Infielder Yoan Moncada has dealt with plenty of hype since signing with the Boston Red Sox in March 2015. But he keeps justifying it and creating even more hype.
Moncada, 21, became the first Red Sox farmhand and the first Cuban to claim Baseball America’s Minor League Player of the Year Award. Past winners include Hall of Famer Frank Thomas (1990), former Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter (1994) and former World Series MVP Josh Beckett. The award will be presented to Moncada during BA’s Awards Gala during the Winter Meetings just outside Washington, D.C., in December.
Signed for a $31.5 million bonus, Moncada vaulted from high Class A Salem through a stint with Double-A Portland to finish the season with his first callup to the major leagues in September. He’s the first international player to win the award since Jeff Francis (Canada) in 2004, the first international free agent to win since Andruw Jones (Curacao) in 1995-96 and the first Cuban émigré in the award’s history. (Cuban-American Jose Canseco won the award in 1985.) Other Latin American winners include Sandy Alomar Jr. (1989, Puerto Rico) and Manny Ramirez (1993, Dominican Republic).
Moncada had a banner season, batting .294/.407/.511 with 45 stolen bases, which tied for fifth in the minor leagues. He smashed 15 home runs, including 11 in Double-A, while also lacing 31 doubles and six triples. While he struck out 124 times in 405 minor league at-bats, he drew 72 walks and ranked 12th among qualified minor leaguers in on-base percentage.
“The guy has so much talent and is so fast that sometimes he was going a little too fast,” Moncada’s manager at Portland, ex-big league infielder Carlos Febles, said in August. “In this game, you have to be aggressive but, at the same time, you have to be under control.”
As Moncada gained control as the season went on, he showed why he’s the top prospect in the game while also being one of the minors’ most productive seasons. As BA national writer Ben Badler wrote in this issue’s cover feature on Moncada, “As talented as Moncada is and as productive as he’s been already, the most tantalizing part is how much better he still has a chance to become.”