If you happen to have sneaked a peek at the position players still available in free agency lately, you probably noticed something right away—there’s not much left out there worth getting excited about. Except for Yoan Moncada, the next Cuban phenom.

Hanley Ramirez? Off the board to the Boston Red Sox. Pablo Sandoval? Ditto.

Russell Martin? Now a Toronto Blue Jay. Yasmany Tomas? Welcome to America and the Arizona Diamondbacks.

Victor Martinez? Re-signed with the Detroit Tigers. Chase Headley? With the New York Yankees.

Those hitters who remain free agents include the likes of—no drum roll needed—Asdrubal Cabrera, Colby Rasmus, Stephen Drew, Everth Cabrera, Rickie Weeks, Mike Carp, Juan Francisco, Jonny Gomes, Ryan Ludwick and Emilio Bonifacio, among other even lesser players.

So with all of the big-name free-agent position players signed, sealed and delivered, the top target hitting option on the open market heading into the new year is none other than—drum roll, please—Mr. Moncada.

By now, you should be at least a little familiar with the 6’0″, 210-pound, 19-year-old switch-hitting infielder who possesses plus tools and an all-around skill set.

Moncada hit .273/.365/.406 for Cienfuegos in Cuba’s top professional league, Serie Nacional, from 2013-14, which is especially impressive for a teenager.

Moncada left Cuba—legally—in June, Jesse Sanchez of MLB.com reported. He then gained residency in Guatemala, where he held his initial showcase workout for all Major League Baseball teams in mid-November, as Ben Badler of Baseball America wrote:

Moncada took several rounds of batting practice from both sides of the plate, performing much better from the left side, consistent with what scouts who have followed him over the years have said. He showed excellent bat speed and plus raw power, though after a long day and a lot of swings so scouts could see him from both sides of the plate, he did seem to wear down.

He showed his plus speed by running the 60-yard dash in around 6.6 seconds, and he took groundballs at shortstop, second and third base. In Cuba’s 18U national league in 2012, Moncada played shortstop, though that’s mostly because he was the best athlete on the field. At junior national tournaments, Moncada has played third and second, and he’s been primarily a second baseman for Cienfuegos during his two seasons in Serie Nacional.

Scouts said Moncada looked uncomfortable at shortstop, which they expected, but looked more natural at third and second, the positions he’s most likely to play in pro ball, although he has plenty of speed to go to the outfield if a team sees him as a fit there. He has at least a plus arm, with some scouts giving it a 70 grade.

Back in November, Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports speculated that Moncada could net upward of $30 million to $40 million despite the fact that he is subject to international bonus pool allotments. Passan did note, however, that spending over the amount available for international amateurs would incur a 100 percent tax, meaning a $30 million deal would “cost somewhere in the neighborhood of $60 million.”

Given the leftovers on the position player front, expect the price to be pushed toward the high end of any dollar amounts floated over the coming days and weeks—even with the built-in penalty.

Thing is, while MLB has declared Moncada a free agent, he has not yet been cleared by the United States’ Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC), a necessary step to allow him to sign with a team.

Not that this is dampening the hype surrounding Moncada and his massive potential.

“In the end,” an American League team executive said via Jorge Arangure Jr. of Vice Sports, “someone is going to spend smartly to get the services of a player that can change a franchise.”

For now? The baseball world waits. If anything, the anticipation and speculation is only working in Moncada‘s favor.

Among the teams that have been mentioned as the primary suitors for Moncada are the New York Yankees, Boston Red Sox, Los Angeles Dodgers and Atlanta Braves, according to Badler.

But pretty much every team wants in on Moncada.

The chance to sign him appears to be nearing. He has made his way into the United States and is preparing to start private workouts with MLB clubs very soon, per Sanchez.

The interest and intrigue over Moncada is growing, both with each passing day and with each free-agent hitter that comes off the board.

Considering there are so few worthwhile players left, it’s no wonder the allure and potential of Moncada has made him the top free-agent position player. Even if he’s not actually available just yet.


Statistics are accurate through the 2014 season and courtesy of MLB.com, Baseball-Reference and FanGraphs unless otherwise noted.

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