Video: Actual game footage of Yoan Moncada

According to representative David Hastings, Cuban wunderkind Yoan Moncada could sign with a team within the next week or so. The Yankees have had the 19-year-old Moncada in for a private workout and speculation is he could receive a bonus upwards of $40M, which would be taxed at 100% due to the international spending rules. By all accounts, Moncada is a budding superstar.

Until now, the only real footage we’ve seen of Moncada is short highlight clips and token workout shots, which look great but only tell us so much. Thankfully, Ted Berg recently stumbled across some actual game footage of Moncada against Team USA during the 18U World Championship in Taiwan in September 2013. The video is embedded above. Ben Badler has some details:

In Moncada’s first at-bat, he shows off his speed with an infield single from the right side of the plate against against lefthander Justus Sheffield, who was a first-round pick (No. 31 overall) of the Indians in 2014. Moncada flipped around to bat lefthanded the rest of the game. After an intentional walk, Moncada lined an opposite-field single against righthander Jacob Nix, the Astros’ 2014 fifth-rounder who agreed to terms but never signed in the debacle involving Brady Aiken. Nix erased Moncada in their next matchup, getting Moncada to chase a 1-2 fastball above the strike zone for a swinging strikeout. In his final plate appearance, Moncada shows off his speed again with a bunt single down the third-base line against righthander Luis Ortiz, the Rangers’ 2014 first-round pick.

Keith Law (subs. req’d) recently saw Nix and said he has a “good chance to go in the back of the first round” this summer, so the video shows Moncada against three first round talents. That’s pretty good. Better than the short, grainy clips we usually have to settle for with Cuban players.

Moncada hit .375/.483/.542 in 29 plate appearances during the 2013 tournament according to Badler. Here’s more video of him facing Colombia (1-for-2 with a double and two walks) and Taiwan (1-for-4 with an infield single). Moncada definitely looks the part of a future star. Those are four (well, three) quality at-bats against three premium arms from his age group and physically, he looks like he was chiseled out of marble. Moncada looks like he was put on this Earth to play baseball.

Agent confirms Yoan Moncada hoping to sign “around the 23rd of this month”

We need to talk about that shirt, Yoan. (MLB.com)
We need to talk about that shirt, Yoan. (MLB.com)

Cuban infielder Yoan Moncada has officially been a free agent for about a week now, and it appears he is relatively close to making a decision. David Hastings, Moncada’s representative, told Jayson Stark and Dylan Hernandez his client hopes to pick a new team by February 23rd, ten days from today.

“I’m hoping, certainly, that by the end of next week, we’ll have a much clearer picture of where he will sign,” said Hastings to Hernandez. “I’m kind of hoping we’re at the final end of the process. I hope I will be able to get Yoan into a team’s Spring Training practice as soon as possible.”

The Yankees were one of several teams to have Moncada in for a private workout, and Hastings confirmed several clubs have requested “look-backs,” or a second private workout. Those “look-backs” are scheduled for next week and it’s unclear which teams asked for the second look. Maybe the Yankees, maybe not. We don’t know.

“If a team is going to put this much money on the table, I can’t imagine they can see the kid one time and say, ‘He’s worth millions of dollars.’ So they might want to come back and take a look at a second little aspect [of his game],” said Hastings to Stark. “I don’t have any more plans [for workouts] after next week. I’m looking at around the 23rd of this month to have all the input we need to make a decision on where he’ll start — and hopefully end — his professional career.

“I’ve had to become his nutritionist, his [medical adviser], his baseball trainer and his legal and financial adviser,” Hastings added. “I’m not an expert in nutrition for a 19-year-old potential superstar. I want a team that has all these professionals and experts to take over and say, ‘OK, this is what we need to do with this kid.’ The sooner the better.”

