Limited to 69 games at the Double-A level in 2019, Luis Alexander Basabe experienced a regression in his overall numbers from the same level in 2018. In what most considered a disappointing performance in his first half-season in Birmingham, he managed a wRC+ of 111 on the year compared to a below- average 95 in 2019. He also saw his prospect status drop from the ninth position in our preseason ranking to 12th in the FutureSox midseason review.
2019 Plagued by Injuries and Inconsistency
Basabe’s season got off to a rough start when he suffered a broken hamate bone in spring training, causing him to miss the first few weeks. After a five game rehab stint in Kannapolis, he joined the Birmingham Barons on April 28. As a result of the wrist injury, he struggled in the early part of the season slashing .220/.303/.297 with an ops of .600 in 32 games in the first half. Despite being limited to seven games in June and 13 in July, Basabe played in 37 games in the second half, where he saw his numbers rebound to .267/.342/.379 with an ops of .712.
In a phone interview with FutureSox, Basabe indicated that he felt the starts and stops to his season impacted his performance. “I started to feel more comfortable late in the season,” he stated through an interpreter. He indicated that he felt 100% healthy towards the end.
After smashing 15 home runs across two levels in 2018, he only managed three in 2019. The result was an ISO of .090 contrasted with the .143 he posted in Double-A the previous season. While he feels the ball doesn’t carry as well in Birmingham as it did in North Carolina, Basabe is not using that as an excuse; nor did he mention the wrist injury impacting his power numbers. “I’m not satisfied with this season, I need to improve moving forward,” he told the interpreter.
Reasons for Optimism
Despite a disappointing year, there’s data that indicates it’s far too early to dismiss Basabe as a prospect. On the surface, one can point to his improved second half, but a deeper dive into his splits leads to some hidden treasure.
A switch hitter, Basabe performed far better against left-handers last season. He slashed .338/.404/.438 with an ops of .842 from the right side of the plate. Conversely, he struggled versus right-handed pitching slashing .205/.288/.298 with an ops of .578.
“I feel far more comfortable from the right side,” Basabe explained through the interpreter. “I hit this way as a kid.”
Descending into the numbers a little further uncovers additional reasons for hope that the “third piece” in the Chris Sale trade can become a contributor at the major league level. Of his 36 hits versus right- handers in 2019, 25% of them went for extra bases, including all three home runs. Becoming more consistent and tapping into that power potential from the left-side could be a catalyst for Basabe’s advancement to the top level of the minor leagues.“I want to get better at everything,” he said.
There are more valuables to be uncovered within Basabe’s splits beyond which side of the plate he’s swinging the bat from. In 67 at-bats with runners in scoring position, he slashed .343/.423/.493 with a lofty OPS of .916. Of his 23 hits, seven of them went for extra bases with one leaving the park. “I’m able to concentrate better with runners on base,” said Basabe. His ten walks in these situations provide further support for that assessment.
To capitalize on the momentum he experienced at the end of the season, Basabe would like to play winter ball in Venezuela. At the time of the interview, a decision had yet to be made on his offseason plans. One thing he does want to work on is his base stealing. He feels he offers elite speed, and capitalizing on it will help his bid for reaching baseball’s top level.
With 130 games at the Double-A level across 2018 and 2019, he has now played nearly the equivalent of a full season with Birmingham. “I’m starting to feel more confident at the plate,” Basabe told the interpreter. Given his uneven performance and the number of injuries he experienced in 2019, he’s likely to start next year with the Barons. If he can prove himself early, he’s a candidate to be moved up to Charlotte.
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