1. Chris Sale
Sep 24, 2014; Detroit, MI, USA; Chicago White Sox starting pitcherChris Sale
(49) pitches in the third inning against the Detroit Tigers at Comerica Park. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports
Sale represents the true prize on this list. A pitcher who I would only rank behind Clayton Kershaw and Felix Hernandez in terms of value, it is hard to believe Chris Sale could actually be attainable. He is Giancarlo Stanton‘s pitching counterpart here in Red Sox Nation, a constant source of fantastic speculation, a veritable white whale for Ben Cherington to pursue. And yet, I truly believe even the likes of a superstar like Sale is not off limits to Boston. After the Cubs and perhaps Twins, the Sox have the best farm system in all of baseball, a bountiful garden of young talent, the type of talent that could really flower into something special.
That said, there is a caveat. I am not among those who believe that simply dangling Mookie will be enough to land Sale (probably not even Hamels, although that has as much to do with Ruben Amaro as it does Hamels’ own steep price tag), and I am truly fearful that Swihart or Bogaerts will be the asking price. That would create quite the dilemma as one could make the case that Sale is arguably worth any price, no matter how much I believe in the above mentioned prospects. Sale is one of five players in the history of MLB to see Major League action the same year that he was drafted.
And his results speak for themselves. In that first year, as a 21-year old rookie, Sale pitched 23 innings to a 1.93 ERA. He returned to the bullpen in his second year, his numbers rising slightly across a full season’s worth of action, but still performed astonishingly well, even making appearances in a closing situation at just 22 years of age! He would be converted to a starter the following season and again his ERA understandably went up, but Sale thrived in this new role going 17-8 with a 3.05 ERA alongside a 5.8 WAR and 192 strikeouts in as many innings.
As with Cueto, Sale really emerged this year to his full potential. Still just 25 years old, Sale recorded a 2.17 ERA, .96 WHIP, a 6.6 WAR that ranked just ahead of Cueto, with an absurd 208 strikeouts in only 174 innings (?!?!?!?!?!). Sale has not even entered his prime yet, and while it might be foolish to expect more from the young right hander, the sky is the limit for this fireballer.