Yoan Moncada's arrival in the big leagues came with a spotlight. His exit from the 2016 campaign occurred in obscurity, an "oh, by the way" announcement by the Red Sox shortly after the start of Thursday's game against the Yankees that the gifted 21-year-old had left the team for Fort Myers, where he'll prepare for his assignment to the Arizona Fall League.
In a way, Moncada's debut seemed to represent a letdown, offering evidence of how far he remains from being ready to contribute in the major leagues. While he went 4-for-19 and knocked off a number of big league firsts, he also landed firmly on the bench after striking out for the ninth time in as many plate appearances on Sept. 12. He was largely limited to duty as a spectator over his final two-plus weeks in the big leagues, a role that was unfamiliar and even unnatural.
"I've got to understand that it's a process," Moncada said last week through translator Daveson Perez. "The big leagues are going to be different than the minors. I haven't had a chance to play every day, which I'm not used to. It's been tough being in the dugout and not playing, but it's a process."
It's easy to shrug off the value of that process, and to suggest that Moncada's time spectating in the big leagues – after he went from the team's primary third baseman against righthanded pitchers to a reserve role in a matter of five games, then from a pinch-running option to a non-role with one base running gaffe – offered little value to him or the team. Yet there's a player on the Red Sox who has an experience that runs counter to that conclusion.
In 2005, Hanley Ramirez was considered one of the top prospects in the game. At the end of a somewhat disappointing season in Double A Portland (.271/.335/.385), the Red Sox nonetheless called up the 21-year-old for the final two weeks of the season, where he sat for almost all of the next two weeks. Ramirez had just two big league plate appearances in his debut, striking out in both.
"I was him," Ramirez recalled of the similarities of his first exposure to the big leagues and Moncada's. "You've got to wait for your time. Easy. Common sense."
On a Red Sox team that was in a heated down-to-the-final-day postseason race (the Sox clinched a wild-card berth on the final day of the season), Ramirez learned by observing.
"As a young player, you've got to learn that – it's not easy. Everything, you've got to earn it. You've got to learn to focus on the game and I've got some butt to kick tonight," said Ramirez. "I was happy to be in the big leagues, first of all. Then, [I learned about] preparation, how they go about their business every day, and that the Red Sox are all about winning. I got that taste. … I was watching those guys, what they do before the game, what time they get there, their preparation and mind-set."
Ramirez believes that first exposure to the big leagues, even without appearing in games, positioned him to hit the ground running the following spring, after he'd been traded from the Sox to the Marlins. He hit .292/.353/.480 with 17 homers and 51 steals en route to National League Rookie of the Year recognition.
Ramirez has conveyed the lessons of those times to Moncada, as have other Red Sox veterans who lived the life of big league interns before graduating to full-time roles.
"They just tell me not to worry, that it is a process, and that if I keep working hard, my opportunity is going to come, and that basically the future is mine if I keep doing what I'm supposed to be doing," said Moncada.
Clearly, there is still time before that future arrives. Moncada is heading to the Arizona Fall League, where he will continue his education as a third baseman while also working to refine his offensive approach to make it less vulnerable and to even out some of the pendular swings that characterized not just his time in the big leagues but also in High A Salem and in Double A.
But the fact that he got to the big leagues in a year that was his first true full season as a professional represents an accomplishment in its own right, and will frame how he views a season that concluded with the experience of a big league clubhouse celebrating a division crown.
"When I look back, I'm going to think this was a good year for me because of all the things I accomplished that I never thought I was going to be able to accomplish this year," said Moncada. "I'm just going to come back and get better with everything I need to work on."
Follow Alex Speier on Twitter at @alexspeier