Get to know this year’s foreign imports: Yoan Moncada

The Dodgers love their Cubans. That could be in reference to cigars, but it’s definitely in reference to baseball players.

Since the Guggenheim Group took over, the Dodgers have signed Yasiel Puig (7 years, $42 million), Alex Guerrero (4 years, $28 million) and Erisbel Arruebarrena (5 years, $25 million). Now, another Puig-like Cuban is set to hit the market, but his situation is a bit different.

Yoan Moncada is a shortstop — well, at least a shortstop in Cuba (like Guerrero was). He’s 19 years old and is in the United States. Kiley McDaniel of FanGraphs has been on Moncada a lot this offseason and has a ton of great information on him.

“Moncada is 19 and packs a lot of tools into his 6’1/210 frame. He’s a plus-plus runner with above average raw power from both sides of the plate and the tools/skills to stick in the infield, possibly at shortstop. Moncada is the quick-twitch type with big bat speed that clubs covet and his track record of hitting at big tournaments and in Cuba’s professional leagues is excellent considering his age.”

Baseball America’s international guru Ben Badler has also been on Moncada, dating back to August.

“How good is Moncada? He has more upside than Cuban outfielder Rusney Castillo, who just reached a $72.5 million deal with the Red Sox. He’s better than Cuban outfielder Yasmany Tomas, who’s in the Dominican Republic but is still likely several months away from free agency. If Moncada were eligible for the 2015 draft, he would be in the mix to be the No. 1 overall pick. (Yulieski) Gourriel and (Alfredo) Despaigne would be safer bets, but there’s no player in Cuba with Moncada’s combination of youth, tools and hitting ability.”

Moncada has all the makings of a superstar, and to say he’d be the No. 1 overall pick in the 2015 MLB Draft is really saying something. Tomas just signed for $68.5 million with the Diamondbacks last week, and Moncada figures to top that (and Castillo’s $72.5 million) — kinda.

Cuban players who are 23 or older and have spent five or more years in the professional leagues down there are exempt from MLB’s international signing pool, hence the reason Jose Abreu got $68 million last winter from the White Sox. Moncada doesn’t meet either requirement, so any team signing him would be subject to penalties. The only teams that cannot sign him are the Cubs and Rangers, because they went over their bonus allotments last year.

Here’s a primer
The international signing period, known as the July 2 period, is the time when teams can sign international prospects not subject to the MLB Draft. Like the draft, there are signing restrictions. There are bonus allotments teams cannot exceed without penalties.

The period runs from July 2 through June 15. The Dodgers have $1,963,800 to spend on bonuses for international prospects. They can acquire more slot money in trades, as they did last year in trades with the Cubs and Marlins. But they cannot acquire more than 50 percent of their original bonus allotment, or $981,900. There probably isn’t that much extra bonus space available in trade anyway. They were able to land $406,700 last year.

Here’s how it works, via the Collective Bargaining Agreement.

Overage (percentage) Penalty (taxed amount)
0-4.99 75 percent tax ($73,641.75)
5-9.99 75 percent tax ($147,284.25)
One bonus of more than $500,000
10-14.99 100 percent tax ($294,569)
No bonuses more than $500,000
15-plus 100 percent tax ($294,570+)
No bonuses more than $250,000

And here’s where the Dodgers stand at present.

Player Bonus
Romer Cuadrado $750,000
Felix Osorio $205,000
Keivert Ruiz $140,000
Johan Calderon $130,000
Jefry Souffront $60,000
Leonardo Crawford $47,500
Eric Meza unknown
Federico Giordani unknown
Yadir Drake unknown (won’t count)
Frank Sanchez unknown
Edwin Reyes unknown
Jerson Dometilia unknown
Total $1,332,500 (of $1,963,800)

The last three signees probably won’t get enough to count against the pool, and Drake doesn’t fall under the restriction due to age.

The Dodgers have already spent 67.8 percent of their bonus pool allotment. They can acquire more, but the amount couldn’t be applied to these deals. It’s only for future deals. They can go $97,993 over their allotted bonus pool without suffering any consequences (other than taxes). If so, then they have about $729,293 left to spend on July 2 prospects.

