About a month ago, a scout took stock of Yoan Moncada’s performance with High A Salem.
“Moncada does not belong in that league,” the scout said. “Moncada just looks like he can do things to just overmatch the league.”
Salem announced on its social media accounts after Sunday’s 2-1 victory — in which Moncada went 2 for 4 with a double and a go-ahead eighth-inning homer, after missing five days while nursing minor injuries — that the second baseman will move up to Double A Portland. Though elected to the High A All-Star Game between players from the California and Carolina leagues, he’ll instead join the Sea Dogs on Tuesday for the start of their homestand.
The 21-year-old posted a .307 average, .427 OBP, and .496 slugging mark, with four homers and 36 steals (in 44 attempts). The Sox have also been impressed with his work to improve his defensive fundamentals and consistency at second base, the position he will continue to play in Portland.
“For a 21-year-old kid who’s in just his second season in the States, the ability has been unbelievable to watch his day-in and day-out adjustments,” Salem manager Joe Oliver said recently.
Moncada, whom the Sox signed to a $31.5 million bonus (with an additional $31.5 million penalty on the signing assessed by Major League Baseball for exceeding international amateur spending limits) in March 2015, is the consensus top prospect in the Red Sox system thanks to his five-tool potential and outstanding command of the strike zone.
Moncada’s first-half arc bordered on ideal from a player development perspective, with dominance at the outset (a .328/.460/.504 line through 38 games), a hiccup in the middle as the league gained familiarity with him (.146/.239/.244), and a recent stretch in which he once again looked like the best player on the field (.380/.475/.680), as evidenced by 12 doubles and a homer in his last 13 games along with a return of frequent walks and low strikeout totals.
Moncada ranks among the top 10 in all of minor league baseball in doubles (25) and walks (45), while leading all of the minors in steals (36). The switch-hitter has been productive from both sides of the plate, posting a .315/.431/.539 line hitting lefthanded and a .286/.416/.381 line from the right side of the plate.
Though he’s been primarily a doubles hitter, he has shown flashes of huge power, as when he hit a grand slam last month that cleared a scoreboard in Salem with an estimated distance in excess of 450 feet. The overall traits of the Cuba native have distinguished him.
“Typically you don’t see a leadoff hitter who’s 220 pounds and chiseled out of stone. He’s typically a guy you might see at an NFL combine,” said Oliver. “His game is speed. He uses his assets. He’s really fun to watch and you just kind of get out of his way and let him do his thing.”
Now, Moncada will have an opportunity to do that in the upper levels of the minors.