There aren't many comparable prospects for Yoan Moncada. It's just hard to find many players who have the combination of physical tools and hitting ability of the 19-year-old Cuban infielder.
Take Dodgers shortstop Corey Seager. I wouldn’t call Moncada and Seager similar players, but they’re both polished hitters for their age with plus raw power and arm strength. Neither player projects as a shortstop, with Seager likely sliding over to third base, where Moncada could also fit, though Moncada could play second base or even move to the outfield. The biggest difference in terms of physical tools is Moncada's speed, which is plus, whereas Seager is a below-average runner.
Does that mean Moncada is a better prospect than Seager? I wouldn't go that far. Seager hit .349/.402/.602 in 118 games split between high Class A Rancho Cucamonga and Double-A Chattanooga last season. Nothing against Moncada, who's likely going to start at a Class A level, but there's a lot to be said for Seager's ability to rake as a 20-year-old in Double-A, especially compared to the uncertainty of not having seen Moncada face a full minor league season yet.
When our Top 100 list comes out next month, it's no guarantee Moncada will have even signed by then to qualify for the list. But when he does sign, where will he rank among the game's best prospects? The Top 100 is a collaborative process involving all of our prospect analysts at Baseball America, but my personal Top 50 prospects list is in the 2015 BA Prospect Handbook. Here, in alphabetical order (you will see the exact order in your Prospect Handbook soon), are the 15 position players I ranked in my top 20 overall prospects in the game:
|Kris Bryant, 3b, Cubs|
|Byron Buxton, of, Twins|
|Carlos Correa, ss, Astros|
|J.P. Crawford, ss, Phillies|
|Joey Gallo, 3b, Rangers|
|Dilson Herrera, 2b, Mets|
|Francisco Lindor, ss, Indians|
|Joc Pederson, of, Dodgers|
|Dalton Pompey, of, Blue Jays|
|Addison Russell, ss, Cubs|
|Miguel Sano, 3b, Twins|
|Kyle Schwarber, c/of, Cubs|
|Corey Seager, ss, Dodgers|
|Jorge Soler, of, Cubs|
|Blake Swihart, c, Red Sox|
For me, Moncada fits comfortably in that group. I'm admittedly the high man on Dilson Herrera, who is one of the best hitting prospects in the game and tore up Double-A at age 20 with surprising power for his size. But I would put Moncada over him and Dalton Pompey, neither of whom have the power potential Moncada brings.
So Moncada is a top 20 prospect. But how high up that list should he go? Seager is my No. 6 prospect in baseball, and there isn't any disagreement internally here that Seager is one of the game's truly elite prospects. Players like him are easy to evaluate. Would it surprise me if Moncada ended up becoming better than Seager? Absolutely not. But when it comes to picking one of them right now, the greater certainty level in Seager puts him ahead of Moncada on my board. No shame in that.
Then there’s Twins third baseman Miguel Sano. He’s not similar to Moncada in terms of skill set, but Sano, like Moncada, didn’t play at all in 2014. Whereas with Moncada it was because he stopped playing in Cuba and left the country, Sano missed the 2014 season due to Tommy John surgery. That isn’t a major concern for a position player, but it’s a year missed and a year removed from having seen him play in a competitive situation.
Sano hit .280/.382/.610 with 35 homers in 123 games between high Class A Fort Myers and Double-A New Britain in 2013, though he did strike out 27 percent of the time. Would you take Sano, the third baseman with 80 raw power and contact frequency concerns but a track record of hitting at Double-A, or Moncada, who has less of a track record and less raw power, but more speed and a more well-rounded skill set? I would lean toward Moncada, but it's not an easy call.
Of the four Top 50 lists in the Prospect Handbook, we all have Sano ranked anywhere from No. 10 to No. 13. On my list, Sano is the No. 13 prospect. For me, that would put Moncada somewhere in the 7-12 range of prospects in the Top 100. Even if you prefer Sano to Moncada, at the very least, the two belong in the same territory on the Top 100.
Once Moncada goes through individual workouts with clubs and we get feedback from scouts who see him there and allow us to build more recent history on him, that information will help solidify specifically where within that range he will fit.
Even with the bonus pools, when you have an open market for a prospect who will immediately rank among the top 20 prospects in baseball, has a good chance to crack the top 15 and perhaps even sneak into the top 10, it’s not hard to figure out why there’s widespread demand from teams to add Moncada.