Silverman: Yoan Moncada just visiting with White Sox while Rafael Devers is here to stay with Red Sox

August 4, 2017

The best thing about the White Sox’ first visit to Fenway since trading away Chris Sale wasn’t that Yoan Moncada was already on Chicago’s major league ballclub and batting cleanup for the first time.

Timing- and angle-wise, that’s a pretty swell plot line.

But even better was the presence of Rafael Devers on the Red Sox.

His “He didn’t just do that, did he?” opposite-field, two-run home run in the first inning of the Red Sox’ 9-5 win was only an exclamation point to his remarkable debut.

Moncada is the one who got away, all right, but Devers is the one who stayed.

Moncada is 22 and came in hitting .140 with one home run and 15 total bases in the big leagues.

Devers, still 20, was hitting .429 with two home runs and 20 total bases in his first 32 plate appearances.

The White Sox tried hard last December to pry away Devers along with Moncada and flamethrower Michael Kopech from the Red Sox.

The Red Sox said no way.

They still got Sale anyway.

And they still have Devers.

Now, what was it we were saying about Moncada?

“No two situations are alike but you start to look at the fundamental abilities of whether it’s mechanics of a hitter, whether it’s the delivery of an individual pitcher, and how too do they control that in times of when an emotional spike might take place?” said Red Sox manager John Farrell about how Devers has made such a seamless splash in the majors while Moncada barely has dipped his toe into the MLB waters. “Raffy has come in, and what he shows us is a very flat swing, the ability to address many different areas in the strike zone, and maybe that has him at this comparative stage, maybe a little bit more equipped. But that certainly would be debatable among many people who watch both guys.”

Devers had reached only High Single-A when the Sale trade went down. There’s more guesswork involved in projecting production at that age and stage, but Moncada already had zoomed through three minor levels last season before the Red Sox called him up last September. They asked him to switch to third base, and after he collected four hits in his first three games, he had none over his final five games.

His swing was long, it had holes and pitchers discovered them.

With Devers in the wings, it helped give the Red Sox courage to ship Moncada.

“I’m not going to say you’re going to sell low on someone, but I think there’s maybe a willingness to, I don’t know if you want to call it ‘surplus,’ but when you’ve got multiples, you can be a little bit more aggressive to maybe fortify or supplement other areas,” said Farrell. “We’ve had a lot of good players here over the past couple years that were available to bring back the needs that we have. I can’t speak for (president of baseball operations) Dave (Dombrowski), but what you can say is when you have a number of good players, you can seek deals.”

When Moncada met with the media in the visitors clubhouse, he was asked about his rocky transition to the big leagues.

At first, via a translator, he said he thought that he “wasn’t ready” for the big leagues and that this year, he knows his role and knows that he will be playing second base.

Later, he clarified that his readiness was not the issue. It was more a matter of not being prepared for the speed at which the game is played in the majors.

“It is not that I wasn’t ready, it’s like it was too fast for me,” said Moncada. “I was playing in the minors and then suddenly I was in the majors. That was really fast for me. But probably the things didn’t go well at that time and that created or made it a bigger issue. But it wasn’t like I wasn’t ready for that. It’s just that it was too fast for me.”

Farrell saw that, too.

“I think any player is going to feel that initial transition as being, ‘Hey, things are picking up on me,’ so, I don’t know how else a young player would describe it other than to feel like the game is quick, things are rushing so to speak,” said Farrell. “But there’s no denying the physical abilities.

“He’s a tremendous athlete — explosive abilities. We’ll see how this plays out.”

The big leagues have not looked too fast for Devers — at least for now — but that’s a narrative that easily could flip considering how talented Moncada is and how hot Devers is.

But that’s where this story is now.

Moncada’s here for a visit.

Sale and Devers are here to stay.