Yoan Moncada confidently sat in front of the media Friday at JetBlue Park in Fort Myers, Fla., and answered questions regarding his decision to sign with the Boston Red Sox.
It was his formal introduction to life in the limelight.
Moncada, a highly sought after Cuban prospect, agreed to a contract with the Red Sox a few weeks ago, though the deal wasn’t made official until Thursday night. The 19-year-old infielder reportedly will receive a $31.5 million signing bonus, with Boston on the hook for $63 million because of a 100 percent tax the organization must pay to Major League Baseball.
Moncada was all smiles Friday while sitting alongside Red Sox general manager Ben Cherington and international scouting director Eddie Romero, who played a huge role in Boston’s pursuit and who translated for Moncada during his introductory press conference.
Let’s run down some of the highlights of Friday’s press conference.
— Cherington had high praise for Moncada right off the bat.
“We believe he’s certainly one of the few most talented 19-year-olds in the world,” Cherington said.
— Moncada expressed gratitude for the opportunity and said his primary focus is on getting back into baseball shape. He already has been working out at Fenway South in recent days.
— Moncada will spend the duration of spring training at minor league camp, according to Cherington. He already has been working out alongside minor leaguers in recent days.
— Moncada will report to Low-A Greenville to begin the season. It’s possible he could see time in extended spring training in Fort Myers, though, as he’s still shaking off some rust.
— There’s been some question as to where Moncada will play defensively, and it’s possible his long-term defensive future could be predicated on Boston’s needs and what opportunities present themselves.
Moncada said he’s most comfortable right now at second base. That’s where his focus will be as he begins his stint in the Red Sox system.
Cherington said Moncada “probably” will stick at second base this season, though the GM also said the question of positioning is “less relevant” until a player is major league-ready. The Red Sox clearly believe Moncada has the athletic ability to play positions other than second base.
Moncada noted he also has played third base, shortstop and center field in the past.
— Moncada said his goal is to reach the majors in one year, though he acknowledged it could take longer.
— Moncada, when asked which players he looks up to, mentioned Hanley Ramirez, David Ortiz, Dustin Pedroia, Shane Victorino and Pablo Sandoval by name.
— Moncada expressed a desire to show he’s a “dedicated teammate.”
— Moncada directly thanked former Red Sox pitcher Luis Tiant, who played a major role in his recruitment.
Tiant explained to Moncada before the infielder signed what it was like to transition from Cuba to the Red Sox organization.
— The Red Sox had scouts watch Moncada in international tournaments in Mexico as far back as 2010, according to Romero.
Romero first saw Moncada in a tournament in Amsterdam in summer 2013. He saw him again later that year during a tournament in Taiwan.
— Romero said the Red Sox developed a friendship/confidence/trust with Moncada’s agent, David Hastings, following the infielder’s workout in Guatemala.
— Moncada said Hastings has been “like a father” throughout the entire process.
— Moncada said he held private workouts for about 11 teams.
— There have been reports of a footrace between Moncada and Red Sox outfielder/fellow Cuban Rusney Castillo at an All-Star showcase. Moncada was asked Friday how the two stack up from a speed standpoint, which drew a chuckle from Boston’s new signee.
“I think Rusney has me right now, but all I need is some time training,” Moncada said.
— Moncada hasn’t seen his family in nine months, which he admitted has been an “incredibly tough” experience.
— Moncada was asked about the developing relationship between the United States and Cuba and whether he looks forward to a time when he’ll be able to travel back and forth. His response was very baseball-centric.
“I don’t know much about the ongoing relations,” Moncada said. “I hear some good things about it and the possibilities, but really, I’m just focused on getting here, I’m here now and I just want to play ball. That’s what my No. 1 focus is right now.”
— While it’s difficult to fully grasp Moncada’s personality given the language barrier, he looked comfortable in his new setting. He was particularly open and exuberant in his responses to questions posed in Spanish, suggesting we could see a fun character as he becomes more acclimated.
Thumbnail photo via Twitter/@Ometepe28