Since the Reader Top 30 is now wrapping up, I figured I should start to write a bit more. As I mentioned when announcing I was coming back, one thing I’d like to do is write a weekly post, maybe on a Sunday, with various thoughts and notes. This week’s piece will cover Cuban phenom Yoan Moncada, initial comments on the draft, and thoughts on Keith Law’s prospect list.
First, Yoan Moncada. If you’ve been following the saga closely, Moncada is caught up in some sort of governmental red tape, and MLB is currently trying to sort out how to handle things. You should read Kylie McDaniel’s write-up on Moncada here, he has lots of information. He’s basically similar to Yasiel Puig in terms of his offensive profile, with more upside, and he will likely play either 2B, 3B or CF instead of RF, which adds to his value. Unlike most of the recent Cuban imports, he is covered by MLB’s international signing rules, meaning he counts against the international signing allotment money. That means that any team that goes over their cap has to pay a 100% tax on the overage and is then prohibited from signing any player over $300,000 for the next 2 years.
There are a couple of things to consider when assessing whether it makes sense for the Phillies to try and sign Moncada. First, they have the money, which I outlined here. Second, they have an obvious need for young talent. Moncada doesn’t turn 20 until the end of May. Third, there are rumors of an international draft coming, so if the Phillies were to be penalized and restricted from signing guys for more than $300k, it may only matter for next year’s signing period. Fourth, the Phillies are not known for disobeying guidelines (the bonus allotments) set up by MLB.
From a strategic perspective, if the Phillies sign Moncada, it obviously limits what they can do next year and possibly the year after if there is no international draft. On one hand, Moncada is more of a sure thing, as much as a 19 year old can be, than all of the 16 year olds that will be signed out of Latin America. He’s a premium athlete with at least some experience against decent competition. On the other hand, he is reportedly going to get between $30-40m. That means a tax of $30-40m, which means that the Phillies will have invested close to $80m in a 19 year old from Cuba, without considering the money he will make pre-free agency. If he develops as people expect, he’ll be worth that money. But that is a big if, given what can go wrong from the time a player is 19 till he reaches his peak at 24/25.
If the Phillies do sign Moncada, they have to approach future signings differently for 2016 and possibly 2017. Given that the MLB team is going to probably be bad the next few years, the Phillies will have one of the highest bonus allocations, even though they can only spend $300k max per player. That means they can sign more players in that range (an area where they’ve actually had some success) or they can trade one of their slots in a trade for another player. So it isn’t like they will be completely shut out of the Latin American market.
Given all of that, and the risk of signing 16 year olds from Latin America, I’d obviously love to see the Phillies go after Moncada, but I’d put the likelihood of that at about 10%. He appears bound for the Yankees or Red Sox, which should surprise no one.
Moving on to the 2015 draft. The Phillies are set to pick 10th, which should again mean a borderline elite prospect to add to the system. Its way too early to ponder who will be available at 10 and who the Phillies should take. Given the lack of depth overall in the system, the Phillies should rightly take the best player available, regardless of position, with the possible exception of a shortstop. Brady Aiken, fresh off of getting jerked around by the Astros, is a decent bet to go #1 overall again. I like the looks of Mike Matuella, a RHP from Duke, but I’d bet on him going in the top 5, so I won’t get too involved there. Dansby Swanson, a middle infielder from Vanderbilt, looks very solid and is being projected in the Top 10 right now. Mike Cameron’s son (wow) Daz is also a top 10 prospect as a prep outfielder with great tools. Finally, Phil Bickford, who was taken in the first round in 2013 but didn’t sign. After a rough freshman year, his stuff improved over the summer and he’s transferred to a JuCo so he can re-enter the draft this year. As I said, its too early right now to figure out where guys are lining up, but we’ll re-evaluate as we get closer to the draft.
Keith Law released his Top 100 and team Top 10s last week. He ranked JP Crawford #7 overall and Aaron Nola #57 overall. He’s been a big fan of Crawford from day 1, and he’s all in here. He also notes that Nola is MLB ready. My thought on Nola is that he should probably spend the first few weeks in the minors to start the season, which will delay his free agency by a year. I haven’t looked at the MLB schedule, but teams normally do not need a 5th starter until the 2nd or 3rd week of the season. The Phillies have lots of fringe candidates for the rotation, so there is no need to rush Nola. That said, if he outpitches the other options this spring, there is no real reason for him to waste time in AAA. He was the most advanced pitcher in the 2014 draft, and he’s likely only going to put the finishing touches on his game by facing the best of the best in the majors. If he’s healthy and shows he’s ready this spring, he should be in the rotation by May 1st. Crawford should hopefully start in AA, and if his 2015 looks like his 2014, he’ll force his way to AAA.
That’s all for this week. Until the next one…