In the first On-Deck Circle column for 2017, I decided to look at some new Sox in Chicago. By moving both ace Chris Sale, and multi-talented veteran lead-off hitter Adam Eaton, the rebuild on the South Side is in full swing. Both players brought the team a haul of talented prospects in which White Sox fans and their front office can be excited to build around. In an exchange of Sox, Sale was sent to Boston for a package with Yoan Moncada being the centerpiece. The Nationals dealt for Eaton to hit at the top of their lineup, and sent top pitching prospects Lucas Giolito, among others in return. For both Moncada and Giolito, they are consensus top MLB prospects. It is clear they will both be up with the club in 2017. How soon they are debuting at Guaranteed Rate Field is the question.
The 21-year-old Moncada was much heralded out of Cuba, and drew serious interest from many teams. The Red Sox were able to sign him, spending a total of $63 million dollars to bring him to Boston. With a signing bonus of $31.5 million, it is clear they were all in on the phenom. It proved to be money well spent as their investment ended up landing them an ace starter. Between 2015 and 2016, Moncada played 187 games across Class A and AA showing he was worth the hype, and the hefty price tag. The numbers speak for themselves at the minor league level: .287/.395/.480, 23 home runs, 100 RBI and 94 stolen bases in 109 attempts. With his physical tools, and his minor league numbers, Moncada has been referred to as “Robinson Cano with speed.” As evidenced with his .950 fielding percentage in the minors, he figures to be an average defender. In Boston’s system, he saw time at both second and third.
With third base being manned by slugger Todd Frazier, Moncada will only have to surpass Tyler Saladino to become the starter at the keystone at the Major-League level. The main thing holding him back is plate discipline. The switch hitting Moncada will need to cut his strikeout rate in order to get the call. In 2016, Moncada was called up for eight games, in which he logged 20 plate appearances. With one walk, and 12 strikeouts, it further illustrated what he will need to work on in order to be a success at the major league level. It is not a question of if he will be up in 2017, it is a question of how soon. He has all the tools from an offensive standpoint, and looks like a linebacker on the baseball field. The only thing holding Moncada back from the show, is Moncada.
Giolito was slotted by many to be the first overall pick out of high school in 2012, but an elbow injury pushed him down to the Nationals at number 16. After just one start, he required the dreaded Tommy John Surgery, which limited him to 11 minor league starts in 2013. The 22-year-old has top of the rotation stuff, and has shown in the past he can hit 100 mph on the radar, with a curve and changeup that can get outs as well. In three minor league seasons, the numbers have been there. 397 strikeouts in 369 innings, with a 2.73 ERA and a 1.19 WHIP show he is able to dominate at the minor league level. In 21.1 major league innings, Giolito was knocked around, and failed to show the velocity and control he had shown in the minors. The league teed off on the youngster at a .295 clip. Sprinkle in his 12 walks and just 11 strikeouts, it is clear to see his first taste of the Bigs was forgettable. Spring 2017 followed a similar story line. It was a mixed bag, as he showed flashes of the immense talent, but also failed to impress, and got bombed at times.
With a 5.59 ERA in the Spring, he will be ticketed for Triple-A Charlotte to start the year. Giolito will be up with the Sox at some point, but he figures to be on an innings limit, as he has failed to log more than 117.1 innings in a minor-league season. While nothing has been said regarding how many innings he will pitch, at just age 22, it would be a safe guess that his ceiling would stay in the 150-160 range for 2017.