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MLB Winter Meetings: Sale and Moncada change Sox

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While it looked like the Washington Nationals were close to obtaining the most sought after lefty of the winter, the Boston Red Sox swooped in and got Chris Sale for four prospects, including the high-profiled Yoan Moncada and Michael Kopech.

Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Dave Dombrowski doesn’t like to keep prospects around for too long. Despite it seeming that the Washington Nationals were ready to have a Max Scherzer and Chris Sale one-two punch atop their rotation as late as last night, the Boston Red Sox swooped in and now have a frightening Big Three in their rotation. Chris Sale changes the color of his Sox and is now atop a rotation that has David Price and the 2016 Cy Young winner Rick Porcello.

If you read social media right now, you will see a very unhappy Red Sox Nation. It is understandable, Moncada cost a lot of money, he never saw a Triple-A pitch and they were sold that he was going to lead the young Sox to new heights. The thing the Red Sox had that made Moncada expendable was Andrew Benintendi. If any prospect could rival the pure upside of Moncada’s, Benintendi proved it could very well be him.

So the Red Sox went out and used their surplus of elite talent and got the premier lefty in the American League to pitch alongside former Cy Young-lefty Price, a deadly combo in today’s game of highly sought after left-handed talent. They now have a 27-year old under cost control on a team that is very much ready to compete now, as opposed to a team like the Braves, who would have arguably wasted some of those cost-controlled years in a rebuild. The White Sox got a juicy haul, but no matter how enticing they are, they are still prospects, which always leaves many question marks.


(video courtesy of FanGraphs)

What do I need to tell you about Moncada that you don’t already know? I saw him in Hickory as a 20-year old and he ripped his very first at bat that night off the centerfield wall. I was convinced 30 seconds into my first viewing of him that all the hype was for real.

Moncada signed with the Red Sox for $31.5-million and since Boston eclipsed the international bonus pool threshold, he actually cost them double that. Here’s what our own John Sickels said about Moncada in this year’s Baseball Prospect Book:

When he signed, the scouting reports said he combined speed, aggressive baserunning, power potential, and good plate discipline into one complete offensive package. Those reports were correct.

They were. Despite a slow start in the Sally in his 2015 debut, he slashed .278/.380/.438 with a nice 83-to-42 strikeout-to-walk ratio. He added 19 doubles, three triples, eight home runs and was successful on 49 of 52 stolen base attempts. This past season he climbed from High-A Salem to the major leagues. He slashed .294/.407/.511 over two levels, improving his walk rate along the way. He untapped even more of his power, ripping 31 doubles, six triples and 15 home runs while stealing a bit less successful 45 of 57 stolen bases.

Moncada’s biggest concerns are his glove and strikeout rate, but he has the arm and athleticism to be at least serviceable wherever it is he winds up, whether it is his natural middle infield slot, third base as he moonlighted in last season, or the outfield that many project he will one day roam. As far as the strikeout rates go, if he harnesses the offensive potential many see him capable of, it seems those rising rates are easily forgiven in today's game. Should he exhibit the plate discipline he had earlier in his career, it is even scarier to imagine what he could do.

Futures Game MVP. Baseball America's Minor League Player of the Year. Simply put, Moncada has one of the best skill sets in all of the minors.


(video courtesy of 2080 Baseball)

Kopech is one of the more exciting pitchers in the minor leagues. Anyone who throws 105 miles per hour is going to draw some attention to themselves, a 20 year old.

Kopech has had a wild start to his career, including as much chaos off the field as his lightening fast pitches cause on it.He was suspended last season for violating the substance abuse policy and began this season a bit behind, injuring himself in a fight with his own teammates.

The skinny on Kopech is that the fastball is to die for, but coming into this season, his slider and changeup were inconsistent. Having never pitched above A-ball, many have speculated that he may be able to get by with just his fastball, as his walk rates have always been a bit high (5.29 per nine in 56.1 combined innings between the NYPL and Carolina League this season). His pitches seemed improved this year, capped off by a sharp stint in the Arizona Fall League, going 3-0 with a 2.01 ERA over six starts, posting a nice 26-to-8 strikeout-to-walk ratio over 22.1 innings pitched.

He has the ceiling of a quality starter in the big leagues with some fine tuning, but at the very worst, he could dominate the back of a bullpen with that fastball, a slider that sits in the low-90s and a change up that has both nasty drop and such a deceiving change in velocity.


(video courtesy of FanGraphs)

Basabe was signed with his twin brother Luis Alejandro in 2012 for $450,000 out of Venezuela. Since then, both have been traded. Luis Alexander by all accounts, has become the more enticing prospect of the two. Here’s what John had to say in his preseason assessment:

Luis Alexander is a better prospect at this stage, an athletic switch-hitter with very good speed and developing power. He will take a walk and makes an effort to control the strike zone, but his strikeout rate is high and contact could be an issue at higher levels. He may never hit for high averages but the power/speed/walks combo makes him a good secondary average player.

After three seasons in Rookie or Short Season ball, Basabe’s 2016 full season debut has to be viewed as a success. He slashed .264/.328/.452 with career bests in doubles (26), triples (nine) and home runs (12), while swiping 25 of 30 stolen base attempts. He did strikeout 119 times in 474 plates appearances (25 percent of the time) which isn’t terrible for a 20 year old adjusting to full season. He could use a jump in his walk rate (8.6 percent of the time). His speed also helps him cover centerfield very well, as he committed just two errors in 272 total chances (.993 fielding percentage) with eight assists.


Honestly, at this point in the deal, does it matter what name is inserted here? The White Sox scored three high-ceiling prospects, so the fact that Diaz looks like he may be a nice fit in the future bullpen is just a plus.

Diaz is now 22 and hasn’t pitched above Low-A since signing out of the Dominican Republic before the 2015 season. That being said, he has exciting stuff, dealing triple-digit heat, but he, too, is inconsistent with his arsenal. This season with Greenville, he posted a 3.88 ERA (3.19 FIP) over 37 relief appearances, striking out 9.40 per nine and walking 3.73. Should the tall, lanky, righty hone his command of his stuff, he could see a quick climb up the ladder to the bullpen.