Chicago White Sox: Scouting Report on IF Yoan Moncada
Moncada was signed from Cuba by the Boston Red Sox in March of 2015, with a record $31.5M bonus, which nearly doubled the previous Cuban signing bonus record of $16M+ that the Cincinnati Reds gave to Aroldis Chapman.
Moncada began playing in Serie Nacional as a 17 year old, and immediately, he was notable for his raw skills on the field, posting a .388 OBP in two seasons as a teenager in Cuba’s highest professional circuit.
The Red Sox sent Moncada to extended spring training after his signing and then let him spend his entire 2015 at low-A Greenville in the South Atlantic League to get his feet wet in the United States.
Moncada certainly didn’t disappoint, posting a .278/.380/.438 line with 8 home runs and 49 stolen bases while putting up a 42/83 BB/K ratio over 81 games.
After that first season, Moncada received plenty of notice nationally in prospect lists. He was rated as the #3 overall prospect by Baseball America, #7 by Baseball Prospectus, and #7 by MLB.com.
Moncada started his 2016 with one of the most loaded offenses in the minor leagues in Salem of the Carolina League, and he quickly showed he was ready to move up. After 61 games, he had posted a .427 OBP while also smacking 32 extra base hits.
Moncada was promoted to AA, and the Red Sox made their plans for Moncada at that point clear, as they began giving him at least one start a week at third base to prepare for a future move up to the big league level.
An adjustment in his swing at the AA level led to some big power along with some increased strikeouts, but his final line was still impressive as he hit 11 home runs and stole 9 bases in just 45 games before getting called up to the majors.
For Boston, he struggled with the bat, only hitting .211/.250/.263 in 20 plate appearances, oddly only playing in 8 games over the entire month of September.
The Red Sox did send Moncada to the Arizona Fall League, and he left early after a reported injury, but he showed well in the time he was at the AFL, hitting .292/.370/.458 over 6 games with a 3/10 BB/K ratio.
Over the offseason, the Red Sox traded Moncada as the key piece in their trade with the Chicago White Sox to acquire ace left-hander Chris Sale.
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Moncada came to the United States with some natural build, but being in a major league organization has really led to him adding to his listed 6’2″, 205-pound frame. I’d not be surprised at all if he’s carrying 225 pounds now, and he still looks lean as far as fat content on his frame.
One very notable thing with Moncada and the build he’s added since coming stateside is that he’s both maintained his speed as he’s added muscle, and he’s not put on “bro muscle”, which is something many young players fall victim to, putting on muscle that looks good on Instagram but really has no usability in the game.
Contact (60) – Moncada’s swing from both sides is extremely quick, and from the right side, it’s one of those rare right-handed swings that’s actually “pretty” to watch. He has a short load, is extremely fast through the zone, and he has a solid loft in his follow through.
Power (55) – The loft in his follow through does allow for lift in Moncada’s swing, and his bat speed (and tremendous strength) would suggest there will be plenty of power to come, but Moncada’s bat path through the zone is pure and line drive-oriented, which should lead to a ton of doubles for sure, though it won’t surprise if he ends up putting out a 25 HR+ season.
Eye (55) – This is perhaps the area of Moncada’s game that needs the most work at the moment. He has exhibited excellent eye in his low-A and high-A time, but an adjustment to his swing in AA to a more uppercut swing, seemingly to impress Boston management, led to a much higher strikeout rate.
Moncada is a guy who showed an aggressive approach within the zone at low-A and high-A, but when he adjusted his swing for AA, those same pitches that he could foul off and keep a count active on in the zone in A-ball became swinging strikes with that uppercut swing.
Speed (65) – In all seriousness, I could consider even higher for Moncada. He’s been clocked multiple times in the 6.6 second range when timed over 60 yards. That is loosely translated to a 11.5-12 second 100 meter dash on pure time, but most guys who run a 10-second 100 meter would only run a low-6 second 60-yard time, so really, it wouldn’t surprise me if Moncada was more like an 11-second 100 meter sprinter.
That’s an elite runner at any size, but at Moncada’s size, that’s absolutely incredible. The even more impressive part is that, unlike a lot of more muscle-bound players, Moncada has incredible first-step quickness, meaning he’s at top speed almost immediately, unlike a lot of bigger guys who need a half-dozen steps to get to that peak speed.
Defense (55) – I suppose this would depend on where you’re viewing his position, but as a second baseman, Moncada was a tremendous defender, flashing very impressive range, especially to his arm side up the middle of the field.
His work at third base showed similarly impressive range, but he showed a need to get more time at the hot corner for the quick instincts on hot shots at the position, though that’s not surprising.
Arm (60) – Moncada is certainly not a guy who plays second base due to having too weak of an arm to play short. His arm is a plus-level arm, and he exhibits tremendous accuracy, especially when moving in on the ball.
MLB Player Comp
I just don’t know where you go with this. The physicality of Moncada is nearly unprecedented up the middle.
His physicality reminds me of a young Gary Sheffield when he was with the Brewers and Padres. Sheffield in that time was still a third baseman, and injuries were the big reason he didn’t play more games. In Sheffield’s first full season, he hit 10 home runs, 30 doubles, and stole 25 bases.
His approach at the plate in his AA plate appearances reminded me a ton of a young Alex Rodriguez when A-Rod was first up with the Mariners, able to use his speed some but also with plenty of power in his swing to affect pitchers as well.
Of course, those are two incredible names, while the approach in high-A likely won’t have the same kind of affect, but the guy who his time while in the leadoff position in high-A reminded me of was Tony Phillips.
The way he worked counts, ran the bases, and while he could steal bases plenty, wasn’t a guy who was stealing them without abandon reminded me a ton especially of how Phillips worked from the leadoff spot for those early 1990s Tigers.
Needless to say, the guys to compare with Moncada are legends of the game. He has the upside to be one of the truly special players to have ever stepped on the field.
That said, there are a number of guys who have had his elite level of tools before and ended up not being able to turn that corner into an elite player at the major league level, so it’s by no means a guarantee he’ll be a stud