The moment we’ve all been waiting for is finally here. Baseball’s top prospect, Yoan Moncada, is set to join the big league club on Friday in Oakland. First of all, let’s talk about the kind of player Moncada is. As we saw in the Futures Game this season, Moncada has a tremendous amount of power from both sides of the plate. Despite only having homered 3 times in 61 games this season in Class-A Salem, he has definitely found his power stroke over the past couple of months hitting 11 big flies in just 45 games for Double-A Portland. Hopefully Moncada’s power in Double-A will translate to the big leagues. However, even if it doesn’t, he can still be a very effective major leaguer. My favorite aspect of Moncada’s game is his astounding ability to get on base. In 106 minor league games this year, Yoan has a .407 OBP. This is exactly the type of player we need replacing Travis Shaw and his .315 OBP at third.
The reason that a high on base percentage is important for Moncada is that his blazing speed can turn a leadoff single or walk, into a runner at second with no outs in the blink of an eye. Moncada is 94 for 109 (86%) in stolen base attempts over his 187 game minor league career. He has the potential to be the Sox first premier base stealer since Jacoby Ellsbury. I’m not saying that he has to come in and steal 20 bases in the month of September. What I’m saying is that an aggressive baserunner such as Moncada can help push the envelope and get in the heads of opposing pitchers. On the defensive side of the ball, Moncada has an average glove with an above average arm. But c’mon. He wasn’t called up as a defensive upgrade.
There are just two questions that I have about Moncada going forward this year and even into next season. What position is he going to play, and where will he hit in the lineup? As far as his position, he will play 3rd base for the remainder of this season. As for where he will be next season, I keep hearing that he profiles well as a corner outfielder. I have a problem with everyone saying this. Andrew Benintendi is not dead, paralyzed, or even injured severely. He was hitting .324 in 21 games before he sprained his knee, and will hopefully be back in late September. He is not going anywhere unless it’s Chicago in exchange for Chris Sale, or Miami in exchange for Jose Fernandez. In the other corner we have Mookie Betts. If you think he’s not untouchable, you're wrong. End of story. If you’re concerned about the return of Pablo Sandoval taking playing time away from Moncada, don’t be. Sandoval is an offensive and defensive downgrade from Yoan as well as any of the outfielders whose spot he would be taking in the line up. Therefore, he is just an overweight 19 million dollar per year problem once he returns. This leaves the Red Sox with 2 choices. Either DFA him and eat the money, or sit him on the bench and continue to watch his belts explode when he comes in to pinch hit.
As far as where he hits in the lineup, I would imagine he’ll start off batting 7th. I say this because I like Jackie Bradley Jr. hitting out of the 9 hole. He’s a better hitter when he’s there so I wouldn’t mess with that. By Opening Day 2017, I project that Moncada will be hitting 6th in the order after Hanley Ramirez. This is all assuming the Red Sox go out and sign someone to replace David Ortiz (*cough* Edwin Encarnacion *cough*). If his on base numbers translate to the big leagues in September/October, maybe he can hit 1st or 2nd. My issue with him hitting at the top of the order is that he strikes out nearly twice as often as he walks (207:114 K to BB ratio in his minor league career). I’d rather see this from the 6 spot than from one of the table setters.
Red Sox fans are and should be excited to see this 21 year old kid come in and provide a spark for this team. Third base has been a glaring weak spot this year, and surely their top prospect has to be an upgrade. Who knows? Maybe Moncada is a bust and won’t be able to adjust to major league pitching. Maybe he goes on to be the first player to collect 4,000 hits and hit 700 home runs. That’s what I love about such highly touted prospects making their debuts. There’s so much potential there, but it’s completely up to them to prove whether they're here for a cup of coffee or they’re here for good. Friday night, we will begin to see which path Yoan Moncada is going to take.