We thought he might be in Portland by the end of the season.

But Yoan Moncada never came close. The Cuban baseball player, whom the Boston Red Sox invested $63 million in last winter, never got out of low Class A Greenville, let alone reach advanced Class A Salem or Double-A Portland.

A bust?


When Boston handed over so much money for Moncada – a $31.5 million signing bonus and a $31.5 million penalty for exceeding the bonus limit – it was impossible to temper expectations.

So it was easy to forget Moncada just turned 20 in May.

Then there’s the fact that he’s entering a different culture and baseball climate in the U.S., after not playing for over a year.

When Moncada finally suited up for Greenville on May 18 – after an extended stay in the Red Sox spring training complex – he batted .200, with a .574 OPS and one home run for the first month. He struck out 28 times and drew only eight walks.

“Yoan experienced both some rust from being away from organized baseball for a while, but also just took some time getting comfortable,” said Red Sox Director of Player Development Ben Crockett.

“He moved to a new city, was experiencing the challenges of minor league life, and integrating into our daily programs and routines.

“Once Yoan became comfortable it was quickly reflected by his play on the field.”

In the 56 games Moncada played after the All-Star break, he batted .310, with a .415 on-base percentage, a .500 slugging percentage (.915 OPS) and seven home runs. He struck out 58 times, but walked 34 times.

In that first month, the Red Sox tried to keep the pressure off Moncada, batting him low in the lineup (usually sixth). After the break, Moncada was moved to the leadoff spot. That seemed to free him up. After stealing four bases (in four attempts) the first month, Moncada was 45 of 48 the rest of the way.

Defensively, he demonstrated athleticism at second base and, after making 23 errors, a need for consistency. Boston believes that will come.

Moncada was named the South Atlantic League’s Most Outstanding Prospect (an honor previously bestowed on such players as Jason Heyward, Hunter Pence, Adrian Gonzalez and Josh Hamilton).

But if Moncada is so good, and if the Red Sox spent so much to get him, why did he stay in Greenville?

Boston has a history of challenging its prospects with moves to the next level.

“On the whole, he showed much progress during the year and finished on a high note in Greenville,” Crockett said. “We felt that providing some stability to finish what was a whirlwind season for Yoan would put him in a good position moving forward.”

Besides, there is no hurry for Moncada. Because he is signed to a minor league contract, Boston has control of him like any other prospect. The earliest he needs to be put on the 40-man roster is after the 2018 season.

But he will be in Boston before that. He made a name for himself in the second half of the season – at least one scout made a comparison to Mike Trout – and Moncada should be moving up the Red Sox system.

A Yoan Moncada sighting at Hadlock Field is expected in 2016.

THE FLORIDA Instructional League began Friday, with Moncada as the prime attraction.

But there are other must-see prospects taking part in this collection of workouts and games for players needing more work.

Pitcher Anderson Espinoza is only 17, but he already had a breakout year, beginning in the Dominican Summer League and ending in Greenville. Like Moncada, the hype is beginning to explode for Espinoza, with Pedro Martinez comparisons being made. With a mid-90s fastball and command of his curve and change-up, Espinoza compiled for a 1.23 ERA (0.94 WHIP), with 65 strikeouts and 14 walks in 58 1/3 innings.

First-round draft pick Andrew Benintendi is also in Florida. Before the draft, the concern with Benintendi was that he had only one strong year in college. But Benintendi, an outfielder who turned 20 in July, kept mashing in the pros.

Moving from Lowell to Greenville, Benintendi hit a combined .313/.972 OPS in 54 games, with 11 home runs. He struck out only 24 times and walked 35 times.

Benintendi could follow the footsteps of first baseman Sam Travis, one of those rare prospects who reaches Portland in his first full pro season.