There are many talented Cuban baseball players currently plying their trade in the Major Leagues, but the latest star to defect, 19-year-old Yoan Moncada, may be the most talented of the bunch.
From Jonathan Mayo at MLB.com:
In the 60-yard dash, he ran somewhere in the 6.56 to 6.6 second range. That gives him a 70 for his speed on the 20-to-80 scouting scale, or close to the top of the scale. He reportedly looked better at third and second than he did at shortstop, with enough arm from any infield position. Moncada swung the bat well from both sides of the plate, showing plus raw power both ways. The only negative was that he didn’t face live pitching, hitting only off of a BP pitcher. When asked to grade out Moncada’s tools based on this workout, in combination with previous reports, one scout gave the following grades:
Hit – 60
Power – 60
Speed – 70
Arm – 60
Field – 50
From Kiley McDaniel at Fangraphs:
It was a pleasant surprise for scouts that what they were told to expect from Moncada—a 6’1/210 switch-hitting infielder with plus tools and a Puig body—is what they saw. The ability we were all told about is there: plus bat speed, plus raw power, 65 to 70 speed (6.6 in the 60), the feel and hands to stick in the infield and enough arm to play anywhere on the field. Scouts think Moncada, despite needing a year or two in the minors, is a superior talent to (Jose) Abreu, (Rusney) Castillo and (Yasmani) Tomas.
From Ben Badler at Baseball America:
Moncada is a 19-year-old switch-hitter (though much better from the left side) with explosive tools. He can fly, he has tremendous bat speed and power, he’s been the most dominant hitter in the Cuban junior national leagues and has excelled on the junior national team during international competition.
As a prospect who will start in the minors and can play virtually anywhere in the field other than shortstop, there should be interest from just about every team, big market or small, regardless of the makeup of the current big league team.
How much will he cost?
Due to being only 19 years old, Moncada is not eligible to sign an MLB contract and will be subject to the typical July 2 amateur free agent signing rules. With estimated bonus demands ranging between $30m-$50m, the team that wins the Moncada sweepstakes will have to blow past their international signing pool allowances. The penalties for doing this include not being able to sign a player for more than $300k in the next two IFA periods, plus a 100% tax on the amount spent over the signing pool. This means that a $30m-$50m bonus for Moncada would cost his signing team somewhere in the region of $55m-$95m.
Is he worth the penalties that would be incurred?
Many people have been saying that signing Moncada is not worth the penalties that would be incurred. Specifically, not being able to sign IFA’s for the next 2 years, especially now that the Sox have finally started to re-establish themselves in this market, is seen an a huge drawback. For me, however, I do not see this as being a major penalty, especially if you are able to bring in a talent of Moncada’s level. There are a few reasons for this:
- Firstly, the typical 16 year old IFA signing’s have such a small success rate that you’d be lucky to get even one MLB player from each signing class.
- Secondly, given the strategies that have been implemented recently by teams such as the Yankees, Red Sox and Cubs, there’s a strong possibility that a select few teams will blow their budgets and scoop up all the top talent, leaving the Sox to pick from the remaining scraps. That certainly appears to be what happened this year, where the Sox ended up with a very underwhelming IFA class despite possessing one of the largest bonus pools.
- Thirdly, we know that many of the top IFA prospects will enter agreements with teams months or even years before they are eligible to sign. As a result, it is quite conceivable that many of the top talents available in the next two IFA period’s have already entered into an agreement with their chosen team and will therefore be unavailable to the Sox anyway (there are already rumors circulating that the Cubs have reached an agreement with Vlad Guerrero Jr., for example).
- Fourthly, the Sox would still be able to sign prospect for up to $300k each, so it’s not as if they would be completely closed off to the market. Additionally, the Sox would still be allocated their full bonus pool, and while they wouldn’t be able to use this to sign players, they would be able to trade away the individual slot amounts for other assets (similar to what the Cubs did recently to acquire Tommy La Stella).
- Finally, we know the Sox have money to spend, and looking at historical big money free agent signings, it seems a lot of these deals end up being bad investments (see Dunn, Adam). I don’t fancy the prospect of V-Mart at 4/$68m for example, and would much rather take a punt on Moncada for similar money.
Who can sign him?
If Moncada is made available before July 2, 2015, then both the Cubs and the Rangers will be unable to sign him as they are currently restricted to singing pool-eligible players for $250k or less due to exceeding their signing pool last year by more than 15%. If Moncada is only available after Just 2, 2015, then all of the teams that have currently exceeded their signing pool by more than 15% this year, which currently includes the Yankees, Red Sox and Rays, would be unable to sign Moncada – or any other pool-eligible player – for more than $300k.
I hope the Sox will be players in the Moncada bidding. He’s an electric talent with a high upside and should be able to reach the Majors within a season or two. This would make him a great fit with the current core that Rick Hahn is building and should help to ensure that the Sox can take advantage of having the likes of Chris Sale, Jose Quinatana and Jose Abreu under control at below market rates. Furthermore, his defensive versatility means that he could be used to fill whatever hole the Sox project to have, whether it is at 2B, 3B, possibly SS or any OF spot.
As I said above, the penalty of not being able to sign any pool-eligible IFA player for the following two years should not be considered a big problem. For the Sox, the only consideration should be whether or not they believe Moncada is worth the dollar amount that will be required to sign him. It should also be mentioned that Jerry Reinsdorf has historically been reluctant to break rules related signing pools and bonus restrictions. Hopefully that doesn’t prevent the Sox from making a run at Moncada (though many suspect it will), and there is some evidence that Reinsdorf could be open to the idea of exceeding the bonus allotment, as the Sox did exceed their bonus pool to sign Carlos Rodon in this year’s draft.
It’s a rare situation that a budding, 19 year old, potential superstar becomes available and the Sox should do everything they can to try and bring him on board.