The Boston Red Sox have sure been busy this offseason. After several trades that saw them send away quite a few of their top prospects, Tuesday’s deal saw them get a nice prospect in return. They sent much-maligned starter Clay Buchholz to the Philadelphia Phillies for second base prospect Josh Tobias.
This is another good trade for the Red Sox. With the addition of Chris Sale, Buchholz — who not only struggled with injury since his huge 2013, but also finding his place between the bullpen and rotation last year — was seemingly the odd man out, so for the Red Sox to get anything for him and his $13.5-million deal seemed like a good move.
Fortunately for the Red Sox, they got more than just anything.
Josh Tobias wasn’t atop the Phillies prospect list, but he wasn’t an unknown entity. The 24-year old, switch-hitting second baseman had a monster season for the Florida Gators in 2015. He slashed .355/.435/.524 with 14 doubles and five home runs over 231 at bats. He took advantage of being a bit older than the average NYPL player, and continued to rake after being selected in the tenth round of the 2015 MLB Draft by the Phillies. He slashed .321/.362/.475 with 19 doubles and four home runs. His 42-to-14 strikeout-to-walk rate in 240 at bats shows where his biggest flaw may lie, and that is consistency in reading the strike zone. That being said, he was named a Baseball America Short-Season All-Star for the 2015 season.
Tobias continued 2016 where he left off, hitting the ball, and hitting it a lot for the second-half South Atlantic League Northern Division champion Lakewood BlueClaws. He hit .304 behind a much improved walk rate (7.5 percent) and an even more improved strikeout rate (14.2 percent). He belted 24 doubles with seven home runs in 93 games, so despite being a bit older than most of the talent in the SAL, he did show that he has some pop in his bat, impressive for a 5-foot-9, 195 pound infielder.
He earned a promotion to the Florida State League, and didn’t fare as well. He hit just .254 over 34 games, posting a career-high 20.5 strikeout rate. He did walk at an also career-high 8.2 percent rate, so at the very least, he has showed a bit more patience at each level with an ability to work counts even when he strikes out. The power strayed a bit, as he hit only two home runs and seven doubles over 126 at bats, but the FSL is also known as a much more pitcher-friendly environ.
Despite the fact that he was a third baseman in college, Tobias has primarily played second base since becoming a pro, with a few games in the outfield sprinkled in. He has been perfect in the outfield with seven putouts and no errors in seven career games, but has been less impressive away from the hot corner. That isn’t to say he has been the worst second baseman in the minors, however he could show improvement, having made 23 errors in his first season and a half.
Tobias could also use some work in base path awareness. He is 22-for-37 over his brief career, and with middle of the road speed, he needs to simply be smarter in his choices to run or somehow improve on that first step.
The Red Sox didn’t score gold in Tobias, but Buchholz has seemed to have fallen out of favor in Boston. To get him and his salary off the books for a player with a bat-first second base profile isn’t a bad haul. Now freshly 24 years old, it wouldn't be surprising to see a quick start in Salem before he is sent off to Portland in Double-A. He may never be Jose Altuve, but some fine tuning, especially in the field, he could be a serviceable role player down the road. At the very least, he isn't $13.5-million.