Hastings said he has one offer in hand but declined to identify the team. Most expect Moncada to wind up with a bonus in the $30M to $40M range, which would smash the record ($8.27M by Yoan Lopez) for a player under the current international spending rules. Moncada’s bonus will be taxed at 100% because whichever team signs him will exceed their international bonus pool, meaning he’s a $60M to $80M investment. All up front too.

By all accounts, the 19-year-old Moncada is a potential superstar. He’s a switch-hitter with power and speed who most expect to wind up at second or third base long-term. Jim Callis put together a fun post comparing Moncada’s tools to those of the game’s top shortstop prospects and, in a nutshell, Moncada is as good as anyone. His worst tool is his fielding skill and Callis rated that as average. Everything else is above-average or better.

At this point everything we’ve seen has said Moncada was a budding star. There hasn’t even been the token “he’s overrated” quote from an anonymous scout that usually pops up when discussing top prospects. Based on that, it’s tough to believe any team will pass on Moncada for talent-related reasons. I get the sense this is going to come down to the owner most willing to stomach a massive up front payout to get the guy his baseball people love.

Passan: Yoan Moncada officially a free agent and able to sign

(Jesse Sanchez)
(Jesse Sanchez)

3:55pm: Kiley McDaniel says MLB will now accept a general license from the OFAC and a “sworn statement [from the player] that the prospect permanently resides outside of Cuba and has no intent to return to Cuba.” McDaniel also says this only applies to players who have already left Cuba, like Moncada, who now resides in Guatemala.

3:43pm: According to Jeff Passan, Cuban infielder Yoan Moncada is now officially free to sign after MLB changes its rules regarding Office of Foreign Assets Control licensing. MLB had required a “specific license” from the OFAC before a player can sign but presumably now only requires a more basic “general license.” MLB used to accept general licenses but changed their policy a few years ago.

Now that Moncada is able to sign, the Yankees are free to pursue him and can offer him any amount. Had MLB not gotten its act together before June 15th, the team would not have been able to offer him more than $300,000 due to the penalties stemming from their international spending spree last summer. Most expect Moncada to receive a bonus in the $30M to $40M range, which would be taxed at 100% no matter who signs him.

By all accounts, the 19-year-old Moncada is a potential switch-hitting star with five tools. The expectation is that he will settle in as a second or third baseman when it’s all said and done, but I expect whoever signs him to at least keep him at shortstop for a little while to see if he improves. The Yankees are considered one of the “heavy favorites” to sign Moncada and have already had him in for a private workout at their complex in Tampa.

I’m guessing Moncada will have a deal in place before Spring Training. He wants to get paid and start his career, not sit around even longer than he already has. Now that MLB stopped dragging its feet, Moncada can begin negotiating with teams in earnest and get the process started. Since we’re talking about a $60M to $80M up front payment (bonus plus tax), the Yankees should have an advantage over smaller market teams. We’ll see.

Passan: Yoan Moncada could be cleared to sign within two weeks

(ObstructedView.net)
(ObstructedView.net)

Free agent Cuban infielder Yoan Moncada has not yet been cleared to sign by the Office of Foreign Assets Control, but there is growing hope he will be allowed to sign within two weeks, reports Jeff Passan. Moncada has already established residency in Guatemala and has been declared a free agent by MLB. Once he gets OFAC clearance, he can officially sign a contract.

However, as Ben Badler and Jesse Sanchez report, MLB currently requires Cuban players to receive a “specific license” before signing, not a “general license.” The league has accepted general licenses in the past — Yasiel Puig signed using a general license — but they changed their policy within the last few years. According to Badler and Sanchez, Moncada already meets the requirements for a general license. If he has to wait for a specific license, forget about the two weeks thing.

