Sox rising star Yoan Moncada walking softly, carrying a big stick
INDIANAPOLIS — Can I just say that Yoan Moncada is roughly as exciting as a senator’s sock drawer?
No, I’m not talking about how the future White Sox infielder — the top-ranked prospect in baseball, according to MLB.com — plays the game. I mean what he says. And what he doesn’t say.
Imagine the stereotypical five-tool 21-year-old — bold, brash, soon to be on top of the world and knowing it. Moncada is everything except for the ‘‘bold,’’ the ‘‘brash’’ and the ‘‘knowing it.’’
A handful of Chicago media members showed up here — 179 miles southeast of Guaranteed Rate Field — to catch the Charlotte Knights, the Sox’ Class AAA club, and Moncada in particular. How soon before Moncada, who’s crushing everything that moves in International League play, gets the call to the big club?
It could happen at any time. Will it happen before his 22nd birthday? That comes May 27. Bet among yourselves.
I came here hoping Moncada might shed some light on that. Or that, at the very least, he’d declare himself ready.
‘‘What the heck are we waiting for?’’ I imagined him saying. ‘‘Let’s light this candle.’’
But no. That’s not what Moncada said at all. Here’s some of what he did say:
‘‘Everything is a process. You have to go step-by-step.’’
‘‘You’re not going to have success out of the blue; you have to work for it.’’
‘‘It’s an honor [to be rated as the No. 1 prospect], but I don’t try to pay too much attention to that. I don’t try to put that on my mind.’’
The strapping 6-2 Cuban said these things through an interpreter who somehow managed to avoid falling asleep while performing his duty. I’m going to suggest that, from now on, Moncada should be recognized for his sixth ‘‘tool’’: the ability to wield clichés like a 10-time All-Star.
But I should rein myself in now because Sox fans surely don’t care about Moncada as an interviewee. They care about Moncada as a switch-hitting lacer of baseballs, as a base-stealer, as a promising glove man who many think has a higher ceiling than that of his favorite player, Robinson Cano.
All signs on those fronts are glowing. Moncada’s teammates and manager, former longtime major-leaguer Mark Grudzielanek, were pleased — truly — to heap praise on the jewel of the Sox’ organization. That’s as positive an indicator as one could hope for.
‘‘I’ve played with a lot of really good players in my career,’’ said 23-year-old infielder Jose Vinicio, who also was Moncada’s teammate in the Red Sox’ organization, ‘‘but I haven’t seen anybody who can do the things that he does.’’
Pitcher Carson Fulmer, another guy who’s hoping for a call-up soon, called Moncada ‘‘incredible.’’ Grudzielanek called him ‘‘special.’’
But you know what stands out just as clearly? How sincerely they seem to like and admire Moncada, who is hitting .345 with six home runs and 11 RBI. It reminded me of the way Cubs farmhands used to describe Kris Bryant.
‘‘He’s a great guy, a great person,’’ Vinicio said. ‘‘He doesn’t walk around like he’s higher or he should be looked at any different from any of the other guys. He has that stature, but he stays the same person.’’
Fulmer grinned from ear to ear when asked about Moncada.
‘‘His ability on the field is one thing,’’ he said, ‘‘but the kind of person he is is another. We get that inside scoop being around teammates, and he’s one guy I definitely like having around.’’
Grudzielanek, who played for six big-league teams, including the Cubs, was an All-Star and Gold Glove-winning infielder. Once each, that is. He was a fine player, but he knows his talent didn’t even approach Moncada’s.
Moncada might know that, too, but it hasn’t made him work any less diligently under Grudzielanek’s guidance. Their daily one-on-one sessions have been productive. They might not last much longer.
‘‘He’s there,’’ Grudzielanek said before making a slight correction. ‘‘He’s getting there. But you could throw him out there right now [with the Sox], and he’d be fine. There’s no question about it.’’
Moncada looked the part Monday. Batting from the left side, he lined a single to right. He stole a base. Even on more routine plays, his simple movements managed to impress. He isn’t a normal athlete.
There’s nothing unexciting about that.
Follow me on Twitter @SLGreenberg.