The hype and excitement that surrounded Yoan Moncada and his decision to sign with the Boston Red Sox in February have turned mostly to anticipation and expectation as the Cuban phenom embarks upon his first season in America.

A 19-year-old infielder, Moncada landed a $31.5 million deal—a record for an international amateur free agent under the current system—and is considered the top teenager to leave Cuba since Chicago Cubs outfielder Jorge Soler in 2011. Moncada’s talent level would put him on par with a No. 1 overall draft pick if he were eligible to be drafted.

As Jim Callis of put it:

If he were eligible for the 2015 First-Year Player Draft, Moncada would be a strong contender to go No. 1 overall to the D-backs. His overall 65 grade [on the 20-80 scouting scale] would place him among the top dozen prospects in baseball right now, and it’s arguably a bit conservative, because teams haven’t had the chance to evaluate him against much quality competition.

But for now, the baseball world will have to wait.

Although he does have two seasons in Cuba’s top professional league, the Serie Nacional, Moncada’s skills won’t be on display as the minor-league season opens this week. He has been assigned to extended spring training at the Red Sox’s Florida base in Fort Myers, according to Alex Speier of The Boston Globe:

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.

Greenville is Boston’s Low-A affiliate, which is rather conservative given that Moncada likely could handle High-A or possibly even Double-A at the outset based purely on his ability.

The main reason for the safe assignment? Moncada is extremely young—he’ll turn 20 at the end of May—and as talented as he is, he’s going to have quite an adjustment period. After all, he’s transitioning to a new organization, league and level of competition—not to mention a new language, country and culture.

The primary focus for Moncada and the Red Sox in 2015 will be on adjustment and acclimation. 

Here’s more from Speier:

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.

On the field, Moncada will have two elements to home in on. One will be his offensehis switch-hitting in particular. While reports indicate Moncada’s hit tool and power are above-average to plus—he slashed .277/.388/.380 in two Serie Nacional seasons at ages 17 and 18—he does have to make sure he maintains his swing from each side, which requires twice the effort.

“The guy has different bat speed from everyone else, period,” a scout told Ben Badler of Baseball America. “It’s a beautiful swing too from the left side, which is better than his right-handed swing.”

The other aspect is related to defensespecifically, his position on the diamond. Moncada clarified soon after signing that second base is his preferred spot, according to Kiley McDaniel of FanGraphs, but he’ll likely play multiple spots so the Red Sox can see where he fits best.

Plus, Dustin Pedroia is locked in at the keystone through the 2021 season.

Perhaps above all else, Moncada will have to learn to live with the attention, hype and expectations that have followed him since the beginning of this past offseason and have grown since he signed his record deal—and will only amplify as he begins his career in the minors.

“My goal is to … make it to the major leagues as fast as I can,” Moncada told Jesse Sanchez of prior to signing.

With Moncada’s athleticism, offensive profile, and versatile defensive skill set, he’s primed to make that happen. He just has to take care of a few things first.


Statistics are accurate through Thursday, April 9, and come from, and, except where otherwise noted.

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