Red Sox: Rafael Devers and Yoan Moncada – forever linked

BOSTON, MA - AUGUST 16: Rafael Devers
BOSTON, MA - AUGUST 16: Rafael Devers /

The Boston Red Sox apparently had to make a choice between Rafael Devers and Yoan Moncada.  Early returns are they made the right one.

A tale of two players is commencing with lightning like speed as the result of a Sophie’s Choice type decision the Boston Red Sox made.

This all circulates around the deal that brought Chris Sale to Boston. Was there a choice?  Did the White Sox and Red Sox discuss either Rafael Devers and Yoan Moncada as the centerpiece? Apparently, the Red Sox decided to go Devers over Moncada.

"“The deal came to fruition only when the White Sox stopped asking for Devers and instead rounded out their four-player prospect package that already featured Yoan Moncada and Michael Kopech with outfielder Luis Alexander Basabe and righthander Luis Diaz,” reported Alex Speier in the Boston Globe."

Moncada and Devers will be locked in statistical battle now that both have arrived – with certainly a different amount of pomp. The early evidence on both is skimpy as the beachwear at the Cote d’Azur in Nice, France. Playing with small samples in baseball is rather risky – just look at the early projections of Aaron Judge.

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What is unique is the Red Sox had two players that were among the top-five prospects in all of baseball.  The various scouting sources have volumes of information on both with the inevitable “Can’t-miss” label attached to both. Moncada, in particular, is physically compared to Mickey Mantle, but if body type determined talent level Gabe Kapler and even Carroll Hardy would be in the Baseball Hall of Fame.

Devers is not exactly going to have sand kicked in his face by a beach bully. A friend of mine in Portland, Maine who saw him regularly said he is a “Beast” and that is not negative – just think Jimmie Foxx. Devers is big, strong and still rounding out.

The sample is small, but the offensive difference between both is staggering. Devers has 80 at-bats and Moncada has 88, so the 2017 sample is rather similar – that is where it quickly separates. Devers is slashing .350/.416/.700 to Moncada’s .182/.327/.341.  OPS is 1.116 to .668. The power numbers for Devers are staggering with eight home runs and 16 RBI. Moncada has three home runs and 10 RBI.

The sample drifts through all the various metrics with a significant edge for Devers – an edge I fully expect to erode as the 2017 season progresses. How much is the big question? Extrapolation based on small samples is inevitably self-defeating. What there is to like is Devers ability to adjust to MLB pitching with particular emphasis on his ability to go the other way. A hitting maturity that is both developmentally and instinctive.

One concern that was expressed by Red Sox fans with Moncada is his propensity to whiff far too often. This was certainly true in the minors and has carried over to the majors with a 35.5 K/%. Devers is 23.6%. Conversely the 15.9 BB/% of Moncada – despite his strikeouts – is a plus to Devers 10.1%.

Both players have similar numbers regarding pitches swung at, but the contact figures certainly explain the batting average differences. Devers contact rate is 79.4% to Moncada’s 62.7%. That impacts with a .277 BABIP for Moncada to Devers .392 BABIP.

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So with both traditional and advanced, you are seeing a glimpse into the future – a future that is certainly possible, but not assured. Remain hopeful, my friends. Moncada simply is not making contact enough. Devers is either just in a surprising hot streak or further developed (ready) for MLB pitching. I lean towards a combination of both.

On the prediction scale that I simply cannot resist, both will be All-Stars. With Moncada, it may be a longer road. The talent level for Moncada is excellent with the classic “five-tool player” tossed around. That is his level of potential – a potential that seems a bit further off than anticipated.

For Devers, his calling card will be his bat. When I saw Moncada my projection was a switch-hitting version of Dave Parker or Carlos Beltran for a more contemporary note. With Devers swing, it brought back memories of Cecil Cooper.

As a natural cynic regarding prospects, I have to attempt to exercise caution.  I admittedly got all gushy over Mookie Betts and Xander Bogaerts, but also over Will Middlebrooks and Blake Swihart. With Devers, I am in all gushy mode again. Devers will have the inevitable slump, but Devers is truly an exciting bat to watch.

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I expect Both Moncada and Devers to be compared as for their careers progress and fans and media extol about each. In a few years, you will be subjected to various articles about “If we only” or “Thank goodness” regarding the trade. The debate will be entertaining and I would like to see both reach the potential that is projected for them – especially Devers. Maybe Michael Kopech will transcend both?