There was obviously something different about the Portland Sea Dogs’ batting practice at Hadlock Field.

When No. 11 stepped into the batting cage, several cameras turned toward him.

Yoan Moncada was about to take his first swings.

Moncada, 21, the top prospect in the Boston Red Sox minor league system, joined the Portland Sea Dogs on Tuesday. He is penciled into tonight’s lineup, batting lead-off and playing second base.

Moncada is the most anticipated prospect to arrive at Hadlock Field since Xander Bogaerts came in 2012 as a 19-year-old shortstop.

The hype surrounding Moncada not only includes his baseball ability, but the $63 million the Boston Red Sox paid to sign him in March 2015, when he was a 19-year-old free agent from Cuba. Half of that went to Moncada, the other half to major league baseball as a fine for Boston exceeding its allotted amount for international signing bonuses.

Because of the hype, the expectations are soaring for Moncada.

“I haven’t really felt any pressure,” Moncada said, as Sea Dogs trainer Eric Velazquez interpreted during an informal press conference after batting practice. “My job is to play baseball. I just work on what I do.”

Moncada got off to a slow start in low Class A Greenville last year, the result of rust after a year-long layoff. In the second half of the season, he batted .310, with a .915 OPS.

“Been feeling pretty comfortable,” Moncada said, “and working on adjustments every day.”

After a full spring training with the Red Sox this year – including a couple of appearances in major league games – Moncada was assigned to advanced Class A Salem (Virginia). He impressed with a .307 average/.923 OPS in the first half of the year, stealing 36 bases in 44 tries, while he recorded 45 walks, 25 doubles, three triples and four home runs.

“I’ve been very impressed with his progression on and off the field,” said Red Sox director of player development Ben Crockett. “He’s really gotten a good grasp of what is needed to progress, and it’s shown on the field with his performance and improved consistency.”

There was never a doubt of Moncada’s physical gifts. He is a muscular 6-foot-2, 220 pounds with speed. But being a baseball player is more than being athletic. Moncada appears to get that.

“His physical tools jump out at you,” Crockett said. “But he’s worked hard to be more consistent, day to day, and has really bought into the programs.

“He still has room to grow in many areas. But the progress he has made from spring training (in) 2015 to June 2016 is tremendous.”

Chief among those areas of growth for Moncada is his fielding. “He continues to focus on being more consistent on routine plays and slowing the game down,” Crockett said.

And, for now, that fielding will take place as a second baseman. It is a given that Moncada eventually will try another position, given that Dustin Pedroia is cemented in at second base in Boston, with a contract running through 2021 – much like Mookie Betts moved from second base to center field when he was at Hadlock Field in 2014.

Betts and Bogaerts did not take long to reach the majors once they made it to Portland. Moncada seems aware of that.

“Pretty excited for the promotion,” he said, “excited to be here.”

Augusta and Waterville news

Get news and events from your towns in your inbox every Friday.

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.