Baseball is back and at Baseball America, that means it's time again to track the progress of prospects. We'll update you each day on how some of the game's most prominent prospects fared at spring training.
Yoan Moncada, the Red Sox’s top prospect and the No. 3 prospect in the game, was not invited to big league spring training, but got a surprise start Wednesday against the Pirates and quickly made an impression.
Alen Hanson attempted to bunt for a hit to start the game and Moncada gloved the ball and made a quick, smooth transition with the ball to his hand to get Hanson by a step.
One evaluator said Moncada’s defense is often overlooked because of his tremendous offensive skills, but that the Cuban has the athleticism and smooth actions to play anywhere in the field, save perhaps for shortstop.
"We’re still taking a look at him at that (second base)," Red Sox manager John Farrell told reporters. "As far as physical profile to a position, he’s a speedy guy that’s strong, a switch hitter. Where he ultimately ends up on the field, remains to be seen."
Moncada also looked smooth in helping turn two double plays. At bat, Moncada went 0-for-2 and a walk, fighting off several tough 0-2 pitches against Arquimedes Caminero, the hard-throwing Pirates righthander.
“He’s facing someone who’s mid- to upper-90s with a good late breaking ball, and he showed patience to stay within the strike zone,” Farrell told reports. “He didn't expand (the zone). Typically, you see a guy with that high of a velocity, sometimes guys have to start their swing earlier. It tells you he’s seeing the ball well.”
Moncada’s swing from the left side evokes comparisons to Robinson Cano and he has the advanced plate approach of a veteran player. His physicality drew raves from teammates.
“Just look at him, you expect him to be a corner outfielder or … inside linebacker for the San Diego Chargers,” Red Sox righthander Joe Kelly, who got a firsthand look as he started Wednesday’s game.
For his part, Moncada was modest about his Grapefruit League debut.
“I felt happy to be up and batting against actual major-league competition,” Moncada told reporters through an interpreter. “I thank the Red Sox for that opportunity. Basically, it just felt good to face Major League competition and test myself.”
Nine newsmakers from Wednesday's action.
- Zach Eflin/Jake Thompson/Mark Appel, rhps, Phillies: The Phillies went with three righthanders acquired in trades the past two years, and all shined. Eflin, acquired from the Dodgers for Jimmy Rollins, went the first three innings, allowing a run on four hits; Jake Thompson—acquired in the deal that sent Cole Hamels to the Rangers—pitched three scoreless innings, while Appel, acquired from Houston for Ken Giles, gave up an unearned run in two innings. They combined for six strikeouts without a walk. Appel might be closest to the majors, but the Phillies won’t rush the 2013 No. 1 overall pick. All three have flashed elite stuff at times but have warts and all three were reassigned Thursday morning to minor league camp. Expect them to start the season at Triple-A Lehigh Valley.
- Colin Rea, rhp, Padres: Rea, pushing for a rotation spot after a representative turn with the Padres at the end of 2015, pitched three scoreless innings on Wednesday. Rea’s development of a splitter was the difference for him in 2015, giving him a pitch to neutralize lefties. He’s pitched five shutout innings so far.
- Patrick Wisdom, 3b, Cardinals: Wisdom has plus raw power, which he showed Wednesday with a two-run homer. His issues with breaking balls, however, lead to a boom-or-bust approach, although he cut down on his strikeout rate in 2015. Defensively, Wisdom has a double-plus throwing arm, but had some issues with reaction time at third base. He wasn’t selected in the Rule 5 draft and should move to Triple-A this spring.
- Hyun-Soo Kim lf, Orioles: Kim did not come to the majors from the Korean Baseball Organization with the same fanfare as 50-homer slugger Byung Ho Park, but with the reputation as a solid, patient hitter. While Park has hit two homers this spring, Kim has run into some hard luck in going hitless in his first 21 at-bats. On Wednesday, he hit the ball hard three times, but had nothing to show for it. Kim slashed .318/.406/.488 in 10 seasons in KBO, showing great plate discipline.
- Brandon Drury, 2b, Diamondbacks: Arizona’s No. 3 prospect, Drury’s a hitter first. The doubles power he has now, scouts believe, will eventually grow into over-the-fence pop, and he did hit his second spring homer Wednesday. The Diamondbacks have played Drury at second and third and he could make the team as a bat-first utilityman.
- Lucas Giolito, rhp, Nationals:The Nats got their top prospect—and No. 5 overall in baseball—an inning in garbage time on Wednesday and he showed some of his tantalizing stuff, striking out three while allowing a homer to Tyler Collins. The Nats have a full, expensive rotation, but they might have a difficult time slowing the roll of Giolito, who could help down the stretch.
- Tyler White, 1b, Astros: White is engaged in a scrum for the Astros’ first base job. And all White does is hit. He went 2-for-3 Wednesday with a double and an RBI. One evaluator who saw White said his actions aren’t pretty, but he makes lots of hard contact.
- Danny Hultzen, lhp, Mariners: The No. 2 overall pick in 2011, Hultzen missed most of 2013-14 with a shoulder injury that eventually required rotator-cuff surgery. The Mariners decided to shift him to the bullpen because they were concerned he would not hold up under a starter’s workload. On Wednesday, the Mariners said Hultzen had a “setback” and a timetable for a return to action is unclear.
- Austin Meadows, of, Pirates: Meadows, the No. 22 overall prospect, injured his right eye Tuesday. The Pirates said tests show an orbital fracture and the club will send Meadows to Pittsburgh to determine the extent of the damage.