Yoan Moncada, the 22-year-old Cuban second baseman, will make his first major-league appearance for the White Sox tonight, acting in essence as the first ambassador for the Sox’s now extremely stacked farm system and offering Sox fans their first glimpse of a future the team has promised will have been worth a season or two of true blight.
For a moment, after the Sox had obtained Blake Rutherford from the Yankees and before they called up Moncada, this is what the top of their system looked like:
This is ridiculous! Even if you don’t have much interest in prospects, it’s been impossible not to take note of the hype around a lot of these guys. Lucas Giolito—still just 23—was, by consensus, one of the five or 10 top prospects in baseball coming into spring each of the last three years, and he doesn’t even crack the top four here.
It’s appropriate that Moncada—who played eight games last season for the Red Sox before being dealt to Chicago in the Chris Sale trade—is the first of this lot to get called up. There are high expectations for the second baseman, who came to the States in 2014 with the blessing of the Cuban government after two seasons in the Cuban National Series. He’s built like an Avenger, scouts consider all his tools at least above-average and his speed truly elite, and he’s hit .282/.377/.447 in 80 games in Triple-A this year. If there’s any player you’d bet it all on, it might well be him.
Still, there are real concerns. In his games with the Red Sox last season—a really small sample size!—he hit .211/.250/.263 with an OPS+ of 37, basically the statistical equivalent of the emoji where the face is all crumpled up and ugly crying. Much more important is Moncada’s strikeout rate. Let’s pretend he didn’t strike out in 60 percent of his at-bats in those eight games with the Red Sox. He still struck out in 28.3 percent of his at-bats in Triple-A this year, the ninth-worst rate in the International League. His numbers have still been fine overall due to his .379 average on balls in play, willingness to take a walk, and basically league-average power, but a strikeout rate that high puts a severe limit on how often you can get on base unless your BABIP consistently looks like that of Ichiro Suzuki in his prime.
Anyway, who knows how he’ll turn out for the White Sox? Maybe all those Twinkies he eats will help him with his plate discipline; maybe they won’t. Finding out will be a hell of a lot more interesting than watching Todd Frazier, and however he does, he’s just the first of a new generation of White Sox who could be really, really scary.