Earlier this week, MLB sent each team a memo stating their policies remain the same. They still require players to receive a specific license, though they are working to OFAC to clarify whether a general license is sufficient. Here’s the memo, courtesy of Sanchez:

“MLB is aware that the Cuban Assets Control Regulations published by the U.S. Treasury on January 16, 2015, may affect the unblocking process for Cuban Players,” Major League Baseball said in a statement earlier in the day. “MLB has important questions regarding how the new regulations apply to the unique circumstances of Cuban Players based on our significant experience in this area, and our discussions with OFAC in prior years. MLB is committed to following the laws of the United States, and will not change its policy requiring that Cuban Players receive a specific OFAC unblocking license until it confirms with all relevant branches of our government, including OFAC, that any new approach is consistent with the law. We hope to receive clarity on this issue as quickly as possible.”

So anyway, this is a bunch of bureaucratic nonsense. MLB decided they wanted players to have the specific license a few years ago even though the OFAC’s policies say it isn’t necessary. Moncada doesn’t have the general license just yet but he does meet the requirements, so he could receive it at any moment. Hence the two weeks thing. But, since MLB wants the specific license, he may have to wait longer.

As far as the Yankees are concerned, the deadline for Moncada to be unblocked by the OFAC — in a way that satisfies MLB — is June 15th. (It really is sometime before that because the two sides need time to negotiate.) Because the Yankees exceeded their spending pool for the 2014-15 international signing period, they can’t sign a player for more than $300,000 during the 2015-16 and 2016-17 signing periods. If Moncada signs before June 15th, he’ll count towards the 2014-15 signing period and they can sign him for whatever they want. If not, he’ll count towards 2015-16 and $300,000 ain’t getting it done.

The expectation is that Moncada will receive a $30M to $40M bonus, which would smash the record for a player bound by the new international spending rules (Yoan Lopez, $8.25M). His bonus will be taxed at 100% no matter which team signs him because they will exceed their pool, so he’s a $60M to $80M investment. Moncada will be like any other young international amateur signing — he gets his bonus up front, then goes into the farm system as a non-40-man roster player. Once he reaches MLB, he’ll go through three pre-arbitration years and three arbitration years like everyone else.

By all accounts, the 19-year-old Moncada is a budding star, a switch-hitter with power and speed and high-end athleticism. The Yankees had him in for a private workout at some point recently, as did the Red Sox, Dodgers, Padres, Giants, Rangers and Brewers, according to Sanchez. The Rays, Cubs, Phillies, and Cardinals also have interest in Moncada, though it’s worth noting the Cubs exceeded their spending pool last year and would need Moncada to wait until after July 2nd — the start of the 2015-16 signing period — to sign him.

The Yankees are considered the “heavy favorites” to sign Moncada even though they haven’t signed a big name Cuban player since Jose Contreras. Moncada’s talent is obvious — assuming the scouting reports are accurate, of course — and since he’s still only 19, he’s a potential franchise cornerstone type of player. And there’s also plenty of time for his development to veer off course as well. That’s the reality of the situation. At this point, I’m just ready for this whole thing to be over. I have Moncada (and Cuban player in general) fatigue.

Badler: Yankees held private workout for Yoan Moncada

(Bay Area Sports Guy)
(Bay Area Sports Guy)

According to Ben Balder, the Yankees recently held a private workout for free agent Cuban infielder Yoan Moncada. It’s unclear when the workout was held, but it has already happened. Moncada is in the process of showcasing himself for teams and Badler says he’s already had a private workout for the Giants as well.

Moncada, 19, is the latest prized free agent to come out of Cuba, and all reports indicate he is a potential star with five-tool ability. The Yankees have brought several other Cuban players in for private workouts, including Rusney Castillo and Aledmys Diaz last year, so this isn’t unusual at all. Getting an up close look at the player is pretty standard.

Badler recently wrote that, once signed, Moncada would slot in as one of the top 20 prospects in all of baseball with a good chance of being considered a top 15 or even top ten prospect. Here’s more on the situation from Badler:

From conversations with several industry sources, the Yankees are one of the frontrunners to sign Moncada, who has residency in Guatemala and is a free agent, though Major League Baseball won’t let him sign until he receives a specific unblocking license from the Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC). While the young Latin American talent in the organization is promising, the Yankees are light on young, impact position players. Moncada, a 19-year-old switch-hitter who would likely slot it at second or third base, would immediately change that, and slot in as the Yankees’ top prospect if he ended up signing with them.

