Piazza believed Ventura would be successful

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Piazza believed Ventura would be successful

Mike Piazza thinks Robin Ventura has all the intangibles to manage and isnt surprised by his former teammates success in the dugout.

The former catcher, and future Hall of Famer, played with Ventura -- who earlier this week finished third in the American League manager of the year vote -- for three seasons with the New York Mets from 1999-2001.

Piazza distinctly remembers Venturas serious demeanor. But he also recalled a story of how the former third baseman had the ability to keep teammates loose in the clubhouse.

We were playing and we werent necessarily in a losing streak, but maybe we were a little flat, and he came in from third base and actually slid into the dugout at Shea (Stadium), Piazza said on Saturday night before he emceed induction ceremonies for the National Italian-American Sports Hall of Fame. The dugout was flat and all this gravel and stones were flying and he was like Wake up and started yelling. It was really funny. It was a very unorthodox way of getting our attention and kind of lighting a fire under us. Thats the way he is.

Piazza and Venturas three seasons together in New York produced two trips to the National League championship series and one to the World Series.

Their time together had him convinced Ventura -- a surprise hire when it was announced he would take over for Ozzie Guillen in November 2011 -- would be successful enough for Piazza to convey his beliefs to White Sox owner Jerry Reinsdorf at a similar event last year. Piazza heard enough positives this season to believe those reasons were critical in the White Sox winning 85 games as they rebounded from several disappointing seasons.

It was interesting, Piazza said of the hire. I felt like he was going to do pretty well. Real intellectual guy. Understands the game. Understands the Xs and Os, but also seems like he has a good presence in the clubhouse. By the response of the team guys obviously like he was playing for him.

Michael Kopech, Luis Basabe, Victor Diaz and the rest of the return for Chris Sale

Michael Kopech, Luis Basabe, Victor Diaz and the rest of the return for Chris Sale

The White Sox return for Chris Sale has been generally praised in the aftermath of Tuesday’s megadeal with the Boston Red Sox, with the headliner being 21-year-old infielder Yoan Moncada

But the White Sox also acquired three other prospects with varying ranges of hype: 20-year-old right-hander Michael Kopech, 20-year-old outfielder Luis Alexander Basabe and 22-year-old right-hander Victor Diaz. Baseball America ranked all three among the top 20 prospects in the Red Sox farm system, while MLB.com’s Jonathan Mayo ranked Kopech No. 5, Basabe No. 8 and Diaz No. 28 in Boston’s farm system. 

Kopech is a hard-throwing former No. 33 overall pick out of Mount Pleasant, Texas who was rated as a top 100 prospect in baseball by both Baseball America and Baseball Prospectus prior to the 2016 season. Over three minor league seasons from rookie ball to high Single-A, Kopech has 172 strikeouts, 69 walks and only three home runs allowed in 134 2/3 innings with a 2.61 ERA.

Whether or not Kopech sticks as a starting pitcher (35 of his 36 professional games have been starts) remains a point of contention among prospect evaluators, though he features a power slider and a low-90’s changeup that Baseball America’s Kyle Glaser wrote has drawn comparisons to New York Mets ace Noah Syndergaard. He also reportedly threw a 105 mph pitch last summer with Double-A Salem — and even if that radar gun reading was inaccurate, he’s able to fairly regularly throw his fastball at or above 100 mph. 

[Complete coverage of the White Sox-Red Sox Chris Sale blockbuster trade]

There have been two off-the-field issues with Kopech, though, that are why he’s been dinged in some prospect rankings. In 2015, he was suspended for the final 50 games of the season after testing positive for amphetamine use, and in March of 2016 he fractured his hand following an altercation with a teammate

Basabe — not to be confused with his twin brother, infielder Luis Alejandro Basabe, who the Red Sox traded to the Arizona Diamondbacks last summer — is a toolsy outfielder who hit .264/.328/.452 with 25 stolen bases in 30 attempts between Single-A Greenville and high Single-A Salem last year. FutureSox’s Rob Young wrote that Basabe has “immense upside” as a potential five-tool player, while Baseball America’s best-case is Basabe’s raw talent develops into a "top of the order center fielder" 

Over four minor league seasons, Basabe has a .253/.353/.408 slash line with 21 home runs, 25 triples and 73 stolen bases in 93 attempts (78 percent). 

Diaz has had some control issues, issuing an average of 3.97 walks per nine innings, over his first two professional seasons. The hard-throwing right-hander posted a 3.88 ERA with 63 strikeouts out of Single-A Greenville’s bullpen last year, and with a fastball touching 100 mph, he could develop into a legitimate relief option down the road if he can find the strike zone more consistently. 

