Low-A Greenville: Yoan Moncada, 2B
The day you've been waiting for since he signed a record international free agent contract has arrived: Yoan Moncada will make his professional debut on Monday as part of the Low-A Greenville Drive. The 19-year-old Cuban has spent his 2015 in extended spring training, getting comfortable with the routine of playing baseball once again -- Moncada last played regularly during the 2013 season in Serie Nacional -- but now he'll get his first taste of full-season ball. How long will he be at Low-A? That likely depends on Moncada.
If he absolutely obliterates the competition, then High-A could be in his 2015 future, but then the Sox have to figure out what to do with their second baseman there, Wendell Rijo. Rijo isn't a prospect the caliber of Moncada, but he's also just 19 and promising, and needs the work in the field. There could always be something of a time share at the keystone, with the other at designated hitter the rest of the time, but it's unknown if the Sox want to bother putting Moncada through those kinds of experiences after they just kept him in extended spring training for so long for purposes of getting him comfortable.
Of course, Moncada would have to hit well enough to get promoted for this to be a concern, and since he hasn't even had an at-bat yet, we can wait on arguing about the merits of the when and where of his next promotion. It's believed he should be big-league ready within a couple of years, but that doesn't mean he'll mash right away, so let's just take things one step at a time. You know, while remaining giddy about the arrival of the prospect who is now the unquestioned best in the system with Blake Swihart in the majors,.
Triple-A Pawtucket: Garin Cecchini, 3B
Garin Cecchini's April was bad. His May has somehow been even worse. The third baseman, known for his patience and a discerning eye, doesn't seem to have either in 2015, as he's striking out 30 percent of the time and has drawn walks in just five of his 108 plate appearances. While 2014 was disappointing because Cecchini didn't hit for power in his first stint at Pawtucket, he at least managed to get on base and struck out at a rate no one would consider alarming.
Sandoval should continue as a switch-hitter
With his horrible numbers against left-handed pitching, many are suggesting that Sandoval bats exclusively from the left side. Stop doing that.
He seems lost this time around, however. Cecchini has struck out looking 13 times already this season, after doing so just 22 times in 458 plate appearances for Pawtucket a year ago -- at this rate, he'll sit down with a bat on his shoulder twice as often as he did in 2014. Has his patience morphed into passivity while he struggles to get base hits? It's certainly possible, and it's not something that's going to change by waiting around for some of those strikes to become balls.
Cecchini might need to make a crucial adjustment and begin to display aggressiveness in his approach when it makes the most sense to, or else he's going to just keep falling behind pitchers who can catch him looking.
Double-A Portland: Simon Mercedes, RHP
The most curious thing about Simon Mercedes' season is the lack of strikeouts. Here is a pitcher who was moved exclusively to the pen in order to give him a better chance at success, and instead, his blazing fastball hasn't been enough, and his strikeout-to-walk ratio has entered unsettling territory. It's unlikely it's because of the move, and probably has more to do with the fact Mercedes is facing Double-A hitters instead of High-A ones this time around. Still, fewer than six strikeouts per nine from a pitcher who doesn't have wonderful control is alarming, even if he's managed to induce grounders more than half the time in his 22 innings. You need a whole lot of grounders to make up for 1.6 times as many strikeouts as walks.
If he can figure out how to make one of his secondaries a reliable offering, Mercedes could be something, though. The fastball is good, especially if it's going to force grounders even when it isn't getting swings and misses, but it needs a complement for Mercedes to take that next step in his development. He's still just 23, so he has time, but he's also been shuffled off to the pen already, which limits his chances to refine those alternative pitches.
High-A Salem: Manuel Margot, CF
Margot hit .324/.377/.515 in April, and managed to avoid striking out at all until April 29, in his 17th game of the year. Since that first strikeout game, Margot is batting just .125 without a single extra-base hit. While he's struck out seven times in that stretch, that's only 15 percent of the time, and he's still managing to draw walks at a decent clip. He just hasn't been hitting the ball with any kind of authority or even luck: his batting average on balls in play in this stretch is .147.
This is likely just a bit of a rut, especially since it doesn't seem as if Margot is either rushing his plate appearances or being too passive lately. Maybe he's just going through a stretch of swinging at the wrong pitches, and it's cratering his line. Remember, it's not Margot's first time at the level, which on the one hand suggests he's just having a rough time over a small stretch, but also this could mean pitchers are starting to figure him out a little. Development is all about adjustments, and Margot might need to make one to his approach soon.