Twenty-one-year-old second baseman Yoan Moncada of the Chicago White Sox—the key player in a major trade the Pale Hose made last year that sent ace pitcher Chris Sale to the Boston Red Sox—is widely regarded as the best prospect in baseball. At 6-foot-2, 205 pounds, he’s a switch-hitter with a linebacker’s build, lightning speed, a cannon arm, tremendous raw power, and patience at the plate. Unfortunately, there are also some holes in his game.
“Moncada wraps his bat and can’t get to the stuff thrown inside and backspin it, getting on top of those pitches or missing them entirely,” ESPN’s Keith Law wrote recently. “When he reached the majors, it was as if he’d never seen a breaking ball in his life.” With the kind of tools Moncada has, there’s virtually no question he’ll be a major-league contributor, but it will require a focused approach to correcting his flaws for him to reach his potential and hit like a true star.
In a lengthy article published yesterday, Law’s ESPN colleague Eli Saslow explored Moncada’s intriguing background as a Cuban refugee who went from having very little to earning a $31.5 million signing bonus as a 19-year-old. Saslow, a sympathetic writer, depicts Moncada’s struggles to adjust to his new-found wealth after a lifetime of privation—his lack of understanding of such matters as taxes or why he doesn’t need 10 custom-designed cars just now—as an understandable matter of culture shock.
“Moncada has sometimes mowed through 85 Twinkies in a week,” Saslow writes. “Moncada discovered Twinkies at Wal-Mart and started consuming them by the box, sometimes eating more than 10 in a single sitting.”
Moncada credits new teammate José Abreu, one in a very long line of Cuban Sox stars—and one with whom he also played for Cienfuegos—for mentoring him and helping him adjust.
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“This team,” Abreu texted Moncada the night the Sox traded for him, “gets it.”