CLEVELAND — The White Sox felt good about the Chris Sale trade in spring training when they got their eyes on second baseman Yoan Moncada and right-hander Michael Kopech, ranked No. 3 and 15 by MLBPipeline.com among baseball’s top prospects.
Their minor-league performances have done nothing to kill the vibe.
“To get three hits on opening night and four the second day and a home run [on the third], that obviously is a good thing to see,’’ director of player development Chris Getz said Monday.
That’s what Moncada, 21, did for Class AAA Charlotte against Norfolk, going 8-for-20 with one walk and six strikeouts. He stayed hot by slugging his second homer Monday night at Durham.
Kopech, 20, struck out 10 in 4„ innings of two-run ball for Class AA Birmingham at Jackson.
A direct answer wasn’t expected, but the question was asked, anyway: So when will Moncada be called up?
“Fair question, but I can’t give you an answer because I don’t know the answer,’’ Getz said. “But he’s getting better every day. He’ll be there, let’s just put it that way.’’
There are service-time issues in play, not unlike those when the Cubs waited till April 17 to call up Kris Bryant in 2015. If the Sox wait till after May 15, they’d prevent Moncada from becoming a free agent till 2023.
Bryant, however, was 23 at the time and further along than Moncada, who collected 31 days with the Red Sox after getting called up from Class AA Portland last September (going 4-for-19 with 12 strikeouts over eight games) but is now gathering his first Triple-A experience. He would stand to benefit from more time there, most talent evaluators agree. How much more is up to the Sox.
“The development of his game isn’t going to stop when he gets to the major leagues,’’ Getz said, “but we want to put him in the best position right out of the gate to be able to perform in all aspects to the best of his ability. Whether it’s the defensive side, hitting left-handed, right-handed or baserunning. He can do all those things, but we want him to be in the best position to succeed when he gets there.
“He’s certainly not a finished product by any means. But he’s getting close.’’
Getz saw a smiling face on Moncada, who seems to be having fun and enjoying being on a team that bolted to a 4-0 start going into Monday night.
Kopech, with his 100 mph fastball and comparisons to Noah Syndergaard, is rated as baseball’s No. 1 pitching prospect (seventh overall) by ESPN’s Keith Law. With no more than the 65 innings he logged in 2015 and 135 total in three seasons, none higher than Class A before this year, the Sox’ primary goal for him “is to get innings under his belt,’’ Getz said.
While some scouts see him as a closer, “we view him as a starter,’’ Getz said. “And he’s shown all the signs he can. He has a smooth, repeatable delivery considering he can throw triple digits.
“As he refines some of the tools and starts to pitch with the power that he has, we have something that is going to be pretty good.
“Each player will let us know when that time is right. In Moncada’s case, or any player or some of these pitchers [Reynaldo Lopez, Lucas Giolito, Carson Fulmer, Zack Burdi at Charlotte], they’ll let us know. Watching Charlotte the last four days, they’re getting closer. They’re performing right out of the gate.’’
NOTES: Right fielder Willy Garcia was named International League batter of the week after going 8-for-15 with two homers and nine runs scored in four games for Charlotte. The Sox claimed Garcia on waivers from the Pirates in January.
*Left-hander Carlos Rodon (biceps bursitis) will stay on a throwing program in Arizona during the Sox’ nine-game road trip and be re-evaluated when the team returns home next week.
*The Sox open a three-game series in Cleveland Tuesday:
James Shields (1-0, 1.69) vs. Carlos Carrasco (1-0, 3.18), 3:10, CSN, 890-AM
Follow me on Twitter @CST_soxvan.