Since the Yankees blew their international spending pool out of the water last summer, they will not be able to sign a player for more than $300,000 during the 2015-16 and 2016-17 signing periods. That won’t be enough to sign Moncada, who is expected to command a $30M to $40M bonus. (Whichever team signs him would then be taxed 100% for exceeding their pool).

For the Yankees to have a shot at landing Moncada, he needs to be unblocked by the OFAC before the end of the current signing period of June 15th. Actually, he needs to sign by that date, so he needs to be unblocked well before that so the two sides have time to negotiate. MLB has already declared Moncada a free agent, so they’ve done their part. This is all out of the Yankees’ hands. They’re waiting on the government to give him the okay.

The hype around these Cuban players has gotten out of control these last few years, though, by all accounts, Moncada is a future cornerstone player along the lines of Yasiel Puig and Jose Abreu, not a complementary player (Yoenis Cespedes or Alexei Ramirez) or worse (Dayan Viciedo). Given his age and potential, the Yankees should clearly be serious about signing him. It’s just a question of whether he’ll be cleared by the OFAC in time.

Cuban Free Agent Notes: Moncada, Lopez, Olivera

Got some updates to pass along on three Cuban free agents the Yankees are said to be pursuing. Maybe they’ll actually sign one of these guys. Could be cool.

Yankees are “heavy favorites” for Yoan Moncada

According to Kiley McDaniel, the Yankees and Red Sox are currently the “heavy favorites” for 19-year-old infielder Yoan Moncada. That’s consistent with everything we’ve heard the last few weeks and months. Moncada has been declared a free agent by MLB but Jesse Sanchez says he still hasn’t been unblocked by the Office of Foreign Assets Control, so he can’t sign yet. Private workouts are coming later this month.

In order for the Yankees to have a shot at signing Moncada, he needs to be unblocked by the OFAC before the end of the current international signing period on June 15th. (Really well before that so they have to time to negotiate.) As a result of their massive international spending spree last summer, the Yankees won’t be able to sign a player for more than $300,000 during the 2015-16 and 2016-17 signing periods, and that simply won’t be enough to get Moncada. He’s expected to receive a $30M to $40M bonus, which will be taxed at 100% no matter which teams signs him.

Also, make sure you check out the video embedded at the top of post. It’s a part of a recent documentary about baseball in Cuba called El Trogon. The clip above is video of Moncada with Ben Badler providing commentary about his skills and all that sort of stuff. It’s basically a video scouting report. Make sure you check it out. By all accounts, Moncada is a budding star.

Yoan Lopez now able to sign, Yankees interested

Right-hander Yoan Lopez is now free to sign after being unblocked by the OFAC and declared a free agent by MLB, according to Sanchez. The 21-year-old is expected to sign before Spring Training and the Yankees are one of several teams to “express strong interest” in Lopez. Here’s a scouting report from Sanchez:

Lopez throws a cut fastball, a change, a curve and a slider, but he is best known for a fastball that has reached 100 mph and usually hovers in the 93-95 mph range. In Cuba, Lopez played three seasons for Isla de la Juventud in Serie Nacional, the island’s top league. He sported a 3.12 ERA with 28 strikeouts and 11 walks in 49 innings in his final season before defecting.

Because of his age, Lopez will be subject to the international spending restrictions, meaning the Yankees can sign him for any amount prior to June 15th. After that, they can only offer $300,000. I’m guessing that won’t get it done. That doesn’t figure to be a problem since Lopez seems likely to sign within the next few weeks.

Lopez held a showcase for teams in November and has participated in private workouts the last few weeks. The consensus seems to be that he is not quite MLB ready and will need at least some time in the minors, so Lopez isn’t someone who can step in and help New York’s shaky rotation right away. That doesn’t mean he isn’t worth signing, of course. Sign all the Yoans!