What’s worth noting here is the depth of the trade for the White Sox. This is a farm system that lacked both top-end and raw talent when Rick Hahn & Co. woke up on Tuesday, but adding Moncada, Kopech, Basabe and Diaz to a group headlined by recent draft picks like right-hander Carson Fulmer, catcher Zack Collins and right-hander Zack Burdi should have a significant impact on the quality of the White Sox minor league ranks. 

Examining Yoan Moncada, baseball’s No. 1 prospect and the newest member of the White Sox

Examining Yoan Moncada, baseball’s No. 1 prospect and the newest member of the White Sox

The White Sox pulled off what may be the biggest deal in team history on Tuesday, dealing ace left-hander Chris Sale to the Boston Red Sox for four prospects. The rebuild is officially underway on 35th and Shields. 

In trading Sale, the White Sox acquired infielder/outfielder Yoan Moncada, outfielder Luis Basabe and right-handers Michael Kopech and Victor Diaz.  Moncada, though, is regarded by some as the best prospect in baseball and is certainly the prize return in the megadeal.

A 21-year-old, 6-foot-2, 205 pound switch hitting native of Cuba, Moncada regarded as baseball’s top prospect by MLB.com and Baseball America. One of the comparisons MLB.com’s Jonathan Mayo offered for Moncada was “Robinson Cano with more speed,” referring to the Seattle Mariners All-Star (and possible future Hall of Fame) second baseman who has 278 home runs and a .307/.355/.498 career slash line.

Moncada had a monster season in the minors in 2016, slamming 31 home runs with a 45 stolen bases and a .294/.407/.511 slash line in 491 plate appearances across high Single-A Salem and Double-A Portland. In 2015, his first season in the Red Sox farm system, Moncada hit eight home runs with 49 stolen bases a .278/.380/.817 slash line over 81 games with Single-A Greenville. 

[Complete coverage of the White Sox-Red Sox Chris Sale blockbuster trade]

What position Moncada ultimately winds up playing remains to be seen, but he has the flexibility to play second base, third base or center field. He played 163 of his minor league games at second base and has played 15 games at third base between the minors and majors. The White Sox, though, reportedly see Moncada playing his natural position of second base.

From MLB.com’s Jonathan Mayo’s analysis of Moncada:

Few middle infielders can match Moncada's huge offensive ceiling, which earns him comparisons to Robinson Cano with more speed. He's a switch-hitter with outstanding bat speed who makes consistent hard contact from both sides of the plate. Moncada has added some loft to his swing in 2016 and has the potential for 20-25 home runs per season.
Moncada's best pure tool is his well-above-average speed, which he has put to good use with back-to-back 45-steal seasons and an 86 percent success rate in the Minors. His quickness doesn't translate consistently as well in the field, though he has the range and arm strength to play almost anywhere on the diamond he might be needed. 
The biggest knock on Moncada is his 24.2 percent strikeout rate over his 854 minor league at-bats. That percentage spiked to 30.9 in 207 Double-A plate appearances, though his walk rate remained high there too (13 percent).

And here’s FanGraphs’ Eric Longenhagen, who projects Moncada to be worth five-plus WAR per season, on the newest member of the White Sox organization:

A plus-hitting middle infielder with plus raw and game power as well as 70-grade wheels is basically in-his-prime Ian Kinsler, except faster. That’s really good, and Moncada is debuting three years earlier than Kinsler, who is still stroking it at age 34, did. This is the best prospect in baseball, a player I think will be a perennial All-Star and a potential MVP type of talent, with tools so deafeningly loud that it may be a while before we hear the echoes of his historical significance. 

Moncada and White Sox first baseman Jose Abreu briefly played together for Cienfuegos in Cuba in 2012, two years before Abreu defected and signed a six-year contract with the White Sox. In his age-17 and age-18 seasons, Moncada hit .277/.388/.380 with four home runs for Cienfuegos in 2012 and 2013. The Red Sox shelled out $63 million to sign Moncada in February of 2015.

If Moncada remains Baseball America’s No. 1 prospect — as he was in their midseason 2016 rankings — he’ll join an illustrious group of players with that designation:

2016: Corey Seager (SS, Dodgers)
2015: Kris Bryant (3B, Cubs)
2014: Byron Buxton (OF, Twins)
2013: Jurickson Profar (IF, Rangers)
2012: Bryce Harper (OF, Nationals)
2011: Bryce Harper (OF, Nationals)
2010: Jason Heyward (OF, Braves)
2009: Matt Wieters (C, Orioles)
2008: Jay Bruce (OF, Reds)
2007: Daisuke Matsuzaka (RHP, Red Sox)
2006: Delmon Young (OF, Rays)
2005: Joe Mauer (C, Twins)
2004: Joe Mauer (C, Twins)
2003: Mark Teixeira (3B, Rangers)
2002: Josh Beckett (RHP, Marlins)
2001: Josh Hamilton (OF, Rays)
2000: Rick Ankiel (RHP, Cardinals)