Fantasy Baseball: It's not too soon to add Yoan Moncada
There is no shortage of must-add options on waivers, but it's time to make room for one more. Al Melchior makes the case for beating the rush on the Red Sox's top prospect.
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It's not easy to find room for all of the enticing players on waivers. At least eight relievers have been promoted to the closer's role since last Friday. Prospects like Andrew Benintendi, Gary Sanchez and Orlando Arcia have just been put on mixed league radars. Max Kepler, Dylan Bundy and Hernan Perez have each taken leaps forward and created a deafening buzz among Fantasy owners.
These players are all worth pursuing, but wherever possible, you need to find room for one more. Just as Benintendi rode the fast track all the way to a major league callup, Yoan Moncada could be the next prospect to be called on to play a significant role for the Red Sox. General manager Mike Hazen told the Boston Herald that Moncada will be taking grounders at third base in order to speed his advancement to the majors. While that promotion won't necessarily happen this year, Hazen didn't rule it out, saying, "Time is going to tell. I don't think a month ago we anticipated Andrew being here."
Moncada is already owned in more than one-third of all leagues on CBSSports.com, so the time has passed to add the 21-year-old in many deeeper leagues. In standard and shallow formats, the cost of dedicating a bench spot to a yet-to-be-recalled-prospect are much greater, so why should owners pursue Moncada when they're already trying to make room for Benintendi, Bundy, Kepler and company?
As the struggles of Alex Bregman are showing, you never can be sure how a top prospect will perform once he is called up. After tearing through Double-A and Triple-A this season, Bregman looked like a sure thing, yet all of a sudden, he is having trouble making contact and hitting with authority. However, Bregman's upside is still the same -- it's just untapped. As we have seen with Kepler, it can take awhile for a hitter to heat up. Through his first 75 plate appearances this season, Kepler hit .209 with one homer. In 160 plate appearances since, Kepler has batted .283 with 14 home runs.
So with the caveat that Moncada may not get called up, and may not be productive initially if he is promoted, here's why he's worth a speculative pickup if you have a replaceable bench player to spare.
Steals galore: In 174 minor league games, Moncada has stolen 93 bases in 106 attempts. That's not quite on a par with Billy Hamilton's pace from the minors, but his success rate is even better. He could easily out steal Orlando Arcia in a fraction of the playing time.
Thump in the bat: The power/speed combo is hard to find, but as Moncada climbs the ladder of the Red Sox's minor league system, he has hit for more power at each level. He blistered the Carolina League with 25 doubles in 61 games, and now in the Eastern League, Moncada has graduated to home run power. In 32 games, he has already hit eight homers. With a 24 percent fly-ball rate that is below league average (according to StatCorner), Moncada hasn't turned into an all-or-nothing type of hitter to attain his newfound clout.
There may be no better prospect: Baseball America ranked Moncada at the top of their midseason Top 100 prospects list. In his midseason review of the top 20 Red Sox prospects, John Sickels of Minor League Ball called him "the best prospect in baseball." MLB.com ranks Moncada only behind Bregman on their midseason Top 100 list. Having shown he can handle Double-A, it's not as if Moncada is a long-term development project. If you were willing to go all-in on Bregman, Benintendi, Lucas Giolito and Trea Turner, there's no reason to avoid stashing Moncada.
If Moncada is going to be a letdown, it most likely will be as a source of high batting average. At each level, Moncada has posted high BABIP rates, but he has shown some pronounced pull tendencies that cast doubt on his ability to get hits on balls in play. These tendencies are apparent in his 2016 spray chart against righties.
Moncada's pull tendencies are just as strong when he bats right-handed.
This is a potential concern, because Moncada has not been a great contact hitter at any level, and he has struck out at a particularly high rate since reaching Double-A. He has already struck out 44 times for a 30.6 percent rate. Moncada doesn't figure to get better at avoiding strikeouts once he is in the majors, and it seems unlikely that he would hit .382 on balls in play like he has done at Portland.
So with pessimistic expectations for Moncada's batting average, as a major league hitter, he could be like a version of Danny Espinosa who steals a lot of bases. With a more optimistic outlook, he could be Brian Dozier, but with far more steals. That's not a bad range to be in, and it makes Moncada worth the wait in just about any format.
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