2017 Moderate 60 50; major-league regular Yes

Confident; walks and plays with swagger; appears to go through motions at times; can lose focus on defensive plays.

Tool Future Grade Report
Hit 55 Loose, natural from left side; above-average bat speed; quick to zone; some lift; sprays to all fields with authority from left side; more rigid from right side; lacks separation and feel, loses extension; less barrel frequency; prone to whiff on sequencing from both sides; recognition issues.
Power 55 Plus raw power; projects for slight opposite-field home-run power from left side; strong pull-side power from right side; hit tool hinders all-fields pop from right side.
Baserunning/Speed 70 4.1 from right side; times to first will range plus to double-plus; gets out of box quickly; could slow a tick by prime; base-running impact may not match grade.
Glove 50 Tends to field ground balls on heels; will settle to batting ball down rather than looking ball into glove; shows natural feel for glove in pregame; above-average range; can stick at second base.
Arm 60 Easy carry from low slot; shows strength to complete major-league double plays; accurate arm.

Shows glimpses of five tools and physicality/athleticism beyond his years. There’s a natural feel for the game and looseness in certain aspects. The issue is in-game translation and whether all five tools will manifest in the majors. It’s in there, but he has to implement it at a much higher rate to reach his projected role. He seems to be going through the motions during his initial pro struggles. The ceiling is a first-division player, but there are quite a few boxes to check off to get there.

David Lee is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see David's other articles. You can contact David by clicking here

Related Content:  Prospects,  Scouting,  Minor Leagues

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