When Will Yoan Moncada Start Paying off Red Sox's $31.5M Gamble?

Danny KnoblerMLB Lead WriterFebruary 3, 2016

Boston Red Sox' Yoan Moncada waits to bat during practices at spring training, Friday, March 13, 2015, in Fort Myers Fla. The Red Sox have finalized a minor league contract with the 19-year-old Cuban infielder that includes a $31.5 million signing bonus, easily a record for an international amateur free agent under 23 years old. (AP Photo/Brynn Anderson)
Brynn Anderson/Associated Press

Yoan Moncada is 20 years old, and his entire professional career consists of 81 games at one of the lowest levels of the minor leagues.

So why are we already asking when (not if) he'll become a major league star?

"If Yoan Moncada doesn't become an All-Star player, I'll be shocked," the respected Boston Globe columnist Nick Cafardo wrote on Jan. 23.

We love our prospects, don't we? We really love our Cuban prospects who set off bidding wars and land $31.5 million contracts before they leave their teens. We love the talent, we love the promise, and we even love the mystery.

And we at Bleacher Report are here to provide a little perspective. We're not here to shoot down the Yoan Moncada hype, because we're not at all sure it should be shot down.

We're just here with a little reminder. The kid is 20 years old. He's not ready for the major leagues now, and according to scouts who have followed his career, there's a good chance he won't be ready for the big leagues next year, either.

There's nothing wrong with that. There's nothing particularly wrong with Moncada, or with the Boston Red Sox organization's decision to risk that much money on a player still in need of so much development time, because by all accounts this is a kid worth waiting for.

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"If the [listed] age is right and the makeup is OK, he's going to be a heck of a player," said one scout who watched Moncada last summer at Class A Greenville.

He has crazy speed, which helped him steal 49 bases in 52 attempts, despite not really knowing how to steal bases yet. He has real power, more than the eight home runs in 306 at-bats would suggest.

He has physical skills that make him hard to compare to other 20-year-olds—or other baseball players.

"He looks like he should be playing in the Super Bowl," the scout said. "It's a 26-27 year-old body. He was a man among boys in the South Atlantic League."

The last time I heard that kind of comparison for a baseball prospect was when one of Yasiel Puig's minor league managers said he looked like Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson.

"[Moncada] is a little bit like that," the scout said. "But I don't think his makeup is as bad as Puig's."

The Red Sox list Moncada at 6'2", 205 pounds, the same height as Puig but 50 pounds lighter (although Puig has informed the Dodgers, via Andy McCullough of the Los Angeles Times, that he now weighs about 240).

Moncada is also a second baseman, at least for now, although the Red Sox have suggested he could end up moving to the outfield.

"No question he could play second base," our scout said. "But he can get a little flashy."

The Red Sox have second baseman Dustin Pedroia signed through 2021. They have an exciting young outfield with Rusney Castillo, Jackie Bradley Jr. and Mookie Betts. But if Moncada becomes as good as he could be, they'll find room.

Remember, they don't need to do it yet. Even Moncada seems to understand that, as he told reporters, including WEEI.com's Rob Bradford:

I have one goal, and that's getting to the big leagues. Now I understand the process a little better than I did coming into it. Whether it's this year, next year, whenever it is, I know bit by bit I've got to just keep working hard, and it will be great when it happens. It's not so much of a straight deadline as I had before.

Remember, he won't turn 21 until May 27. He's a rich, physically developed kid so talented that BaseballProspectus.com ranked him as the seventh-best prospect in all of baseball, but he's still a kid.

He spent some of his $31.5 million signing bonus on a BMW i8, then showed up on TMZ.com because he paid $45,000 for a paint job that made it glow in the dark.

"He wanted a car, so he bought a car," agent Dave Hastings told Bradford. "But he didn't have his driver's license."

Remember, this is a kid who grew up in Cuba and is just now adjusting to life in the United States. His talent got him the big contract (which actually cost the Red Sox $63 million because of an international signing penalty), but there's still a lot of work ahead.

He could become a star. Maybe it's even fair to say he should become a star.

He just needs to be patient.

And so do we.

Danny Knobler covers Major League Baseball as a national columnist for Bleacher Report.

Follow Danny on Twitter and talk baseball.

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