Jesse Sanchez

Cuban prospect Moncada petitioning for free agency

Switch-hitting infielder, 19, to showcase highly touted skills Nov. 12

Cuban prospect Moncada petitioning for free agency

Scouts believe Yoan Moncada could be the best teenage prospect to come from Cuba in years.

Now, Moncada is one step closer to making his Major League dream a reality.

Moncada, 19, a switch-hitting infielder from the city of Cienfuegos, has established residency in Guatemala and is petitioning for free agency with Major League Baseball, according to an industry source. He must still be unblocked by the U.S. Department of Treasury's Office of Foreign Assets Control before he can come into a final agreement with a club.

Moncada has a showcase tentatively scheduled for Nov. 12 in Guatemala.

Because he is under 23 and has not played in a Cuban professional league for at least five seasons, Moncada will be subjected to the international signing guidelines, but it's unclear if he would be eligible to sign during the 2014-15 international signing period, which started July 2 and ends June 15, 2015, or during the 2015-16 signing period, which starts on July 2, 2015.

Scouts have called Moncada the next Jorge Soler, and his skills have been compared with those of Yasiel Puig at the same age. He once beat new Red Sox outfielder Rusney Castillo in a baserunning competition during the Serie Nacional all-star festivities in Cuba, and his power has been compared with that of Cuban slugger Yasmany Tomas.

Moncada, who plays shortstop and third base, starred for Cuba's top team of 15- and 16-year-olds and made a name for himself at the U-16 IBAF World Baseball Championships in Mexico.

He made his debut for Cienfuegos at age 17 and hit .277 during parts of two seasons. He played alongside White Sox slugger Jose Abreu and Dodgers infielder Erisbel Arruebarrena. Moncada was also teammates with Abreu, Arruebarrena and other notable players like Yulieski Gourriel, Alfredo Despaigne and Jose Miguel Fernandez on Cuba's national team during the 2013 World Port Tournament in the Netherlands. Raisel Iglesias, who signed a seven-year, $27 million deal with the Reds, was also one of Moncada's teammates.

Additionally, Moncada was on Cuba's preliminary roster for the 2017 World Baseball Classic.

Though many Cuban players are known to leave the island in late-night escapes or defect from the national team during an international tournament, the 6-foot-2, 205-pound Moncada was granted his release from the Cienfuegos team this year and cleared by Cuba's National Baseball Commission. He was granted a visa and a passport by the Cuban government and left on an airplane to Central America, where he has been training for the past several months.

The Moncada sweepstakes should be interesting. The Yankees, Red Sox and Rays, who have a reputation for signing top talent on the international market, have spent more than 15 percent of their allotted bonus pools and are in the maximum penalty range for the 2014-15 signing period. The penalty includes a 100 percent tax on their pool overage and prohibits them from signing any pool-eligible player for more than $300,000 during the next two signing periods. In short, those three clubs will not be able to sign Moncada if he becomes eligible to sign after June 15.

The Cubs and Rangers, who are big players in Latin America but cannot sign an international player for more than $250,000 during the current signing period because they exceeded their 2013-14 bonus pools by more than 15 percent, could become players in the Moncada sweepstakes if he becomes eligible after June 15.

Representatives from every team are expected at the showcase.

Jesse Sanchez is a national reporter for Follow him on Twitter @JesseSanchezMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.