Dodgers Infield Setting Up For Yoan Moncada?

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Front Office who takes risks mixed with openings in the infield could equal Yoan Moncada Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Stating the obvious, it’s pretty clear that the infield next season is going to look significantly different than last years. The team is undergoing significant change at both up the middle positions with a whole new double play combination in Jimmy Rollins and Howie Kendrick. While the infield should a pretty solid unit next season, part of the reason the team dealt Matt Kemp was to be less hamstrung with contracts in the future, whether you like it or not.

The payroll this upcoming season is still going to be the highest in baseball, the infield this next year is somehow going to be significantly older than last year’s infield, and despite these happenings there is a ton of flexibility for 2016.

Look at the future commitments the team has. Gonzalez is signed until 2018, making 21 million dollars a season and is a 1b, so there wont be any turnover there anytime soon, but look at the rest of the infield. Juan Uribe is a free agent after next year, Jimmy Rollins is a free agent after next year (and will be 37 on opening day of 2016), Howie Kendrick is going to be a free agent after next year, and while Friedman has said they will pursue an extension

"Friedman went so far as to say that “I’m sure those conversations will happen at some point … assuming that things play out well.”"

Keep in mind that Kendrick is going to be 32 years old in July, is a hitter that historically does not walk at all, saw his power dip this past season all the way down to a .104 ISO (Billy Hamilton had a .105 ISO, Gerardo Parra had a .108 ISO, Jose Altuve had a .112 ISO), and who’s offensive production relies mainly on batting average. Not to mention that second baseman sorta age terribly. I’m not saying that he wont be locked up, but don’t be surprised if they collect the draft pick and move on. My point isn’t how screwed the Dodgers are for 2016 in the infield, my point is, due to how little long term commitments they have, they can afford to take a risk on a certain young international player who happens to play the 3 infield positions they have vacancies for next season.

That young international player is Cuban SS Yoan Moncada.

Maybe you’ve heard of the young phenom, who’s been compared -offensively- to Jorge Soler. Here’s an MLB article on him

"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."

A scout at his workout slapped him with the following grades on the 20-80 tool scale: Hit 60/Power  60/Speed 70/Arm 60/Field 50, which is salivating for any major league squad. Kiley McDaniel cooled down any hype that Moncada plays SS long term saying he’s more comfortable at 3b:

"scouts said he looked uncomfortable taking grounders at shortstop, though most thought before the showcase that he wouldn’t figure to play there in pro ball.  The popular opinion is to stick Moncada at third base, but some scouts said not to rule out second base just yet"

Even if Moncada isn’t immediately ready for the start of 2016, this Ben Badler tweet seems to indicate that he would be a fast mover through the system, and wouldn’t take too long to get ready for big league action.

For what it’s worth, Dustin Nosler, who profiled him here, says he’d put him at third, mostly because his plus arm would be wasted at second base, but it’s not an impossibility to see him play the keystone at the big league level if they think he can’t handle 3b, and would be more valuable in the infield.

I gotta be honest, I agree wholeheartedly with Nosler, look at the realistic 2016 third base options that are starting caliber regulars: Casey McGehee (kinda), Aramis Ramirez (if he’s not hurt or retired), David Freese (meh), and uh, Juan Uribe? Those are the options, a 32 year old McGehee who was out of the league 2 years ago, 38 year old Aramis, already awful defensive 3b David Freese, and 37 year old Uribe. To be fair, the 2nd base options are only marginally better, with the aforementioned Howie Kendrick topping the list, and a 35 year old Ben Zobrist not far behind, everything after that is a steep downgrade from those two names, so barring a trade -which is always a strong possibility with this team- it seems like the long term answer isn’t on the market or in house, so maybe the international market is the way to go.

But it all sounds too good to be true. From what’s been reported, literally every team is in the running for this special international talent, so why should we expect Andrew Friedman and Farhan Zaidi to take a huge risk on a player that might end up costing upwards of  80 million dollars (after including the overages Moncada would cost)? Well Farhan Zaidi hails from the Billy Beane school of thought which obviously emphasizes an unconventional way of taking risks.

That organization gave Michael Ynoa a record breaking (at the time) 4.25 million dollar bonus as a 16 year old amateur athlete. That organization also took a humongous risk in signing Yoenis Cespedes back in 2012 which ultimately paid off in a big way. Guess who was credited with that signing the same way Logan White is credited with signing Yasiel Puig? Farhan Zaidi. The Rays are no stranger to the international market either, this past July, under then-GM Andrew Friedman, they signed the number 1 prospect on the amateur international market to a record breaking deal for that franchise also.

So to sum it up, there is a generational type talent out on the market, that will cost a 100% tax on whichever team signs him, plus limitations on the next international signing period. This talent is a shortstop that has the ability to play Third Base and Second Base. Depending on which position Corey Seager ends up sticking at, that flexibility will be an added plus to his skillset. Mix this in with one of the richest teams in baseball ran by a front office that historically takes risks domestically and internationally, and a free agent market for third baseman and second baseman that is mostly barren.

All of these signs point to the Dodgers being significant players in the Yoan Moncada market, will they get him? I don’t know, are they going to be difficult to beat out for the services of another Cuban phenom? I think so.

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