The anticipation surrounding the start of Yoan Moncada’s professional career is considerable, a breathlessness awaiting the official unveiling of the 19-year-old Cuban who received a $31.5 million signing bonus last month. The wait, however, will last a bit longer, as Moncada will open the year in Fort Myers in extended spring training.
Moncada is not among the players assigned to Single A Greenville to start the year, though the decision had little to do with the second baseman’s baseball skills. He’s viewed as being ready to compete in full-season ball to start his pro career, and indeed, he’ll likely join Greenville in the relatively near future — perhaps in a matter of weeks.
Still, the team saw benefit to giving Moncada more time in Fort Myers for reasons mostly having to do with his acclimation to professional baseball and life in a new baseball organization.
The absence of significant travel in extended spring training (where games entail no more than same-day round trips on buses) permits a greater opportunity for the player to get his bearings and to take advantage of elements such as English classes while engaging in other forms of cultural assimilation that will become more challenging once Moncada is with a full-season affiliate. Those factors took primacy in the decision to have the Cuban open the year in Fort Myers.
While Greenville will thus have to wait through the earliest paces of the season for Moncada’s first official professional games, the Drive roster nonetheless will be loaded, particularly in the infield.
The team will feature a potential middle-of-the-order slugger in 18-year-old Rafael Devers, 2014 first-rounder Michael Chavis, middle infielders Javier Guerra (a player with potential Gold Glove talent and an unusual ability to drive the ball for a shortstop) and Mauricio Dubon (an above-average defensive shortstop with a good swing), and first baseman/left fielder Nick Longhi.
Before long, Moncada will join that mix to form a cluster of age 20-and-under prospects at a single level that rarely has been seen in the Sox system in recent years.