"Moncada Watch" is officially on.
In an interview with MLB.com, his first since arriving in the United States in November, 19-year-old Yoan Moncada said his goal is to sign in short order and "make it to the Major Leagues as fast as [he] can with whichever team that may be."
Moncada was recently unblocked by the Office of Foreign Assets Control and subsequently cleared to sign by Major League Baseball. Scouts from all 30 teams were believed to be in attendance for Moncada's first showcase earlier in the offseason, though the prevailing thought seems to be he'll end up signing with a big-market team. This is because the team that signs Moncada will be forced to pay a full dollar-for-dollar penalty for exceeding its international pool allotment, since he is a player under 23 years old who played less than five years in Cuba. The Yankees, Dodgers and Red Sox are said to be among the most likely suitors, along with the Tigers and Padres.
While he's an obvious target in keeper leagues, Moncada seems to still be off the redraft radar for many. Despite Moncada's stated intention to arrive to the majors quickly, David Hastings, an accountant who serves Moncada's agency, cautioned that it's essential Moncada signs with a club "that's sensitive to his situation and will bring him along slowly."
However, is it possible Moncada could arrive in time to help owners in 2015? In very deep mixed formats like the NFBC, could it be worth it to stash the youngster with a late-round pick?
It's not completely out of the question. The tools are there for Moncada to be fantasy stud for years to come. He has impressive speed and plus raw power. Check him out for yourself.
Defensively, he can play all around the field, though ideally for fantasy purposes, he'd settle into a middle-infield spot. Twins prospect Miguel Sano is getting taken at an average draft spot of 469.74, even though GM Terry Ryan said in October that his missed year of development time will likely result in Sano not reaching the majors until 2016. The Reds' Jesse Winker and the Yankees' Greg Bird are being drafted with ADPs of 633.74 and 651.48, respectively, even though they project to spend most, if not all, of the season in the minors. So why not Moncada?
Of course, Bryce Harper reached the majors as a 19-year-old. Rougned Odor reached the majors last season as a 20-year-old. Until Moncada actually signs, he'll continue to be an afterthought in most redraft leagues, especially as a player who isn't even in some sites' draft systems. Some may have to draft a placeholder and write "Yoan Moncada" into the chat. Don't be afraid to do so late. He could start to rise up boards once he gets into camp and people actually see what he's capable of.
Notes from Saturday:
Matt Cain (NFBC ADP: 246.68) will likely enter spring training behind the Giants' other starters after undergoing surgery to remove bone chips from his elbow in August. He then had surgery to remove a bone spur from his ankle in September. The right-hander has resumed mound work, throwing 30 pitches from a mound Friday, and the expectation is that he will be ready for the start of the season. Apparently, Cain pitched with the bone chips in his elbow for close to a decade, and now feels as though years of wear and tear have been lifted off his arm. His performance in the spring will be telling, but it's hard to imagine the procedure will be a cure-all for Cain's recent woes on the hill. Personally, I'd rather gamble on the upside of a Taijuan Walker (NFBC ADP: 259.80) or a Danny Duffy (NFBC ADP: 268.36) at that stage of a draft.
Cain's teammate, Angel Pagan (NFBC ADP: 293.36), is no longer experiencing pain in his back, according to manager Bruce Bochy. Pagan played in just 96 games last season before being forced to undergo surgery in September, but he is on track to enter spring training without restrictions. Like Cain, Pagan comes with plenty of risk given the nature of his injury, but he's projected to once again serve as the Giants' leadoff hitter against both righties and lefties. Pagan's speed has waned in recent season, making him essentially a two-category player (runs and average), but his contributions in those two categories could make him a decent value at his current draft position.
If Neil Walker (NFBC ADP: 129.70) can't win his arbitration case, who can? The 29-year-old tied Brian Dozier for most home runs by a second baseman last season, while slashing .271/.342/.467 in 571 plate appearances. However, an arbitration panel ruled in the Pirates' favor Saturday, costing Walker an extra $1 million. The $8 million he'll receive in 2015 is still a very nice salary for a player in his second year of arbitration, but it still seems like a slight. Perhaps it will help motivate Walker and push him to his second straight Silver Slugger award. While there doesn't seem to be a ton of profit potential with Walker right now, his price seems entirely fair.
Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina (NFBC ADP: 127.34) reportedly dropped upwards of 20 pounds over the offseason. The hope is that the lighter frame will reduce the wear on Molina's knees and possibly allow him to play some at first base, a position at which he's made just four starts so far in his career. It seems to me people are buying too much into the name brand with Molina. While one of the more consistent hitting catchers over the past decade, Molina has exceeded 14 homers just once and his jumps in strikeout in recent years and dramatic decline in wRC+ last season suggest his skill set is declining at age 32.