September is a big month for the MLB. The last full month of the regular season, teams in contention battle for playoff sports, while teams in the cellars of each division get the opportunity to give some of their prospects MLB experience. September 1 is huge for most teams as rosters expand from twenty-five players to the full forty man roster. This gives each MLB team room for more rest for the regular starters, or provide extra relief in a bullpen that has been hammering out innings for the past five months.
One such example of this is the Boston Red Sox promoting Yoan Moncada Friday in lieu of the roster expansions. The Red Sox are currently only using 39 of their 40 roster spots. The Red Sox also have four catchers on their roster, along with a handful of bench depth guys that the team can designate for assignment to clear room for Moncada. Getting Yoan to the big leagues will not be an issue for the Red Sox.
One issue for the Sox, however, could be trying to control the insurmountable hype that will surround Moncada as he makes his first couple major league appearances. Moncada signed with the Red Sox out of Cuba for a record $31.5 million (Aroldis Chapman held the previous record at $16.25 million). Moncada is ranked number one on both Baseball America and MLB Pipeline’s Top 100 Prospect Ranking lists, backed by his season and a half in the farm system. The hype is real for Moncada, as his production and potential screams a generational talent that most teams would salivate getting the opportunity to build around. An example of this talent can be seen in the GIF below.
Moncada has demonstrated plenty of talent in his season and a half in the minor for the Red Sox. In 187 games, Moncada has compiled 94 stolen bases, a slash line of .287/.395/.480 (Batting Average/On Base Percentage/Slugging Percentage), and a slow but steady improving glove as he has been shifted from second base to third base. Moncada is only 21 years of age, and is projected to start adding power as he adds more muscle mass to his frame. Moncada will have a floor of 15 home runs and 30 stolen bases annually. The ceiling on Moncada, however, is astronomical. I would compare his potential production to Alfonso Soriano in his prime, or a regular 30+ homerun and 30+ stolen base player, if the power comes around for Moncada.
The ceiling is very high for a player like Moncada, but can we expect that kind of production when he makes his first couple appearances? Short answer, no we cannot. Moncada, despite being a switch hitter with a career batting average of .287, has a K rate of 30.9% and a .246 batting average in 45 games in Double A right now. What this means is Moncada is a little unpolished of a hitter as he has faced stiffer competition. Moncada is only 21 years old, so the Red Sox can give him another season or two before giving him full-time duties, though the ideal plan would be for him to be ready by Opening Day 2017.
The nice thing for the Red Sox is that playing time will be a given for Moncada, as the only true competition he faces is from the incumbent Travis Shaw, who has cooled off significantly since his hot April. Shaw owns a .248 batting average this season and has never been a source of power for the Sox. The lack of hitting from Shaw means that Moncada will have a longer leash while playing, or in other words, does not have to worry about not hitting well since the Red Sox have limited options to replace him.
Moncada is a player who is surrounded by a lot potential and hype ever since his record breaking signing in 2015. Rough around the edges, the Red Sox are giving him the chance to be an everyday third basemen for the club, as the only other potential starter has been less than stellar so far this season. If he produces anywhere close to his ceiling, the Red Sox will have added a very good complimentary piece for their potential playoff run. If Moncada continues his K% rate from the minors, then the Sox do not miss out on any production that they could have gotten from elsewhere. It is a perfect scenario for the Red Sox and only time will tell whether Moncada will be an integral piece for the playoff run or, at the very least, will just be gaining some valuable MLB experience.
All stats courtesy of baseball reference and fangraphs.