Red Sox

Red Sox

Remember the Chris Sale trade the Red Sox won in a landslide? Those rocks might be bounding back up the mountain.

With Boston fans understandably focused on Sale's struggles through the season's first month -- a year before his $145 million extension officially kicks in -- it's possible you've missed what's unfolding on the south side of Chicago.

Yoan Moncada, the centerpiece of the deal that brought Sale to Boston, suddenly looks to be realizing his potential. And that means we should hold off before rendering a final verdict.

A year after leading the league in strikeouts (217) and hitting just .235, Moncada is playing like someone who was once universally hailed as the best prospect in baseball. He's hitting .301 with six homers, 20 RBIs, and a .908 OPS. He has also cut his strikeout rate by a staggering 33 percent, from 33.4 percent last year to 22.4 percent now.

He's a different hitter, a dangerous hitter, and it looks like he's putting it all together. If the other half of the trade, right-hander Michael Kopech, can deliver on his promise next season after recovering from Tommy John surgery, the White Sox might actually consider themselves winners of the deal.

"That's what we want," Moncada told the Chicago Sun-Times. "That's what we're looking for. Hopefully we're going to accomplish that, but that's definitely our goal."

 

Moncada's maturation has been profound. Manager Rick Renteria told fans at a winter event that Moncada was "over-wrapping" his hands on the bat, which negated his ability to reach outside pitches. With a new grip this spring, he has boasted total plate coverage and much keener selectivity.

The ball is jumping off his bat, too, as illustrated by his exit velocity increasing from 88.5 mph in 2017 to 90.5 last year to an elite 94.9 this year, which ranks fifth in baseball. Among his hits: a mammoth 458-foot homer to dead center vs. the Tigers on April 19, which easily cleared the 420-foot sign in Comerica Park.

He's just 2 for his last 14 as he cools from his torrid start, but the player the Red Sox face on Thursday in Chicago won't resemble the one who struck out 12 times in 19 at-bats during his 2016 debut with Boston.

That Moncada was raw. This one hopes to make the White Sox the ultimate winners of one of baseball's biggest blockbusters.

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