Yes, David Ortiz is enjoying a historic final season. And yes, Mookie Betts has emerged as a legitimate American League MVP candidate. But all eyes will be on a different member of the Boston Red Sox when they begin their nine-game road trip Friday.
The Red Sox are expected to promote infield prospect Yoan Moncada from Double-A Portland on Friday, with Moncada set to join the team in Oakland for a three-game series with the Athletics.
Moncada’s call-up ends weeks of speculation about whether the 21-year-old Cuba native, now ranked the No. 1 prospect in all of baseball by MLB.com, would get the chance to contribute at the big league level in 2016.
Moncada has gotten rave reviews, most recently from John Farrell, during his meteoric rise through the minors, and in the wake of Andrew Benintendi’s recent success after jumping from Double-A, his bar seems set pretty high.
But, as always, it’s important to temper expectations for such a young prospect. With that, here’s a breakdown of what exactly he brings to the table:
High-A Salem (61 games): .307/.427/.496 slash line, .923 OPS, 57 R, 4 HR, 34 RBIs, 60 Ks, 36 SB
Double-A Portland (45 games): .277/.379/.531 slash line, .910 OPS, 37 R, 11 HR, 28 RBIS, 64 Ks, 9 SB
Total (106 games): .294/.407/.511 slash line, .918 OPS, 94 R, 15 HR, 62 RBIS, 124 Ks, 45 SB
Moncada’s bat is his bread and butter. He’s a switch hitter (albeit much better from the left side) with the ability to hit for both power and average, combining a 6-foot-2, 205-pound frame with a compact, explosive swing.
Moncada’s power spiked at the Double-A level, where he hit 11 homers in just 45 games for Portland. He also has demonstrated good plate discipline, drawing 72 walks in 106 minor league games this season. Strikeouts, however, are an area of concern: He had 11 strikeouts in his last six games for Portland and was fourth on the team with 64 Ks.
The bottom line: Benintendi might be a better for-average hitter than Moncada when it’s all said and done, but Moncada has the potential to drive in more runs.
Moncada’s glove could be viewed as his “weak spot.” The Sea Dogs moved him to third base on Aug. 12 to give him a better shot at reaching the bigs, and he’s made a few nice plays during his brief cameo. He also boasts a “plus” arm: 60 to 70 on the 20-80 scouting scale, per Baseball America.
Moncada still is unpolished, though, and committed three errors in 10 games at third with Portland. That said, he possesses enough athleticism to develop into a solid defender with the proper training.
Farrell recently discussed the possibility of using Moncada as a pinch-runner, and with good reason. The 21-year-old has above-average speed, which helped him swipe 36 bases on 44 attempts with Salem.
Those numbers dropped off a bit in Portland, where he went 9-for-13 on stolen base attempts. (He did sprain his ankle on Aug. 5 and has attempted just two steals since then.) Still, Moncada has the potential to be a legitimate baserunning threat at the major league level.
There’s no doubting Moncada’s ceiling; he has the talent to be a legitimate five-tool player. Moncada also might get the chance to contribute right away with the recent of struggles of Travis Shaw and Aaron Hill, and Red Sox third basemen are hitting just .248 this season.
Don’t be surprised if there’s an adjustment period for the 21-year-old, however. Moncada has been in the U.S. for barely two years and still is learning English, and a transition from Double-A to big-market team in a playoff race is no easy task.
Given Boston’s struggles at third base, though, it looks like Moncada will get the chance to prove himself. And even if he doesn’t set the world on fire, he’ll earn valuable pro experience and lay the groundwork for what could be a long professional career.
Thumbnail photo via Gary A. Vasquez/USA TODAY Sports Images
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