First showcases scheduled for Hector Olivera

Third baseman Hector Olivera will hold his first showcase for teams later this month, at the Giants’ academy in the Dominican Republic on January 21st and 22nd, according to Badler. Olivera has established residency in Haiti but has not been unblocked by the OFAC or declared a free agent by MLB. Since he will turn 30 in April, he is not subject to the international spending rules.

The Yankees are among the teams connected to Olivera, though that was reported before they re-signed Stephen Drew. There isn’t a spot on the roster for another infielder now, and I doubt Olivera is looking to go to Triple-A. The Yankees should be focusing on the 19-year-old Moncada and the 21-year-old Lopez. Olivera is expected to be a solid player, not a star, and at his age he’s simply a lower priority for New York.

Badler: Yanks among teams connected to Cuban infielder Hector Olivera

(Kevork Djansezian/Getty)
(Kevork Djansezian/Getty)

As the baseball world waits for Yoan Moncada to become eligible to sign — Jesse Sanchez says Moncada has yet to receive clearance from the Office of Foreign Assets Control but will start private workouts soon — another free agent Cuban infielder has emerged, Hector Olivera. And, according to Ben Badler (no subs. req’d), the Yankees are one of three teams most connected to Olivera, along with the Padres and Athletics.

Olivera, who will turn 30 in April, is “right up there with Yasiel Puig as one of the most fascinating players to ever leave the island, a mixture of premium talent, performance, health issues, a lack of recent looks and age,” according to Badler. Badler also says Olivera is a better MLB prospect than Yasmany Tomas despite being nearly five years older. Here’s a scouting report:

At around 6-foot-2, 220 pounds, Olivera is a physical righthanded hitter with a loose, quick swing and a good hitting approach. He showed good power for a middle infielder, and given that several Cuban players have transformed their bodies and increased their power since leaving the island, it wouldn’t be a surprise if Olivera did the same. His size, athleticism and plus speed (at least at his peak) made him one of the most well-rounded players in Cuba.

Olivera, who is a second baseman by trade but can also play third, flat out raked in Cuba, hitting .335/~.426/.567 with an average of with 23 doubles, 15 homeruns, 49 walks, and 25 strikeouts per season from 2008-12. (They play 90-game seasons in Cuba). That’s better than what Tomas hit in Cuba, not as good as what Jose Abreu hit in Cuba, and on par with what Puig and Yoenis Cespedes hit in Cuba.

Now, here’s the catch: scouts haven’t seen Olivera play all that much recently. A blood disorder — Badler says it was reported as “thrombosis in his left biceps” — caused him to miss the entire 2012-13 season, and Olivera hasn’t played in any international tournaments either. He has not yet held a showcase for scouts but is expected to do so eventually.

Olivera is not close to being able to sign yet — he has yet to establish residency, and then must be unblocked by the OFAC and declared a free agent by MLB. It seems unlikely all of that will happen before Opening Day. It’s unclear how much it will cost to sign him, though it figures to be less than the six-year, $68.5M deal the Diamondbacks gave Tomas because Olivera is older and hasn’t played much recently.

Badler notes Yankees international scouting director Donny Rowland has been around forever, so he’s seen Olivera play in his prime, but that’s not necessarily the Olivera they’d be signing at this point. They’re getting the guy who turns 30 in a few months and hasn’t faced high-caliber competition in a while. His eventual showcases will be important.

The Yankees are still considered a favorite to sign Moncada according to Badler, and Moncada is the much more desirable target as the 19-year-old potential star. That said, if they lose out on Moncada for whatever reason — he has to be cleared by the OFAC before June 15th, otherwise the Yankees can’t offer him more than $300,000 because of this summer’s international spending spree, and $300,000 won’t get it done — Olivera could be an alternative.