A Tale of Two Basabes

Alternate title: How many times can we say “Basabe” in one post?

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It’s a good time to be Luis Basabe. Now 21 years old, Basabe was signed for $450,000 as an international free agent at age 16 by the Boston Red Sox. Since then, Luis has steadily risen through the minor leagues. The switch-hitter’s statistical performance has been mixed - perhaps due to his ridiculous youth - and he was traded in 2016. Now, though, he’s bouncing back from a .220-range 2017 batting average for what could be his best season yet.

This is all also true, of course, for Luis Basabe. The twin that plays for the White Sox.

Luis Alexander Basabe, outfielder, was the second of two Basabes traded, the first occurring when the Red Sox sent Luis Alejandro Basabe, middle infielder, to the Diamondbacks mid-season 2016 in return for Brad Ziegler. Luis Alexander is considered to be the greater prospect, although neither is without promise, as evidenced by their signing bonuses and flashes of high-level performance. Luis Alexander, of course, came over to the White Sox at the end of 2016 as part of the Chris Sale trade. For the first time, the Basabes weren’t on the same team.

Unsurprisingly, both because of their developmental level and the fact that they’re, you know, identical twins, the Basabes spent their first two seasons playing for the DSL Red Sox. Luis Alexander performed better than his brother and earned a mid-season promotion to the stateside Red Sox rookie team in 2014, while Luis Alejandro took until 2015 to reach that level. Finally, in 2016, they synced up again, both playing for the low-A Greenville Drive.

In Greenville, Luis Alejandro actually overtook his brother, statistically. While Luis Alexander hit .258/.325/.447 over 105 games, accompanied by 116 strikeouts, 12 home runs, and an impressive 8 triples, Luis Alejandro batted .310/.412/.467 over his 64 pre-trade games, striking out at a slightly lower rate and walking at a higher one. Perhaps this is why the Diamondbacks went for him over his more highly-regarded brother. It was probably not an accident. That probably wouldn’t happen.

And then came the separation. According to this Kane County Chronicle article, the Basabes had each been offered more money to sign with different teams when they were 16, but the Red Sox offered to sign them together. They played together for years in the Red Sox system, going from teenagers to slightly older teenagers. This was a big move, not just for Luis Alejandro, going to an entirely different team, but also for Luis Alexander, who had to stay behind.

And what happened? Luis Alejandro hit .217/.339/.323 with the low-A Kane County Cougars for the rest of the year and struck out 60 times, covering 45 games. Coincidentally, I was working for the Cougars that year, and I can confirm that he looked pretty dismal at the plate.

When the divergence finally came, it took no prisoners - instead of seeing his numbers dive-bomb, Luis Alexander enjoyed a strong second half of 2016. Post-All-Star-Break, he hit .292 (as opposed to a .222 pre-break average), earning him an extremely late-season call-up to high-A ball, where he hit .364 over five games.

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In 2017, Luis Alexander started in high-A - for the White Sox this time - while Luis Alejandro repeated low-A in the Diamondbacks system. After the Great Bifurcation of Twenty Sixteen, they ricocheted back together, maybe as a form of cosmic overcompensation. Luis Alejandro, in an injury-shortened season, hit .229/.318/.337. Luis Alexander, who also missed time to injury, although not as much, hit .221/.320/.320. Luis Alejandro struck out in almost 31% of his at-bats. Luis Alexander struck out in about 28% of his. Luis Alejandro hit 13 doubles. Luis Alexander hit 12.

As you might have heard, it is now 2018, and the Basabes are almost two years removed from the familial environment they brought with them from Venezuela. Going by the numbers alone, they seem to have adjusted, both of them now the dominant Basabe on their respective teams. Luis Alejandro, in his third season in low-A (still a shade younger than league-average age), has broken out with a .328 batting average and a .444 OBP. He’s balancing 14 walks with 15 strikeouts, and has seven multi-hit games in his 18 played. Luis Alexander’s performance this year, meanwhile, has been making waves in White Sox circles. His average is at .314, OBP at .410, and his current home run tally of four is already just one behind his total from last season. He also already has three triples to accompany his seven doubles. FutureSox’ own Matt Cassidy recently laid eyes on him, with a writeup included here.

There isn’t a lot of precedent for baseball-playing twins. Information on pairs in the minors is almost impossible to find, and Baseball Almanac only has nine pairs listed in the majors, the most famous being Jose and Ozzie Canseco.

It might be unrealistic to think that both Basabes will make the major leagues - ok, it IS unrealistic, especially given their horribly young age, their low-minors stations, and the crapshoot that is prospect success. But, given their performances so far this year, the Battle of the Basabes could still be in the cards. Time will only tell if their performances continue to mirror each other, or if eventually a divergence point becomes unavoidable.

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