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Moncada Has Been The Best For Boston

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Yoan Moncada (Photo by Cliff Welch) Yoan Moncada (Photo by Cliff Welch)[/caption]

BEST PLAYER: A year ago, second baseman Yoan Moncada needed to catch his breath. In his first pro campaign after signing for a record-setting $31.5 million out of Cuba, he hit just .200/.287/.289 at low Class A Greenville prior to the South Atlantic League all-star break.

"When I had that all-star break, I took a little mental break from baseball,” Moncada said through a translator. "It feels like that helped me come back, once I walked away and didn’t think about baseball and was able to return, I was able to come back. It feels like that was very beneficial.”

Indeed it was. Over the next calendar year, Moncada hit .309/.421/.498 with 11 homers and 81 steals (in 91 attempts) over 117 games. That included a .307/.427/.496 batting line with four homers, 36 steals and 25 doubles at high Class A Salem in the first half of 2016 prior to a promotion to Double-A Portland.

"For a 21-year-old kid who’s in just his second season in the States, the ability has been unbelievable to watch his day-in and day-out adjustments,” Salem manager Joe Oliver said.

BIGGEST LEAP FORWARD: First baseman Josh Ockimey, a 2014 fifth-round pick from high school in Philadelphia, approached this season with a single goal.

"I want to be the best damn player on the field every game,” Ockimey said. "I take that to heart.”

The 20-year-old often lived up to that standard at Greenville, finishing the first half as an SAL all-star after hitting .297/.435/.531 with 10 homers—more than twice as many as he hit in his first two pro seasons—along with a walk rate of nearly 20 percent.

His pitch recognition and approach have improved to the point where one talent evaluator suggested Ockimey’s "hitters’ hands” have a "chance to be lethal.”

BIGGEST DISAPPOINTMENT: Even with shortstop Deven Marrero’s modest batting line at Triple-A Pawtucket in 2015—he hit .256 with six homers and 21 percent strikeouts in 102 games—a number of evaluators believed he could develop enough offensively to forge a future as an everyday player given his plus glove.

Josh Palacios

Netherlands Defeats Cuba To Kick Off World Baseball Classic

Josh Palacios drove in the tie-breaking run and the Netherlands held Cuba to three hits to pick up a 4-2 win in the World Baseball Classic opener.

Marrero, however, hit just .216 at Pawtucket in the first half of this season, with worse walk and strikeout rates, and he had been bypassed for big league bench opportunities by Josh Rutledge and Marco Hernandez.

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