That Red Sox fans gave Yoan Moncada a standing ovation when he walked up for his first major league at-bat Friday night was remarkable.

That these were Red Sox fans attending a game in Oakland, California, shows just how far Red Sox Nation extends – and how closely they follow the franchise and its prospects.

Moncada, 21, could become a popular and productive player for several years. That he was called up to a contending big league team shows the hope his employers have in him.

The Red Sox were wise to beckon Moncada in September.

They would be equally wise to send him back to the minors in April.

For the remaining month, and possibly into the postseason, Moncada could provide a spark. He’s an athletic player who could get on a roll and deepen this already-deep lineup.


But there are holes in his game – nothing to fret over but holes still the same. This is a different player than Andrew Benintendi, the other Sea Dogs player sent directly to the majors this year. Benintendi, 22, is already a polished player – a gifted outfielder and a hitter able to make adjustments to avoid long slumps.

When the Red Sox promoted Benintendi to Boston on Aug. 2, they were quick to say Benintendi and Moncada are different. Even though Moncada is considered the best prospect in baseball, Benintendi was closer to being ready for the majors – which he proved immediately (.324/.850 OPS in 68 at-bats) before spraining his knee.

Moncada is a prized prospect whose talent can be blinding to the truth that he still needs time to develop.

Or haven’t the Red Sox learned their lesson?

Allow me to offer two examples.

In 2011, a third baseman named Will Middlebrooks came to Portland. He had been a touted draft pick out of high school but moved unceremoniously through the system (batting .276/.770 OPS in Salem in 2010). He was hardly being rushed and began 2011 batting sixth in the Sea Dogs’ lineup.


Middlebrooks would break out in Portland (.302/.865 in 95 games), although ending the year quietly in Pawtucket (.161 in 16 games).

In 2012, Middlebrooks played only 24 games for Pawtucket (hitting .333) when he was summoned to Boston to fill in for the injured Kevin Youkilis. Middlebrooks got on a roll, batting .288/.835 with 15 home runs from May 2 to Aug. 10 before his season ended with a broken wrist.

Middlebrooks may have seemed established. But one good minor league season and a three-month hot streak in the majors hid the flaws in his game – maybe even to himself. In 2013, Middlebrooks looked lost at times, batting .227/.686. He hit .160 in the postseason and lost the third-base job to Xander Bogaerts. In 2014, Middlebrooks batted .191/.522. He was eventually demoted to Pawtucket and traded after the season for backup catcher Ryan Hanigan.

The caution the Red Sox had taken with the developing Middlebrooks was abandoned because he got hot for a brief time. He looked ready but wasn’t.

In 2012, a touted outfield prospect named Jackie Bradley Jr. was promoted to Portland on June 21. For five weeks Bradley batted .301/.885, with electrifying play in center field. The hype machine was in full gear. Bradley finished the season batting .210/.671 for the final five weeks. A nagging ankle injury was blamed for the slump.

In 2013 spring training, Bradley was again in the headlines, batting .419/1.120. That sizzling March and some minor injuries to others put Bradley on the major league roster. He was poised and a great fielder. In his major league debut, Bradley walked three times and scored twice.


But by April 17, when he was batting .097, Bradley was sent back to Pawtucket. He had nagging injuries and played only 80 games (.275/.842) with occasional appearances with Boston (batting .139 in 37 games).

In 2014, with Jacoby Ellsbury gone to the Yankees, Boston signed the oft-injured Grady Sizemore to compete with Bradley for the center-field job. Both made the major league roster. Sizemore couldn’t regain his old form and was released in June. Bradley played 127 games for Boston that year. The glove was superb but he batted only .198. It became obvious Bradley needed more development.

In 2015, with Mookie Betts starting in center field, Bradley began the season in Pawtucket. There, Bradley’s approach matured, batting .305/.853. In Boston, Bradley went wild in August (.354/1.163) and cooled in September (.216/.739)

Questions abounded heading into this season but Bradley has developed. He’s still streaky but the lows aren’t so bad, maintaining .273/.852 numbers with superb play in center.

Maybe Bradley needed to go through those struggles in 2013-14 to get where he is – or maybe his development was impeded because he was rushed.

WHERE DOES MONCADA fit into all this? His talent is hardly raw but needs refinement.


On Friday night, Moncada showed plate discipline in his first big league appearance, willing to take a walk instead of chasing bad pitches.

But Moncada can be pitched to, as evidenced by the crafty Chris Smith (a former Sea Dogs right-hander) facing Moncada in the ninth inning on Friday. Smith stayed on the outside half of the plate, with a mix of change-ups and 86 mph fastballs, and got a strikeout.

The switch-hitting Moncada is more susceptible batting right-handed (.167/.691 in Portland). He can swat a fastball or hanging off-speed pitch. But the last two times I saw him bat right-handed in Portland, he took a slider for a called third strike and then struck out, swinging through a change-up.

A small sample, for sure, but evidence that more development is necessary.

In the field, Moncada has moved from second base and should be an exceptional third baseman – quick with a cannon arm. On Friday, he backhanded a bouncer past third base and, from the grass, threw out the runner with a strong, accurate throw.

But on a grounder toward the shortstop, he ranged too far to his left, stopping the ball but unable to glove it.


“That’s a play converted middle infielders try to make because they forget where they (are) at in the infield,” wrote former major league infielder and ESPN analysis Alex Cora in a tweet afterward. “Nothing wrong with that.”

Nothing that time and repetition won’t take care of.

Moncada could have an amazing September run. He has that ability.

But the Red Sox have invested a lot – maybe you’ve heard about the $63 million price tag – and they need to monitor Moncada’s progress.

He’ll gain invaluable experience this month, and in major league spring training next year, but he should begin 2017 in Triple-A.

Yes, there’s a business angle to this. By waiting to promote Moncada next season, they may get an extra year out of his career before he eventually hits free agency.


But there’s also a baseball decision to be made. Let Moncada close the holes in his game while in Pawtucket, then watch him soar.

TRAVIS SHAW may have something to say while the Red Sox wait for Moncada to become entrenched at third base. Shaw’s message Friday had a Simple Minds theme to it: Don’t you forget about me.

While the left-handed hitting Shaw has struggled recently – helping make the decision to bring up Moncada – he broke loose Friday with a home run, two doubles and five RBI.

“If you get hits, it’s going to be hard to keep you out of the lineup down the stretch,” Shaw said after the game.

Shaw seems to be energized when there’s competition. Remember, he beat out Pablo Sandoval for the job in spring training.

With Shaw competing for playing time and Moncada looking to impress, the Red Sox can only benefit.


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