The White Sox actually did it. Chris Sale has been traded to the Red Sox as GM Rick Hahn mercifully steers the Sox onto a defined path moving forward. What the White Sox received: the No. 1 overall prospect in baseball Yoan Moncada, as well as top 100 prospect RHP Michael Kopech, 2B/SS Luis Alexander Basabe, and RHP Victor Diaz.
The Red Sox paid $63 million in order to acquire Moncada in 2015, a then 19-year-old phenom coming out of Cuba. Now 21, Moncada is coming off his first full professional season in the minors and all he did was hit .294/.407/.511 with 15 homers and 45 steals across high-A and double-A in 106 games. A switch hitter, Moncada’s left handed swing has drawn comparisons to Robinson Cano, although his right handed swing has the potential for more raw power. In the field he can play either second base or third base, which could make it easier for the White Sox to trade Todd Frazier and continue to build for the future.
While Moncada has superstar potential, he’s not quite there yet. His strikeout rate at double-A this year was 31%, which is not going to get it done, but his walk rates have consistently been in the double digits, and was 13% at double-A. With that kind of strike zone discipline, it’s more likely that Moncada was over matched more than he was expanding his zone. With more experience he should be able to cut his strikeouts and if he can do that he has the potential to become a true .300 hitter with a lethal power/speed combination.
Moncada entered 2016 as a consensus top 10 prospect and finished the season as the No. 1 prospect in baseball, so the White Sox are off to a pretty good start in this trade.
Michael Kopech, meanwhile, is coming off a season at high-A that saw him strikeout 82 hitters in 52 innings, while allowing just one home run. Those numbers helped produce a 2.25 ERA backed up by a 2.60 FIP and a 1.04 WHIP. The only thing Kopech needs to work on is his walk rate which was twice as high as you’d like at 5.02 BB/9 last year. Kopech brings a fastball that can touch 100 mph and pairs it with a power curveball, while his changeup is still developing. If that changeup becomes a usable offering, Kopech has No. 2 starter upside.
The Red Sox have now traded away two twin Basabe brothers, trading away Luis Alejandro to the Padres earlier in the year, but luckily for the White Sox they got the right Basabe. Luis Alexander is who the Sox received and he is a switch-hitting center fielder with the potential to become a five-tool player. In 2016 Basabe hit 12 home runs with 25 stolen bases and carried a healthy 120 wRC+ in 105 games at single-A. While he is still a couple seasons away, the potential is there to be an impact player.
The final piece the Sox received was right handed pitcher Victor Diaz, a 22-year-old out of the Dominican Republic. Diaz can touch 100 with his fastball, and racked up 63 strikeouts in 60 innings at single-A in 2016. He ranks only as the 28th best prospect in the Red Sox system, but you have to like the addition of a power arm.
Overall this trade was a big win for the White Sox. Moncada’s potential is tantalizing, and his style of play should wins fans over immediately. If everything breaks right for Moncada fans could be looking at a Mike Trout-type player at his peak who could perennially compete for the MVP, and Chris Sale will become a distant memory. Even if Moncada doesn’t quite reach those heights, he should be fun to watch and is the perfect piece to build the team around. Michael Kopech and Luis Alexander Basabe could also contribute in the near future and have the upside to be impact players.
The White Sox took a risk, but they really had no choice if they were ever going to move the organization in a new direction. There is now finally a sense of direction on the South Side, and having a potential dynamic superstar such as Yoan Moncada lead the way is the icing on the cake.