Former Red Sox Top Prospect Yoan Moncada Likely to Switch Positions; Dombrowski Deserves Credit for This Move

YahooWhite Sox second baseman Yoán Moncada is “open to a position change,” according to comments made by GM Rick Hahn over the weekend. It appears to be something the club is considering as they head into their third rebuilding year, though Hahn noted that the decision would hinge on any pickups the club makes over the offseason.

It’s not the first time Hahn or Moncada has addressed the potential shift away from second base. After the 23-year-old infielder closed out his 2018 run with 21 errors and a .963 fielding percentage (eclipsed only by the Reds’ José Peraza and Red Sox’ Rafael Devers, the latter of whom committed 24 errors with a .926 fielding percentage), Hahn told reporters he believes Moncada’s athleticism will make him an “above-average defender at other positions.” Moncada himself said he’d be willing to move back to third base, a position he occupied during his rookie campaign with the Red Sox in 2016. There’s also a possibility that he could be considered at shortstop or center field, although he has yet to play either position at the major league level.

Full disclosure: I am a HUGE prospect guy. I hem and haw about every trade the Red Sox make that involves high level prospects. For better or for worse, I am very reluctant to include top prospects in a deal. Maybe it’s the Theo Epstein in me, who knows? Big Z is the exact opposite when it comes to handling prospects, but it’s what makes us different that makes us great, guys.

I think Dealer Dave has as much regard for individual prospects as a college kid has for what brand of beer he drinks, but Dombrowski deserves credit for making the right decision here.

I have been fond of beating on the drum that Dave Dombrowski primarily makes moves that any of us could make like signing the most expensive free agents in David Price and JD Martinez or trading top prospects for premiere talent like Craig Kimbrel and Chris Sale. Something that I have yet to give him credit for though is making the absolute correct decision in the Chris Sale trade.

The Red Sox coveted Chris Sale for years and the season before they finally pried him away from Chicago, reports had mentioned the White Sox wanted Mookie Betts AND Andrew Benintendi in any deal.

Obviously that didn’t happen, but when the trade was finally consummated the Red Sox and Dombrowski essentially said to Chicago we can’t give you those two guys, but we can give you our *top* prospect in Yoan Moncada, who was also the No. 1 prospect in all of baseball at the time. And again, full disclosure, I was big on Moncada so this is far from revisionist history.

Some of my commentary aged better than others

“I feel like Costanza after he ate one of Kramer’s mangoes from Joe’s fruit shop. You want to talk about excited? How about having a player waiting in the wings that many scouts say projects to be most similar to Mike Trout…Whether he sticks at 2B remains to be seen, Pedroia is signed through 2021 so that could be a logjam issue.” – April 25, 2016

So while Chris Sale has been lights out (when healthy), it was still hard to trade away a guy as talented as Moncada. Things haven’t really gone so well for him thus far though. While still only 23 years old, Moncada has been an unmitigated disaster to put it lightly.

In 901 Plate Appearances in 211 games over parts of three seasons, Moncada is batting .234/.319/.399. That amounts to a little less than two full seasons so it’s not a huge sample size, but Moncada also led the league in strike outs last season with 217 K’s, which is alarming.

But at least he can play defense right? Well, actually he made 21 errors at second base last year, good for third in the league.

Now Chicago has publicly broached the idea of moving Moncada to another position like third base, center field or even shortstop, which makes no sense. Shortstop is a much harder position defensively with a longer throw to first. It seems like the White Sox are just looking for somewhere to plant Moncada while they shuffle some roster pieces around. It’s been reported that the White Sox are going to court Manny Machado who could play either SS or 3B and they also have another first round pick coming up in the system that apparently is a stud 2B and Moncada seems like anything but a natural second baseman.

Now just to go back to me giving Dombrowski some credit for a second; the Red Sox could have very easily traded Benintendi as part of that deal instead. So lets take a look at how Benny’s numbers stack up when compared to Moncada.

Benintendi is nearly a year older than Moncada and has a bit more experience at the major league level with 1,437 Plate Appearances over 333 games in parts of three seasons. For his career, Benintendi is slashing .282/.359/.447. The power is about even so far between the two as Benintendi wacked 16 dingers to Moncada’s 17 last season. Whether you value it or not, Benintendi also topped him in steals 21 to 12 last year. I won’t get into RBIs because thats largely dependent on the team around you, which is garbage in Chicago. In another display of power, Benintendi also bested Moncada in doubles last season 41 to 32.

Benintendi has essentially been twice as valuable to the Red Sox with a career WAR of 7.0 to Moncada’s 3.5 (3.9 to 2.0 in 2018 alone).

So it would take some serious mental gymnastics to argue that Moncada has been or remains the better prospect thus far, especially with Benintendi playing such a vital role in the playoffs for a 108 win Red Sox team.

The best prospect Chicago got in the Sale trade now seems more likely to be Michael Kopech than it is Moncada. Kopech is the No. 4 overall prospect in all of baseball on MLB.com and looks like an absolute stud in the making. Just look at his MLB.com scouting report:

“Kopech throws as hard and is as difficult to hit as any starter in the Minor Leagues, which has prompted comparisons to Noah Syndergaard. His fastball, which sits at 96-99 mph, repeatedly hits triple digits with late run that keeps it off barrels. Hitters who try to sit on his heater get embarrassed by his upper-80s slider, which features two-plane break and is a plus-plus offering at its best.

Kopech just needs some refinement before he’s ready to pitch at the front of a big league rotation.”

Butttt he only threw 14.1 innings last year as he tore his UCL and underwent Tommy John Surgery because of course he did. So as big as I am on Kopech, his timeline was obviously pushed back a couple of years with the elbow injury.

Dombrowski swung and missed on the Drew Pomeranz – Anderson Espinoza trade, but he absolutely nailed the Chris Sale – Yoan Moncada trade and to that I tip my cap.

 

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