Luis Alexander Basabe

Red Sox minor league notebook: Luis Alexander Basabe, the best prospect people don't know much about

Ryan Hannable
July 28, 2016 - 3:00 am
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1. When it comes to Red Sox prospects everyone knows the names -- Yoan Moncada, Andrew Benintendi, Michael Kopech, Jason Groome, Sam Travis -- but a name people might not be as familiar with is Luis Alexander Basabe. His name came up this month when his twin brother Luis Alejandro was part of the trade for Brad Ziegler, but the outfielder is emerging as one of the best prospects in the entire system, perhaps climbing as high as into the top eight. The 19-year-old has spent the season with Single-A Greenville, perhaps flying under the radar with what is taking place with the stars in High-A Salem and Double-A Portland. Going into play Thursday, the switch-hitter is hitting .375 with four home runs and 19 RBIs over 20 games in the month of July and in the second half of the year he's batting .340. This comes after a difficult first half where overall he batted .222 with five total home runs. "This is a guy offensively who had a very, very tough first half," manager Darren Fenster said. "Really struggled to recognize pitches. Struck out quite a bit. He's been as improved as anyone we have here from an offensive perspective where the work that he's put in with our hitting coach Lee May Jr. has been very, very consistent. It's not wavered whether he's been doing well or he's in a struggle. "The emphasis Lee has put on with him in regard to pitch recognition, he's thinking out of the box where he's thrown him into the bullpen to stand in the box when pitcher's are throwing their sides to work on recognizing off-speed stuff, recognizing spin. His results over the last month or so have been outstanding. He's really turned the corner with the bat for us. It's been great to see, especially with how slow he was out of the gates." Even not putting up the best of numbers, you could still tell how talented Basabe was and he found ways to contribute to the team aside from showing up in the box score. "You could see the tools and the athleticism," Fenster said. "To this kids credit, as much of a struggle as it was in the first half he's played an above average center field. He has been a game-changer on the bases where he is at an above average speed where he's able to steal some bases as well. He's able separate the game and not allow the struggles offensive in the first half of the year at the plate out in the field where he's figured out ways to help us outside of just the stat line at the end of the night offensively." Looking ahead, Basabe is Rule-5 draft eligible this offseason, so if he continues to put up numbers like he has this past month, the Red Sox could add him to their 40-man roster come December, although it is an interesting case seeing he's just 19 years old and a few years away from being major league ready. 2. Andrew Benintendi has made the switch to left field with Double-A Portland. He hasn't switched exclusively as he's played three games in left and three games in his natural position of center field over his last six games. This was expected as it was going to be a gradual transition with more work taking place during early work and batting practice. Everything has gone as well as it could have with the transition thus far. While Yoan Moncada hasn't transitioned to another position in games, he has taken ground balls at third base pregame, according to Kevin Thomas of the Portland Free Press. 3. One of the hottest players in the Red Sox system is third baseman Rafael Devers with High-A Salem. The 19-year-old is batting .269 on the year, but that comes after batting .138 in April and .245 in May. He's really caught fire in July as the left-handed hitter is batting .360 with three home runs and 13 RBIs. He's a player other teams likely would want in a trade, but the Red Sox seem to view him just below Benintendi and Moncada, thus he likely will be staying put. While it cannot be ruled out, it doesn't appear a promotion to Double-A will happen soon given his age and how he struggled earlier in the year. The organization likes where he is currently at. 4. It was a strange week three weeks ago for Single-A Greenville as they had players involved in two of the three trades the Red Sox made in a span of three days. Pitcher Jose Almonte and Luis Alejandro Basabe were dealt for Ziegler and Anderson Espinoza was traded straight up for Drew Pomeranz. The Ziegler deal occurred at 1:00 a.m., but the Pomeranz trade was especially difficult as the Drive played a game with rumors surrounding their star pitcher swirling. "The two trades that did affect us were a little bit different where one kind of went down under the radar at about 1:00 in the morning with Almonte and Basabe and then the other one was strange in the fact that there were rumors and what not, but nothing was official until about the eighth inning in the game that we were playing, but was being reported on TV before we went to play at 6:30," Fenster said. "Guys were wondering what was going on and until obviously we hear that something is official, these guys are part of our team. "I think these guys are getting a crash course of everything that goes on in the game where regardless of whether or not you're getting to the big leagues, there's 30 teams out there and another team could look to trade for you and that is a good thing. From our end, hopefully we're able to bring back a piece that will be able to help us the rest of the season and into the postseason. That's also positive as well. Guys are realizing big picture how the game works." 5. Red Sox first-round pick Jason Groome is preparing for his professional debut by working out daily at the JetBlue Park complex in Fort Myers. He's begun the club's throwing program, arm strengthening routines and general workouts. The left-hander has thrown a few bullpens, but nothing has changed in the fact that the organization is taking things very slow with him. He could get into game action in the GCL over the next few weeks. 6. Michael Chavis, a 2014 first-round pick, was red-hot to start the year as he hit .356 in 11 games before suffering a thumb injury and had to miss about a month and a half. After returning in mid-June, he's still working to get his timing back. He is batting .269 with seven homers on the year, but just .209 in the second half. "It's been a little slower getting him back into the rhythm that he was in coming out of the gates at the start of the year before he got hurt," Fenster said. "Just getting him consistent with his timing has been the biggest thing for him right now where in those first few weeks of the year when he was going really well, his timing was consistent. His approach was consistent and it's just been a little up and down since he's been back. He just needs to stay under control with his effort level and thinking about the middle of the field, which is when he's at his best. When he gets a little pull happy and puts more effort into his swing, that's when he kind of gets away from things he was doing well earlier." 7. With Espinoza out of the picture, the new top pitcher with Single-A Greenville is 18-year-old right-hander Roniel Raudes. Raudes is the youngest player in the South Atlantic League and is currently 8-3 with a 4.50 ERA with exactly 80 strikeouts in 80 innings. The organization will keep him on a pitch count being so young the rest of the year, but Fenster pointed to how competitive Raudes is on the mound, which is just as good as his raw stuff. "He's competing as well as he has all year," Fenster said. "He's been our most consistent guy in terms of not necessarily the results, but his approach every single time he takes the mound -- he's the youngest player in the league right now. We're very conscious of that and obviously we're going to manage his innings to keep him strong and healthy the rest of the way. We feel like we have the chance to win every time he takes to the mound because of his pitch ability and the way he competes." 8. After knee surgery at the beginning of February, Trey Ball missed almost all of spring training and then after about a month extra joined High-A Salem for the second straight year. After a good first month or so, he's struggled of late. The former No. 7 overall pick in the 2013 draft is 0-1 with a 8.38 ERA over five starts in the month of July. The left-hander has had control problems of late and it's getting time to start to question just how far he will be able to advance in the organization. 9. Allen Craig, who hasn't played in a game since May 16 because of right knee inflammation, is set to begin a rehab assignment with short-season, Single-A Lowell Friday night. The infielder is currently off the Red Sox' 40-man roster, but under contract for next season, the final year of a five-year, $31-million contract. He's scheduled to make $11 million in 2017 and there's a $13 million team option for 2018. 10. A good story within the system is Jordan Weems, who has converted from catching with Double-A Portland to pitching. The right-hander, a third-round pick in 2011, is currently in the GCL putting up solid numbers. In 17 innings spanning eight games, he has a 1.06 ERA with 10 strikeouts. Making the switch just a few months ago, it seems it's going quite well.