Yoán Manuel Moncada Olivera
- Bats Both, Throws Right
- Height 6' 2", Weight 205 lb.
Infielder Yoán Moncada was one of the top young players in Cuba when he defected in 2014. At that time, he had already played two seasons in the Cuban Serie Nacional, the island's top baseball league, lining up with Cienfuegos at ages 17 and 18 in 2012-13 and 2013-14. He played regularly both years, against much older competition, hitting .283/.414/.348 (13 SB, 5 CS) and .273/.365/.406. He was part of the Cuban junior national team that played in the 2011 World Youth Championship in Lagos de Moreno, Jalisco, Mexico and the 2013 World Junior Championship held in Taichung, Taiwan. He made the tournament All-Star team at third base in the first competition after hitting .500/.643/.800 with 9 runs scored as Cuba finished in second place. In the latter event, he batted .375/.483/.582 and led Cuba in average, OBP and slugging. He was 0 for 2 with two walks for Cuba in the 2013 World Port Tournament.
Contrary to other recent defectors, Moncada's departure did not involve a daring night-time escape; he in fact received permission from authorities to get out in order to seek professional opportunities elsewhere, a sign that the long-time state policy of "locking up" promising players on the island was beginning to erode. Given his impressive accomplishments at a very young age, he was much sought-after after he defected, and on February 23, 2015, the Boston Red Sox secured his services by out-bidding several other major league teams who saw him work out in Guatemala, offering a signing bonus of $31.5 million. The Red Sox, who were already over their allotted international bonus pool allotment, incurred a 100% penalty on the bonus money offered, but they felt that it was worth it because Moncada was a truly exceptional talent.
Moncada began his professional career in 2015 with the Greenville Drive of the South Atlantic League. In 81 games as the team's primary second baseman, he hit .278/.380/.438, with 19 doubles and 8 homers, 61 runs scored and 38 RBIs. He also stole 49 bases while being caught only 3 times. He was rated the Red Sox's number 1 prospect by mlb.com and voted the organization's Minor League Player of the Year. He led Red Sox farmhands in swipes (10 over Manuel Margot) and was 3rd in the SAL (behind Jorge Mateo and Johneshaw Fargas). He also got better as the season progressed and as he adjusted to a new life in the United States, making the organization optimistic that while already a solid player, he was only beginning to tap his true potential. Another sign of how highly regarded he was at that early point, he was featured on the cover of Baseball America that October. The publication ranked him as the SAL's top prospect that year.
Moncada was named to the World team in the 2016 Futures Game and ended up winning the Larry Doby Award as the game's MVP. He made a nice play to throw out Andrew Benintendi in the 3rd, singled and stole second in the 4th, moving to third on an errant throw by C Chance Sisco, then in the 8th hit a two-run homer off Anthony Banda to put the World team ahead, 4-3; they would end up 11-3 winners after a seven-run 9th inning. As soon as rosters expanded on September 1, 2016, the Red Sox announced that he was being called up to Boston to give the team a hand during the stretch run. He was hitting .255 with 11 homers in 45 games for the AA Portland Sea Dogs after starting the year with the Salem Red Sox of the Carolina League, where he had hit .307 in 62 games. Between the two stops, his batting line was .294/.407/.511 in 106 games, with 31 doubles, 6 triples, 15 homers, 94 runs scored and 62 RBIs. That performance led to his being named the Baseball America Minor League Player of the Year for 2016. He made his debut with the Red Sox on September 2nd, coming into the game as a substitute and going 0 for 1 with a walk, a run and a strikeout in a 16-2 win over the Oakland Athletics. He played 8 games, going 4 for 19 (.211) with 3 runs and 1 RBI. He struck out in his final 9 plate appearances of the year, one shy of the all-time record for a position player, held by Rick Ankiel.
