Yoan Moncada Worth the Risk for San Francisco Giants


Let’s get this straight. The San Francisco Giants are not having a disappointing offseason. Sure, there have been free agents they have swung and missed on, and the moves they have made haven’t exactly set the world on fire, but this is not a disappointing offseason. The reason being, in case anybody forgot, is that this happened.

If you’re a Giants fan and you’re complaining after your team just took home another World Series trophy, there’s a Chicago Cubs’ fan who would like to have a word with you, and a Cleveland Indians’ fan, and a Houston Astros’ fan, and…well, you get the picture.

Calling any offseason a disappointment after your team just won a championship is short-sighted, to say the least. Yet there’s no denying that Giants’ fans are feeling a bit uneasy during this fairly uneventful offseason. The departure of Pablo Sandoval might have made a few fans break out their new 2014 World Champions shot glasses or maybe Michael Morse’s move to Miami caused some fans to bite down on their 2010 playoff rally towel a little harder than usual.

Even with some less than stellar early projections, the Giants should still be considered contenders in the National League West in 2015. But fans are clamoring for at least one move to hang their hat on before Opening Day comes around. That’s especially true considering the splashy moves the rival Los Angeles Dodgers, San Diego Padres, and Arizona Diamondbacks have all made.

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With nearly every big name free agent off the market and no sign that the Giants will go after free agent pitcher James Shields, fans hopes may rest on the shoulders of a 19-year-old superstar in the making.

Cuban prospect Yoan Moncada might be the hottest name in baseball right now, despite the fact that 99% of the baseball world has not seen him in action. Well, here he is in action. The first thing that’s striking about the infield prospect is his build. At just 19, Moncada is built like a classic slugger and has plenty of room to grow. After a November workout, scouts compared Moncada to fellow countryman Yasiel Puig. Baseball America calls him the best prospect out of Cuba since Jorge Soler, with some scouts going so far as to call him a franchise cornerstone type of player.

A young Cuban prospect that can play third base and would be the future of the franchise for whoever signs him? That sounds exactly like the kind of player the Giants should be interested in, and unsurprisingly they are. The team’s assistant GM Bobby Evans, during an interview on KNBR in November, said that their interest in Moncada was “significant”. More recently, Evans reiterated how highly the organization regards Moncada, by saying “this guy is a specimen. Extremely athletic. At 19 years old, for our guys to describe him as cut as he is — it’s unheard of.”

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  • Don’t go and buy your Moncada jersey just yet though. Moncada will be subject to international signing guidelines since he is under 23 years of age and has not played at least five seasons professionally in Cuba. Evans, again on KNBR, expressed how those guidelines are making a decision on Moncada extremely tough. “The downside of any contract for Moncada is that you’re paying for him at 19,” Evans said on The Mr. T Show, “I’m not convinced it’s the most strategic investment given the age and that it’s a minor league deal. If it was a major league deal it would be more appealing.”

    While the international free agent guidelines make Moncada a risky investment, it’s a risk the Giants should take. If Moncada is as good as he’s cracked up to be, he could be Major League ready as soon as 2016. Current Giants third baseman Casey McGehee is set to hit free agency after the 2015 season, so the team will once again be looking for an answer at the hot corner. There may be no better solution than Yoan Moncada.

    Even if Moncada eventually departs the Giants with plenty of prime years left in his career, it should not be a major point of concern. The Giants like continuity, not only in the front office, but on the field as well. Moncada could provide, at the very least, stability at a position that needs it for the first time in years. From all indications Moncada’s first few years in the Majors could still be very special. According to Jonathan Mayo of MLB.com, on a 20-80 rating scale Moncada was above 60 in every category other than fielding. Translation: this guy is going to be really good and probably really soon.

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  • Despite all the hype surrounding Moncada, signing him to a minor league deal that will require a massive bonus upfront still represents a huge risk. Brian Sabean and company won three world titles though by not taking huge risks on the free agent market. Yet this time feels different.

    Moncada is sure to cost more than a pretty penny, but his age, talent and “face of the franchise” potential could ultimately make him worth it. The Giants have been very stingy about handing out big contracts to free agents, but Moncada is not an aging veteran looking to bank in on his past success, he’s someone who might just become the top prospect in baseball once he signs on the dotted line. He won’t impact the Giants chances in 2015, but signing Moncada would create plenty of excitement among fans and provide them with much more confidence for future Giants’ teams.

    When Moncada does eventually make it to the majors, there will be plenty of ways the Giants can utilize his talent. While second base is his primary position, Moncada could convert to third base. The hot corner might actually suit Moncada better given that his strong throwing arm is arguably his best asset defensively.

    In the lineup, Moncada could find himself in plenty of different spots over the course of his career. According to most scouting reports, Moncada’s speed is probably his best skill right now. With the health of Angel Pagan always a question, Moncada may provide a more stable backup plan to the top of the order. Moncada’s time at the top of the lineup won’t likely last long though.

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  • Once his power stroke develops more, Moncada might be in line to not only take Pablo Sandoval’s old spot in the infield, but also in the lineup. If all goes right, Moncada should develop into a 30-home run hitter. For a lineup as power starved as the Giants, Moncada would be the perfect choice to take over the cleanup spot, taking the slack off of less traditional cleanup batters like Brandon Belt, Hunter Pence and even Buster Posey.

    The development of Moncada at the Major League level could mirror that of Mike Trout. While it’s too early to tell if Moncada would come close to the astronomical stats Trout has put up, Trout’s gradual shift from leadoff hitter with pop to bonafide middle of the order slugger might be the same career path Moncada takes. Maybe the comparison isn’t as farfetched as it seems though. If the scouting reports and buzzy workouts are to be believed, Moncada might just be a perennial All-Star, gold glover and future MVP, all rolled into one.

    Giant’s ownership is apparently in favor of the team bringing in All-Star caliber talent from Cuba. Fans are clamoring for a big move. The team has the money and a newfound reputation as a perennial contender. Plus, they face an uncertain future at 3rd base after losing one of their most marketable stars. Add all those factors together, and it’s clear that there may never be a better time to take a chance on a young man who could be the best player to come out of baseball’s Cuban revolution.

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