The Boston Red Sox are in the midst of a pennant race. They’ve got two MVP candidates, one represents the past and present, his name is David Ortiz. The other is the future and that’s a guy named Mookie Betts.
That’s a lot of going on, and on Friday night in Oakland all of that will be secondary.
That’s because the Boston Red Sox have announced that they’re going to promote the franchise’s top prospect Yoan Moncada. Moncada isn’t just the Red Sox top prospect, he’s arguably the top prospect in major league baseball.
Scott Lauber of ESPN.com reported very early Thursday morning that Moncada would be with the Red Sox for their Friday night game in Oakland.
Moncada is about as heavily hyped a prospect as the Red Sox have ever had.
He turned 21 on May 27, 2016. The Red Sox dropped $31.5 million to sign him as an amateur free agent out of Cuba. That was the largest sum ever, and due to the luxury tax, the Red Sox had to pay an additional $31.5 million.
That’s $63 million for a teenager who had never played a game on American soil.
That’s also the past.
The present is that Yoan Moncada is for all practical purposes the highest ranked prospect in the majors. When the midseason prospect rankings were revealed back in July, MLB.com and Baseball America both had Moncada ranked No.1.
Of the four players ranked ahead of Moncada, three of them, Alex Bregman, Andrew Benintendi, and Lucas Giolito had already been promoted to the majors.
What is it that sets Moncada apart from other prospects?
Is it his age? He’s very young, but that’s not the sole reason for his hype.
His power? Moncada has power, and that power was on full display back in July when he won the MVP of the Major League Futures Game.
His hitting? Moncada can hit. He’s had 405 at-bats at two different levels of minor league ball this season and he’s slashing .294/.407/.511.
His speed…ah now you’re getting somewhere. Of all the skills that Moncada possesses, and he’s got a lot of them, the one that’s most major league ready is his speed.
Speed is a constant. You’re just as fast on a major league diamond, as you are on a double-a one.
He’s got 405 at-bats this season and he’s swiped 45 bases. There are only three players in the majors with more than 45 steals on the season. The thing is that while Moncada’s power isn’t 40 home run type of power, it is considerably more than most players who are also a threat to steal 50 bases have.
This isn’t a “let’s have a look” type of September call-up.
Prior to his promotion, Red Sox manager John Farrell had taken the unusual step of publicly pining for the arrival of the 21-year-old phenom.
Before Wednesday afternoon’s game against the Tampa Bay Rays, Rob Bradford of WEEI reported that Farrell had made mention of an impeding Moncada promotion.
“We’ve talked about Yoan, and not just as a pinch-runner,” Farrell said. “It’s an exciting young player. Extremely talented guy. There’s all positive reviews and evaluations of him. When that major league experience is going to initiate, time with tell that. But in terms of playing the position of third base, yes, that conversation has been had.”
Will Moncada be the Red Sox starting third baseman through September? It certainly seems like that could be the case.
Travis Shaw and Aaron Hill have done their best to validate the Red Sox promoting Moncada, and then starting him in place of what has become a very offensively challenged platoon at third base.
Shaw slashed .167/.250/.292 in August with 2 home runs, 6 RBI’s and 22 strikeouts, and that was after the Red Sox acquired Aaron Hill to insulate the left-handed Shaw from having to face left-handed pitchers.
What about Hill? Hill slashed .211/.308/.281 with 1 home run and 4 RBI’s.
Both players offer up fairly consistent, but not spectacular gloves at what is known as “the hot corner.”
That’s where Moncada likely comes into play.
He’s only played 10 games at third base. He’s got all the skills needed to play the position but there’s a good chance he’s going to make some mistakes out there as well.
The issue is will those mistakes be outweighed by what could be a considerable upgrade as far as offense goes?
Moncada only needs to get on base to cause problems for the opposition. A walk, an infield hit, any time he’s on first, he’s going to be a serious issue for the opponents pitcher and catcher.
The Red Sox like to be aggressive on the bases, and Moncada has more than enough speed to allow the Red Sox to be extra-aggressive with him on base.
He should be able to go from first-to-third and from second-to-home with relative ease. He’s going to steal some bases too.
The potential power is an added bonus.
This isn’t just a September call-up. It could signal the beginning of a new era for the Red Sox.
Pablo Sandoval is on-track to be healthy next spring, but Moncada could make Sandoval’s presence superfluous. Travis Shaw? The Red Sox may very well look to deal him if his trade value hasn’t been completely negated by his slump.
Moncada’s natural position is second base, but as long as Dustin Pedroia continues to hit over .300 and field the position at a near gold glove level, that position will be filled.
If you’re looking to predict Moncada for the 2016 stretch run, odds are he’s going to struggle a bit. Will he be overwhelmed and obviously not ready for the majors? No, but each time he’s made the leap from one level of pro ball to the next he’s had an adjustment period, once he’s adjusted he’s shown an ability to excel.
The problem is that with just over a month left in the regular season, the adjustment period could feel like a long time.
Red Sox fans are not known for their patience. In the midst of a pennant race a team can only wait so long for a player to adjust to the majors. Two weeks would be a lightening fast adjustment period, but it could feel like an eternity if Moncada is striking out and making an occasional misplay in the field.
He’s worth waiting for though. He’s got the potential to be a legitimate superstar. He probably won’t ever field the third base position as well as the Orioles Manny Machado does, but at the plate Moncada offers up more speed with a bit less power.
Yoan Moncada has been heavily hyped ever since the Red Sox dropped over $60 million on the international free agent. Friday the Red Sox get a chance to see if the money was well spent, odds are they’re going to be very pleased.