Touching All the Bases

With Yoan Moncada and Other Elite Red Sox Prospects, It's OK to Believe the Hype

yoan moncada red sox.jpg
Cuban phenom Yoan Moncada reportedly agreed to sign with the Red Sox on Monday, adding his name to an exciting list of Sox prospects that Chad Finn can't help but get excited about. Reuters

Monday's news that the Red Sox had agreed to terms with 19-year old Cuban phenom Yoan Moncada had the predictable side effect of amping up the "concern" from the usual shrieking minority, as bold and somewhat surprising moves that carry an element risk tend to do.

One sports radio host was troubled that the Red Sox paid Moncada but did not go the distance to keep Jon Lester around, conveniently ignoring the 12-year age difference, the $90 million-plus-change financial layout, and that one is an accomplished pitcher who has turned the age-30 corner while the other is a world-class prospect who hasn't hit 20 yet and whose best days are ahead.

That's Sports Radio 101 right there, turning encouraging news into a chance to bitch about a recent and supposed disappointment. I should have given the radio the rest of the afternoon off right there. But since I never learn (and do get paid to endure this soul-crushing nonsense), I checked back in with the other station a little later, only to have my eardrums punctured by this convoluted, wholly cockamamie declaration:

The Red Sox' pending acquisition of Moncada -- as well as the signings of established big-leaguers Hanley Ramirez and Pablo Sandoval-- is confirmation that the farm system is letting them down.

I mean... no. That's not true. It's not close to true, really. It's wrong, either by disingenuousness or obliviousness. Sure, the Red Sox have seen a few prospects flop in recent seasons, most notably Will Middlebrooks and, though I wouldn't write him off yet, Jackie Bradley Jr. a season ago. That happens. There's attrition along the way, and some players who show promise in the minors are exposed in the big leagues.

But all young players are not created equal, yet sometimes they are all lumped into one category -- PROSPECT -- by non-discerning observers. Middlebrooks was never as highly regarded around baseball as he was by Red Sox fans -- he never cracked Baseball America's top-50. And Bradley was the 50th-best prospect last year, hardly a sure thing.

Yet I had one reader suggest Xander Bogaerts -- a truly elite prospect who has helped win a World Series already but endured an up-and-down age-21 season in the majors -- should be traded because Ryan Bleepin' Lavarnway was touted too once upon a time and he didn't make it. Lavarnway cracked the BA top 100 once, at No. 99. The prospect label does not mean they are all created equally. Man, would I love to make trades with some of you people.

Anyway, enough about those screeching ninnies. Signing Moncada -- once he's actually signed, that is -- isn't evidence that the quality of the Red Sox' farm system is exaggerated.

Anyone who looks at this year's projected lineup, with recent highly regarded minor league graduates Bogaerts, Mookie Betts, and Christian Vazquez positioned for prime roles, knows genuine talent is arriving, with more (seven Red Sox made BA's top-100) on the way. Moncada, who ranks as a top-10 prospect in the game and bumps Blake Swihart from the Red Sox' No. 1 spot, only enhances a farm system that is already awash with talent.

No, signing Moncada is a chance to get an uncommonly talented young player for nothing but cash. I mean, what's not to like about this scout's take, as passed along by BA's Ben Badler:

"Heís electricÖ When I saw him at the 18U World Championship in Taiwan [where he hit .375/.483/.542 in 29 plate appearances], he did what good hitters do. He has tools, heís athletic and he has a chance to hit for power. Itís bat speed that you donít see except from the select few. The guy has different bat speed from everyone else, period. Itís a beautiful swing too from the left side, which is better than his righthanded swing."

Moncada is most often compared to Robinson Cano, which adds a level of schadenfreude to the fact that the Red Sox beat out the Yankees for Moncada. I'm waiting for Randy Levine to howl that the Red Sox' tentacles extend into Latin America and to learn that Brian Cashman smashed a chair upon learning the Yankees came up nine million short. Joel Sherman's lede in his New York Post column neatly summed up the state of the Yankees nicely -- not to mention how much things have changed in a dozen years.

"Early Monday, the Yankees found out Yoan Moncada wasn't coming to their minor league complex and Alex Rodriguez was."

I'm looking forward to seeing Moncada in Portland this year and at Fenway a year or two down the road. There's no need to fret now about what position he may play or how his signing affects Xander Bogaerts or Mookie Betts or any of the Red Sox' other 22-and-under future core players.

By the time Moncada is ready, we'll have a much larger sample size with which to judge Bogaerts in particular, and I do believe he'll be well on his way to fulfilling his vast promise by then. In the meantime, we're left to enjoy one of the elements of baseball that make following a particular team so much fun -- the anticipation of watching a gifted player make his way to the big leagues.

Bogaerts, Betts, Swihart, and now Moncada: If you can't get excited for their enticing talent and justified hype, allow me to suggest that you might want to consider a career in sports radio. I don't mean that as a compliment.

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