It appeared that Moncada was on course to be the Red Sox's starting third baseman in 2017, especially after Boston traded away the incumbent at the position, Travis Shaw, early on December 6th, but later that day, he was traded as well, being the central element in a package of four prospects that landed ace pitcher Chris Sale from the Chicago White Sox. Accompanying Yoan to the Windy City were Luis Alexander Basabe, Victor Diaz and Michael Kopech. He was assigned to the Charlotte Knights where in 80 games, he hit .282 with 12 homers and 36 RBIs and returned to the Futures Game in 2017, again as part of the Word team. On July 18th, the White Sox traded starting 3B Todd Frazier to the New York Yankees and Yoán was immediately called up to take his place, making his debut on July 19th. He went 0 for 2 with a walk in his first game, a 9-1 loss to the Los Angeles Dodgers. He hit his first big league homer on July 26th, a solo shot off Jake Arrieta of the Chicago Cubs, but on July 31st, he collided in the outfield with fellow rookie Willy Garcia, his knee banging hard on his teammate's head as both were trying to catch a ball in shallow right field. He had to be carted off the field. He only missed a couple of games, though, and was back starting at second base on August 3rd. On August 25th, however, he was placed on the disabled list with a bone contusion on his right shin. He was hitting .188 with 3 homers and 11 RBIs in 30 games. He returned to action on September 5th. On September 14th, he had a spectacular game as he scored five times from four hits - including a homer - and two walks in a 17-7 win over the Detroit Tigers. He had a chance to reach base seven times, but struck out in the 9th inning. He finished the year at .231 in 54 games, with 8 homers and 22 RBIs.
In 2018, he was the regular second baseman all season, but had a disappointing season, as he hit just .237 in 139 games and led the American League with 217 strikeouts. He did show decent power, though, with 32 doubles, 6 triples and 17 homers, although, proportionally, this was similar than what he had hit the previous year. He scored 73 runs and drove in 61, and his OPS+ was 93 after reaching 103 as a rookie. As a result, he was dismissed as a bit of a bust as heading into 2019, reporters focused on the next big things about to join the White Sox, namely OFs Eloy Jimenez and Luis Robert. Jimenez had a great rookie season and Robert was the Minor League Player of the Year, but Moncada also had a breakout season after moving to a less demanding defensive position, third base. In 132 games, he batted .315 with 34 doubles, 5 triples and 25 homers, scored 83 runs and drove in 79, and cut his strikeouts to 154. The only negative was a drop in his walk rate, but his OBP was still an excellent .367, and his OPS+ a sparkling 141. He was finally the player that his minor league results had promised he would be - it had just taken him a couple of seasons to reach his potential.
On March 5, 2020, the White Sox signed him to a contract extension for five years and $70 million, with an option for a sixth year. That deal followed on the heels of those signed by Jimenez and Robert earlier that off-season, as the White Sox were consolidating the core of what they hoped would be their next championship team. But only a week later, the season was put on hold by the Coronavirus pandemic, and by the time training camp resumed on July 1st, Yoán was missing in action, having tested positive for the virus prior to rejoining the team one of a number of such positive tests around MLB. He had to wait things out at home before he was cleared to make it to Chicago on July 16th, after two consecutive negative tests. But with the season opener only a week away, it was not clear if he would be ready to go at that point, given the extended time he had missed.
Moncada is a big music fan, trying his hand at both signing and composing as a hobby. One of his efforts was noticed by Cuban singer Lenier through social, and he helped Yoán put together his first record. The song "Desastre Personal", featuring Moncada, Lenier and another Latin star, El Chacal, was released as a single in February 2021, accompanied by a music video.
- 2016 Baseball America Minor League Player of the Year, Salem Red Sox, Carolina League and Portland Sea Dogs Eastern League
- 20-Home Run Seasons: 1 (2019)
- Ian Browne: "Moncada on rise, won't stop working to improve: Red Sox's top prospect excelled in '15 at Class A", mlb.com, January 21, 2016. 
- Jonathan Mayo: "Cuban phenom Moncada impressive in workout: 19-year-old infielder on display in Guatemala, showing five-tool skills", mlb.com, November 12, 2014. 
- Scott Merkin: "Moncada ignores hype, focuses on Sox roster", mlb.com, February 18, 2017. 
- Scott Merkin: "Moncada expecting even more next season: 22-year-old hopes to build on White Sox debut as he prepares for first full season in Majors", mlb.com, November 7, 2017. 
- Scott Merkin: "Yoan seeking to regain comfort, aggressiveness", mlb.com, August 8, 2018. 
- Scott Merkin: "Moncada back in camp after COVID recovery", mlb.com, July 16, 2020. 
- Jose L. Ortiz: "Red Sox top prospect Yoan Moncada 'surprised' with promotion", USA Today Sports, September 3, 2016.