Rafael Devers: Boston’s Rising Star

By Connor Pignatello

The Red Sox third base problem was not solved by a veteran rental. No, it was solved by a sweet-hitting 20-year-old Dominican named Rafael Devers.

But before I explain Devers’ spectacular rise, I must set the stage for his entrance.

~~July 24th~~

It’s July 24th and the Red Sox have ground to a halt. Baseball’s non-waiver trade deadline is just eight days away and nearly the entire baseball community expects the Sox to trade for Todd Frazier.

Frazier, the third baseman for the White Sox, is in the midst of the worst season of his career. He’s hitting just .210 and his contract expires at the end of the year.

The Red Sox haven’t been able to gain traction since the All-star break, going just 5-6. The Yankees, their ever-present rivals, are creeping up on them in the standings and have swooped in on a trade for Todd Frazier, even though many executives and analysts were sure the slugger would join the Red Sox.

Third base has been a huge issue for Boston, who has used eight (!) different players there. Collectively, Red Sox third basemen are slashing .227/.280/.320, marks that rank 27th, 29th, and 30th in the league, respectively. They have not only been terrible hitters, but they also lead the league in errors.

Dave Dombrowski decides to rectify the Red Sox’ third base issue by promoting top prospect Rafael Devers to the big leagues.

~~A Rafael Devers Profile~~

Rafael Devers was born on October 24th, 1996 in Sanchez, an aging port city in the Dominican Republic. He first started playing baseball at the age of five, inspired by his father, who played amateur ball. Devers grew up with baseball all around him and quickly showed immense talent.

In 2013, Devers signed with the Red Sox at just 17 years old. He was ranked as the number three international prospect in his class, and he signed with the Red Sox, his childhood favorite team, for $1.5 million. Devers entered the Red Sox organization as their 20th ranked prospect in a deep farm system.
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Upon joining the Red Sox, Devers was placed in the Dominican Summer League (DSL), a place where new international signings go to work on their skills. Devers took the DSL by storm, batting .337/.445/.538 with three home runs in 28 games. He impressed everyone, by his ability to hit for both average and power, and also by his great batting eye — Devers walked more times than he struck out.

After tearing up the Dominican League, Devers was sent to the States, where he played in the Gulf Coast League. The Gulf Coast League, or GCL, is where first-year minor league players are sent after being drafted or signed by their teams. Most of the players in the GCL have been drafted out of college or have just finished high school, meaning that at age 17, Devers was one of the youngest players in the league. Devers carved up the GCL, batting .312 with eleven doubles and four homers in 42 games.

After Devers’ wildy successful first year, he was rated as the Red Sox’ sixth best prospect, and baseball’s 99th best, all at just 18 years old. This was an incredible accomplishment, as Devers was the youngest player on Baseball America’s top 100 list that year.
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In 2015, Devers was promoted to the Red Sox’ Low-A affiliate, the Greenville Drive, where he experienced full-season ball for the first time. There, he was matched up against much older opponents, being one of just seven position players under the age of 19 in the South Atlantic League. Devers played well in Greenville too, batting .288 with 38 doubles and 11 home runs in 115 games. During the 2015 season, Devers was selected to the Futures Game, an event during All-Star weekend that showcases basbeball’s best young talent.After a season in Low-A, Devers was ranked as Boston’s second best prospect, and baseball’s 18th best. Devers jumped 81 spots on Baseball America’s top 100 in just one year, a remarkable achievement.

In 2016 Devers was promoted to the Red Sox’ High-A affiliate, the Salem Red Sox, at the age of 19. However, Devers hit a bump in the road in Salem. Amongst players much older than him, it appeared that Devers had finally met his match. In the first half of the season, he scuffled to a .233/.300/.305 line with just four home runs in 63 games.

However, Devers bounced back brilliantly after the All-Star break. He slashed an incredible .326/.367/.539, with seven home runs and eleven steals in 64 games. After this second-half breakout, Devers has not looked back in his meteoric rise to the majors.
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In 2016, Devers’ defense finally started to catch up with his offense. Early on in his career, scouts considered moving him to first base, because of his heavy build. But Devers has worked hard on his defense, and has stayed at the hot corner. In High-A, Devers led all Carolina league third basemen in fielding percentage (.960), putouts (104), and assists (258).

After his outstanding second half in High-A, Devers earned a non-roster invitation to 2017 Spring Training with the Red Sox. This was a big step up for the 20-year-old Devers, but he wasn’t ready for it, batting 3 for 22 against big league competition. Nevertheless, he earned a promotion to Double-A Portland, where he played for most of this year.

Devers was the Portland Red Sox’ standout player this year, socking 18 homers in addition to achieving an excellent .296/.366/.571 slash line. In 77 games, Devers jumped to number six in Baseball America’s most recent prospect rankings. He was also selected to participate in the MLB Futures Game for the second time.
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Devers was promoted to Triple-A on July 14th, and continued to hit for both average and power while in Pawtucket. Devers became the third youngest player ever to be promoted by the Red Sox to Triple-A, yet another reminder that he was playing extremely well for his age. The Dominican lefty hit an astounding .400 for the Pawtucket Red Sox, and he earned a promotion to the big leagues after just nine games in Triple-A.

When Devers debuted on July 25th, he was the youngest player in the major leagues, but you’d never know it. His first major league hit was a home run (!), and during his sixteen career major league games Devers has surprised everyone.

Scouting report

Devers has a very promising future, thanks to his ability to hit for both average and power. He has incredible raw power, and can spray the ball to all fields. His opposite field power is unsurpassed among players his age. For example, when Devers hit two homers against the Indians on August 14th, one was a laser into the Green Monster seats in left field, and the other was a high drive into the Red Sox bullpen in right field.

Devers also has great bat speed, and he is able to hit pitches very far, and to any part of the field. On August 13th, Devers hit a 102.8 mph pitch into the Yankees bullpen, the fastest pitch ever hit for a home run in the Statcast era.

Devers is not as polished as other recent Red Sox prospects like Andrew Benintendi, but he has a higher ceiling. I project that in his prime years he will hit around .285 with 30 home runs, 40 doubles, and five to ten stolen bases.
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He has improved his defensive skills, but don’t expect him to be a Gold-Glove winning third baseman. I believe he will stay at the hot corner, as he is becoming more reliable and is improving his range. Overall, Devers projects to be an All-Star with a dependable glove and a reliable, middle-of-the-order bat.

Conclusion

As of August 15th, Devers is hitting .339 with six home runs, incredible statistics that show his ability is way beyond his years. I don’t mean to read too closely into Devers’ 62 career at-bats, but he has a very promising future.

Pairing Devers with other young Red Sox stars like Mookie Betts, Jackie Bradley jr. and Xander Bogaerts should help Boston stay at the top of the AL East for years. Devers gives Boston an entirely homegrown lineup, the dream of every major league team.

Special thanks to Baseball Reference, Baseball America, and milb.com for the statistics I used in this post.

I would also like to thank NESN.com, the New Haven Register, and SB Nation’s Minor League Ball blog.

Prospect rankings are from Baseball America

Fenway Park Photo Credit: User: (WT-shared) Jtesla16 at wts wikivoyage [CC BY-SA 1.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/1.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Author: Connor

I'm a high school student who really enjoys writing about sports. I write about baseball, football, basketball, and soccer. Sports writing is incredibly fun for me and it's what I want to do later in my life. P.S: I announce each of my articles on twitter and facebook (@tfcpblog for both) and post my articles on SB Nation and Fangraphs as well as this site.

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