BRADENTON, Fla. -- Try though he did, Boston Red Sox manager John Farrell was unable to downplay the call-up of top prospect Yoan Moncada for Wednesday's spring-training game against the Pittsburgh Pirates.
"This is an opportunity for some young players to come over and get some exposure to this environment, the game at this speed and strength," Farrell said. "Today's another one of those days for him."
Pressed for more on the 20-year-old Cuban second baseman in whom the Red Sox invested a total of $63 million last spring ($31.5 million signing bonus, $31.5 million tax to Major League Baseball for exceeding their international bonus pool), Farrell described Moncada as a "young, athletic guy who seemingly has a really bright future" before joking the club called him up to "give you something to write about."
Moncada overcame a slow start last season to bat .278 with eight homers, 49 stolen bases and an .817 OPS in 81 games for Single-A Greenville. He's expected to open the season at advanced-A Salem, but given his exceeding talent, could move quickly through the upper levels of the farm system.
One unresolved issue surrounding Moncada is which position he's best suited to play. He played primarily second base in Cuba and has thus far remained there even though Dustin Pedroia is signed through 2021. Pedroia is the Red Sox's de facto captain and a favorite of principal owner John Henry, and even if he wasn't, he has limited no-trade protection and will reach 10-5 status (at least 10 seasons in the big leagues and five with the same team) later this season.
Listed at 6-foot-2 and 215 pounds, Moncada is bigger than most second basemen. He also committed 23 errors last season for Greenville, leading some scouts to suggest his future might be at first or third base or even in the outfield.
"I don't know if that (big body) is a root cause of the defensive side of things," Farrell said. "As far as physical profile to a position, he's a speedy guy that's strong, switch-hitter. Where he ultimately ends up on the field remains to be seen."
Regardless, the Red Sox will take the opportunity to get an up-close look at Moncada. Later in spring training, Farrell said he would like to see several of the team's infield prospects on the field together in a Grapefruit League game. First base prospect Sam Travis is already in big-league camp, but Moncada and even third base prospect Rafael Devers could be called in for a cameo.
"Part of the discussion with (president of bsaeball operations) Dave (Dombrowski), with (general manager) Mike (Hazen), with (farm director) Ben Crockett, you start to ask about certain individual players that can fill in at some point," Farrell said, "start to give them exposure."
Here's the full lineup against Pirates right-hander Ryan Vogelsong:
1B Travis Shaw
CF Ryan LaMarre
RHP Joe Kelly