It seems just about every year comes with a player like Luis Alexander Basabe. Last year you might point to Javier Guerra. The year before that, Manuel Margot. These are not high draft picks whose pick number dictates hype. They aren't huge international signings worth millions and millions of dollars even before their first professional at bat.
Instead, they're the afterthoughts, at least at first. Luis Alexander Basabe was signed along with his brother Luis Alejandro Basabe for $450,000 back in 2012. He's been in the Red Sox system for three years, but at those levels where everyone is hesitant to really give any credit for performance. Just look at the DSL Red Sox rosters of 2015. How many of those names do you recognize? One? Two? That probably puts you higher than most.
So it's no surprise that Basabe drew few eyes even while producing a .385 OBP in his first season in the DSL, especially since it came with a .225 average and .321 slugging. He would repeat the level to start 2014, but this time crushed it sufficiently--to the tune of .284/.408/.480--to earn a move up to the GCL. He would stumble upon promotion, but it put him in position to play the 2015 season in Lowell, which is around the point where people actually start paying attention.
Basabe did not take the opportunity to seize the spotlight and establish himself as a phenom. In fact, you could be forgiven for missing his .243/.340/.401 line entirely given that it came on the same team as a teammate of Andrew Benintendi, who was busy showing all the other fresh draftees why he was the best player in college baseball. But for the first time the attention being paid to Basabe was more than cursory. He hadn't dominated in Lowell, but for the first time he'd held his own at a level people give some level of merit to. Up against the new wave of talent from the 2015 draft, Basabe showed he could hang.
And for Basabe, that's important. There's no lack of raw talent in the outfielder. The only question is how much of his physical ability he can translate to on-field results. Lowell is still at that point where there's a serious lack of refinement in most players, which is both positive and negative for Basabe. Positive in that he doesn't trail behind, but negative in that we still haven't seen him face competition that will truly be able to exploit his weaknesses. There's a speed bump for every minor leaguer somewhere around Double-A, but for Basabe it might be more dangerous than for most.
Until that time, though, Basabe has shown he's not all tools with no ability to harness them. There is, in fact, already some real ability to play baseball beneath his athleticism. If that continues to develop on-pace with his physical abilities, then Basabe will fast find himself in that spotlight. He's already hitting for some solid power at 18 years old. He's shown the willingness to take a walk when it's offered up. And he's got the legs to be a threat on the basepaths and in center field alike. The ceiling on Basabe is awfully high for someone ranked down at number eight.
But it all comes down to if he can hit. You can't play baseball if you can't make contact, and that's Basabe's one greatest deficiency right now. He struck out in 30% of his at bats last year, which isn't all that far out of line with his norm. It's why those batting averages are so low. If he can't figure out how to put the bat on the ball, none of the rest will really get a chance to shine through, particularly at higher levels.
For Basabe, though, if that's his primary concern, it's not necessarily pressing. He won't turn 20 until the 2016 season is nearly through. He's not quite at Anderson Espinoza's level of being ridiculously young for his level, but he's still got plenty of time to put it all together. Greenville still won't be the great test that's to come, but it will provide him his first full season of baseball against other full-fledged professionals, and if he can prove himself there, it will be time to really start believing that Basabe can reach that high ceiling.
- Yoan Moncada
- Andrew Benintendi
- Rafael Devers
- Anderson Espinoza
- Michael Kopech
- Brian Johnson
- Sam Travis
- Luis Alexander Basabe