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Yoan Moncada Becoming Baseball's Most Hyped Teenager Since Bryce Harper

Scott Miller@@ScottMillerBblNational MLB ColumnistJanuary 15, 2015

Donald Miralle/Getty Images

The latest International (Baseball) Man of Mystery is lined up and ready to roll…just as soon as he does what millions of the rest of us can never get away from.

Finish his paperwork.

You can bet the baseball world will be eagerly watching Yoan Moncada's paper trail. He's only 19, he's left Cuba, and he's said to be working out in Florida. Scouts agree: Five-tool player, potential game-changer, can play five or so different positions (OK, so not all at once).

Is he, perhaps, the Yankees' long-term solution post-Derek Jeter at shortstop?

Maybe the Dodgers' long-term solution post-Jimmy Rollins?

Or could he be a fixture in a Red Sox lineup alongside Pablo Sandoval in a couple of years?

Last time we heard this much about a teenager, Bryce Harper was shooting up the charts with a bullet.

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While MLB reportedly has declared Moncada to be a free agent, he hasn't yet received his "unblocking license" from the United States government. That's where the paperwork comes in. His agent, an accountant based in the Tampa/St. Petersburg area, is understood to be moving through the process, but for now, it's anybody's guess when Moncada will be able to legally play in the majors. 

Early indications, according to several reports, are that Moncada could become the latest chapter in the history of epic battles between the Yankees and Red Sox. There's also word from MLB.com's Jesse Sanchez that the Dodgers are all in too.

Jesse Sanchez @JesseSanchezMLB

Source: #Dodgers aggressively pursued Yoan Lopez but came up short. Will now shift attention to OF Yoan Moncada. Expect a private workout.

However, the date he becomes eligible to sign with an MLB club could be key: If he does so before June 15, the Red Sox and Yankees are among the favorites because they have more spending flexibility according to international bonus-pool rules.

If he does so after July 2, both the Yankees and Red Sox are subject to heavy taxes if they exceed $300,000 because both clubs already have exceeded their allotted bonus pool for 2014-15 by more than 15 percent. How heavy? A 100 percent tax—meaning, if the Yankees sign Moncada for, say, $30 million, they will owe a $30 million penalty.

The period between June 16 and July 1 is a no-sign window.

MLB clubs cannot legally work out Moncada until he is unblocked and declared a free agent. But if he is working out in a public place, well, scouts are free to go watch.

Rusney Castillo
Rusney CastilloJim Rogash/Getty Images

And drool. Moncada is 6'0", 210 pounds and a switch-hitter whose legend in Cuba is on par with that of Yasiel Puig and Jorge Soler. Scouts say his ceiling is higher than that of outfielder Rusney Castillo, whom the Red Sox signed last August for six years and $72.5 million.

"He's such a good athlete he probably can play anywhere," one international scout told Bleacher Report this week. "In tournaments, he's played shortstop, some third base and some outfield."

Moncada can run, he's got power and he's got a powerful arm. Debuting in Serie Nacional for Cienfuegos when he was 17 in 2012-13, Moncada hit .283/.414/.348 in 172 plate appearances and swiped 13 bases in 18 attempts.

At the All-Star Game that year, he won some skills competitions, including beating Castillo in a footrace. How impressive was that? Castillo grades a 70 on the scouts' 20-80 scale, with 80 the highest. Baseball America's Ben Badler has written that if Moncada was draft-eligible this summer, he could go No. 1 overall.

Adding intrigue is that Moncada's story is different from those of, say, Yoenis Cespedes and Jose Abreu in that he left Cuba legally, in June, with a passport. Talk about a change in governmental operating procedure.

"He's a five-tool player," the scout said. "You don't know makeup or intangibles. We don't have any of the medical history yet. That's what clubs are doing behind the scenes right now, contacting people they know in Cuba, trying to find out makeup.

"Clubs knew about Puig, how he acts; they've seen all of the off-field stuff. What you've seen with him is the tip of the iceberg compared to what we've seen. But those are the things you don't know yet about Moncada."

Unlike Yasiel Puig, teams do not have a good read yet on Yoan Moncada's level of motivation and discipline.
Unlike Yasiel Puig, teams do not have a good read yet on Yoan Moncada's level of motivation and discipline.Jamie Squire/Getty Images

That and the fact he's just 19 only add to the mystery part of the equation.

"The intangibles [are unknown], because you don't have access," the scout said. "There's no built-up history. With Abreu and Castillo, Cespedes, we'd seen those guys play 30, 40 games. We'd seen those guys hit off of major league pitching [in international competition]. And we'd been watching them play. Abreu I watched for nine years. I had nine years of information.

"Given that, you had a better feel for the makeup of the player, how he interacts with teammates, how he plays under pressure. With this kid, you don't have that unless someone snuck into Cuba and watched him play. He's only been out of the country twice."

The mystery surrounding Moncada hasn't scared any teams off, nor has it diminished the industry-wide buzz. Youth, tools and hitting ability in a game increasingly dominated by pitching…Moncada could be the answer for several clubs.

Jose Abreu
Jose AbreuJason Miller/Getty Images

"He's a plus-plus runner with above-average raw power from both sides of the plate and the tools/skills to stick in the infield, possibly at shortstop," Kiley McDaniel, the lead prospect writer for FanGraphs, wrote in October. "Moncada is the quick-twitch type with big bat speed that clubs covet, and his track record of hitting at big tournaments and in Cuba's professional leagues is excellent considering his age."

The general thinking is that Moncada will go for at least $30-$40 million. Which means, if he isn't declared as signable before June 15, it could cost the Yankees or Red Sox $60 to $80 million.

If you're running one of those clubs, do you greenlight that? Or, if you're the Yankees, are you better off to take that $60 million and see if you can buy two years of Max Scherzer?

The Cubs signed Soler in 2012 for $30 million over nine years. The Dodgers signed Puig in 2012 for $42 million over seven years. And the Diamondbacks signed outfielder Yasmany Tomas in November for six years and $68.5 million.

Now comes Moncada. As the winter deepens, the intrigue builds. And there is only one sure thing.

"It's going to be expensive," the scout said. "I can tell you that."

Scott Miller covers Major League Baseball as a national columnist for Bleacher Report. He has over two decades of experience covering MLB, including 14 years as a national baseball columnist at CBSSports.com.

Follow Scott on Twitter and talk baseball @ScottMillerBbl.

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