If the Dodgers go all-in on Moncada, none of this matters. They’d be penalized for the next two years (not be allowed to sign a prospect for more than $300,000) and would basically have to pay double the amount of the bonus they give to Moncada. For example, if they give him $40 million, they’d have to pay a 100 percent penalty, minus the $700,000-plus they have remaining to sign prospects.

It doesn’t seem like a great move, but things on the international front are going to change — and soon. There will be an international draft (so dumb), so current bonus pools would have zero impact on whatever the new pool(s) would be. There’s no way MLB could impose restrictions from a past system into the new system. The Collective Bargaining is set to expire on Dec. 1, 2016, and the international draft is all but a sure thing for 2017 or 2018. If the Dodgers blowout the rest of their budget this year, they’d only be impacted by the penalty for two years. It isn’t that big a deal if you land a prize such as Moncada.

Having said all that, Moncada — who has not yet been cleared by the Office of Foreign Assets Control — could very well wait until July 2 to sign, so every team would be in play. I don’t think that’s too likely because he won’t get to play organized ball anywhere in the states and could be rusty. Then again, Puig and Castillo had significant time off before signing their deals, so that might not matter as much.

Here’s a video of some Moncada highlights. Not the best quality, but it was the best I could find.

Moncada is a switch-hitter (better from the left side) with potentially plus-power and a plus-hit tool. He also has other potential plus-tools. From Badler:

“He showed his plus speed by running the 60-yard dash in around 6.6 seconds, and he took groundballs at shortstop, second and third base. In Cuba’s 18U national league in 2012, Moncada played shortstop, though that’s mostly because he was the best athlete on the field. At junior national tournaments, Moncada has played third and second, and he’s been primarily a second baseman for Cienfuegos during his two seasons in Serie Nacional.

Scouts said Moncada looked uncomfortable at shortstop, which they expected, but looked more natural at third and second, the positions he’s most likely to play in pro ball, although he has plenty of speed to go to the outfield if a team sees him as a fit there. He has at least a plus arm, with some scouts giving it a 70 grade.”

And this is from Jonathan Mayo of MLB.com.

“Different sources had Moncada timed differently in the 60-yard dash, though he ran somewhere in the 6.56- to 6.6-second range. That gives him a 70 for his speed on the 20-to-80 scouting scale, or close to the top of the scale. Moncada reportedly looked better at third and second than he did at shortstop, with enough arm from any infield position. He swung the bat well from both sides of the plate, showing plus raw power both ways. The only negative was that Moncada didn’t face live pitching, hitting only off of a BP pitcher. When asked to grade out his tools based on this workout, in combination with previous reports, one scout gave the following grades:

Hit — 60
Power — 60
Speed — 70
Arm — 60
Field — 50″

From everything I’ve read and heard, he isn’t a shortstop. If he had these tools and could handle shortstop, he’d get even more money than he’s going to get. If it were up to me, I’d sign him as a third baseman and hope he can stick. His plus-arm would be somewhat wasted at second base. Some have also said he could play center- or right field, where his arm would fit quite nicely.

In the end, Moncada is going to get $40-50 million over a number of years (at least six, possibly eight or nine). He’ll have to begin his professional career in the minors, but he won’t need but 12-18 months there. I haven’t heard the Dodgers in on him, and it’s entirely possible they aren’t. But, if it comes down to money, no team (except maybe the Yankees) could top the Dodgers. Realistically, Andrew Friedman and Farhan Zaidi will have to consult with the international scouting staff to see if Moncada is worth it. I think he is, but I’m not putting my talent-evaluation abilities up to be judged with this kind of move.

About Dustin Nosler

Dustin Nosler
Dustin Nosler began writing about the Dodgers in July 2009 at his blog, Feelin' Kinda Blue. He co-hosts a weekly podcast with Jared Massey called Dugout Blues. He is a contributor/editor at The Hardball Times. He graduated from California State University, Sacramento, with his bachelor’s degree in journalism and a minor in digital media. While at CSUS, he worked for the student-run newspaper The State Hornet for three years, culminating with a 1-year term as editor-in-chief. He resides in Stockton, Calif.