For every player, everything from potential and projection to production is factored in, but in the case of Yoan Moncada, we didn’t have nearly as much information. Because of his freshness to the prospect world, reports on him have been limited, if not impressive. His track record consists of only 34 games, yet the potential speaks for itself. It quickly became obvious that this was a unique situation, one which warranted a deeper discussion among the team. –Jeff Moore
Jeff Moore: There’s a fine balance we need to find here. We have to consider the potential of Moncada while balancing that against his lack of a professional track record. We don’t typically give as much credit to players resigned to the right side of the infield, but then again, A-ball players don’t typically have nearly Moncada’s physical development or offensive potential. It’s an incredibly unique situation.
Wilson Karaman: Not only is Moncada the only second baseman on this list, he'd be the first second baseman in the Baseball Prospectus Top 20 since Howie Kendrick and Dustin Pedroia both cracked it in '06 (unless we count Dustin Ackley, who peaked at 12th in 2010 but who we consistently hedged on sticking in the infield). So we're talking about rarified air, at least precedent-wise.
I had him in the teens, and I think the takeaway for me is that we're betting almost entirely on the pedigree and the body here. That's fine for now given the degree of both, but I think he probably has a shorter rope than a lot of the other guys in the top 20 (and certainly the top 10). And I mean that in terms of demonstrated improvements obviously, not statistical output. If we see him again in a month and he's the same dude that's more significant than it would be with a more polished player in this range.
Brendan Gawlowski: Regarding Moncada's lack of professional success, I found an article where Boston's director of player development touched on his assimilation to American life and baseball. The relevant quote:
“Just getting used to it and getting used to the daily routine, what’s expected of the cage work, batting practice, physical routines and daily preparation,” Crockett said. “Being in the right place at the right time. Being mentally ready and the grind of playing every day. All those things. Not to mention the cultural challenges of being in a new culture without having the benefit of some of our other Latin American players of spending some time at the academy and learning some of those things and forming a bond with the others. There’s a lot of newness for Yoan, but he’s done a really good job of embracing those things and learning a lot.”
Reading between the lines, it's fair to wonder whether that “newness” is related to his struggles at the plate so far, and possibly going forward to some extent. We've seen Puig and Soler and plenty of others adjust quickly, but most (all?) Cuban players that have come over have been older than Moncada and he might have been overwhelmed by all of the new routines and expectations he had on and off the field at the start of the year. It's impossible to determine how much cultural assimilation has contributed to his play, but it's one reason I'd be willing to be patient with him, even if he struggles for a while longer.
Colin Young: Honestly, it's very difficult for young Latinos to assimilate at first, whether it's the new food choices, language barriers, or homesickness, it takes time for a lot to adjust. With Cuban players, they are basically abandoning their family life when they come here, which is an extremely important aspect in their culture. Every player is different too. Some embrace the lifestyle while some remain intimidated. It takes a massive amount of effort within an organization to make them comfortable and even then it still often takes the American players reaching out and including them within their social circles. It's best not to rush to judgment, and knowing Crockett and their player development, I believe they have their finger on the pulse of that issue.
Wilson Karaman: I keep going back to David's report and his idea that you have to evaluate what you see. That rings true in 99% of cases, but this particular snapshot of Moncada at this particular moment of his developmental arc is one of those 1% of cases, at least in the context of slotting him on a list like this. Because we're as limited in the body of work to evaluate, and because the pre-sign hype was so immense and unique, we sort of have to err on the side of a more aggressive projection than we might otherwise be comfortable with in a "normal" situation. If we’re still comfortable projecting a 60 OFP for this kid despite all of the numerous mitigating factors involved (newness of environment, cultural assimilation, layoff from game action, adjustment to professional instruction/process, etc.), then I have zero issue with him as high as he is. I agree it's a tough sell to slot such an extreme case of projection above the impact/extreme safety of guys like Schwarber, Norris, and Nola, who are all either finished with their minor league development or really close, but slotting him right behind them is aggressive in and of itself given where he is in his development right now, and I'm fine that.
His initial struggles over a little more than a month of professional baseball weren’tsomething that we considered in his ranking. In addition to its small sample size, there were just too many other explanations for his struggles out of the gate, none of which changed the scouting reports on him. He’s mostly potential at this point, but that potential remains strong and was high enough that we felt comfortable being aggressive with him on our list.
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