(CBS) The prize of the White Sox’s return haul for trading ace left-hander Chris Sale to the Red Sox on Tuesday is expected to open the season at Triple-A.
Second baseman Yoan Moncada, 21, will likely start the 2017 season with the Charlotte Knights, general manager Rick Hahn told the Boers and Bernstein Show on Tuesday afternoon. He’ll go to big league spring training before reporting back to the minors.
“He’s not a finished product,” Hahn said. “He’s still extremely young. He has already played at the upper minors but hasn’t spent any time at Triple-A, had only a brief cup of coffee in the big leagues. I would expect him to start at Charlotte. He does have the ability to contribute at some point next year, and the good ones sort of have a way of forcing that time frame on to you, but we’re in no rush to get anybody to Chicago just to show them, ‘Hey, look at what we got, it worked.’ It’s more about when they are personally ready to force the issue and have success at the big league level and continue to develop.”
A switch-hitter, Moncada is a consensus top-five prospect in the game and was rated No. 1 by Baseball America last July and No. 1 more recently by MLB.com. A native of Cuba, Moncada signed a $31.5 million deal with the Red Sox in February 2015. He hit .294 with 15 homers, 62 RBIs, 45 stolen bases and a .918 OPS in 106 games across two levels as he was named Baseball America’s Minor League Player of the Year. He had a brief call-up with the Red Sox, going 4-of-19 in eight games at the big league level.
Moncada has the ability to play third base — and perhaps even the bat to justify playing first base well down the line, Hahn said — but the White Sox plan to use him at second base because they believe he has the athleticism to remain in the middle infield.
The other headlining prospect in the deal that Chicago received was 20-year-old right-hander Michael Kopech, who hits triple digits on the radar gun. He’ll open the 2017 season at either high Class-A or Double-A, Hahn said.
Kopech blew hitters away in 2016 in the minors, with a 2.08 ERA, 1.10 WHIP and 13.7 strikeout/nine innings rate in 52 innings across two levels. He ended the season at high-Class A. The Red Sox drafted Kopech in the first round of the 2014 amateur draft.
“We project Kopech to be a front-end starter,” Hahn said. “He’s certainly given the plus-plus fastball and the nasty slider. He’s the type of guy you could see dominating out of the closer role or a multi-inning leverage role out of the bullpen down the road, but right now, we’re projecting him as a front-end starter, especially based upon his performance in the Fall League this year.”
Both outfielder Luis Basabe and right-hander Victor Diaz, the other two prospects in the deal, are expected to start a high-A ball, Hahn said.
“The fruits of this labor, the fruit of the hardship of moving Chris Sale will not be immediate,” Hahn said. “But we do feel over the long term, it’s going to put us in a much stronger position as an organization.”
Listen to Hahn’s full interview below.