Can Rafael Devers Spark the Boston Red Sox' Offense?
Big news. Dave Dombrowski just announced the @RedSox are calling up top prospect Rafael Devers. Will make first start on Tuesday in Seattle.
— Ian Browne (@IanMBrowne) July 23, 2017
Boston sports media has a nasty tendency of fueling the hype machine on many top prospects that enter the system in high regard. This year, that hype has evolved into an erupting clamor for the 20-year-old Devers, the slugging third baseman who will solve all of Boston’s problems at the hot corner.
Alright, maybe not quite. But it’s certainly true that the Red Sox have suffered from a complete dearth of viable offensive talent at third base this season, and the team is hoping Devers can at least provide them a spark.
This season, the Red Sox have struggled to generate any offense out of their third basemen -- a position that is usually associated with moderate power production.
Here’s how the team stacks up against the rest of the league in terms of offensive production at the hot corner. We'll look at on-base percentage (OBP), slugging percentage (SLG), Isolated Power (ISO) and FanGraphs' Wins Above Replacement (fWAR).
|.225 (28th)||.283 (29th)||.306 (30th)||7 (28th)||0.081 (30th)||53 (30th)||-0.8 (30th)|
Now-exiled Pablo Sandoval entered the season as the starter, hurt himself, lost his job, and was released. Deven Marrero, Tzu-Wei Lin, Brock Holt, Christian Vazquez, Josh Rutledge, and Marco Hernandez have all started games at third base since Sandoval’s initial departure, but none of them have been particularly valuable.
No matter what metric you look at, the conglomerate of Red Sox third basemen sit either last or very close to it.
Thankfully, Boston's bringing up a guy who can do this.
Rafael Devers, are you serious?
He demolishes a 2-run HR, and he’s now 4-for-4!
Single to LF
Single to RF
Double to RF
HR to RF pic.twitter.com/AH5h6VBBnu
— PawSox (@PawSox) July 16, 2017
Development of Devers
At a young age, Devers has shown the ability to spray the ball all over the field, and he possesses considerable pop to the opposite field.
.@RedSox Rafael Devers base hit spray chart this season... Beautiful🔥🔥🔥 pic.twitter.com/LrzjThv9UE
— Daren Willman (@darenw) July 23, 2017
His approach at the plate is mature, and he's quickly acclimated himself with each step up the ladder. Here's a look at his career statistics across every level.
|Year||Level||Games||HR||Walk Rate||Strikeout Rate||ISO||SLG||wOBA|
|2014||Red Sox (R)||28||3||16.4%||15.6%||.202||.538||.468|
|2014||Red Sox (R)||42||4||8.0%||17.2%||.172||.484||.405|
|2015||Red Sox (A)||115||11||4.7%||16.5%||.156||.443||.352|
|2016||Red Sox (A+)||128||11||7.3%||17.2%||.161||.443||.352|
|2017||Red Sox (AA)||77||18||9.7%||17.2%||.275||.575||.408|
|2017||Red Sox (AAA)||9||2||7.9%||21.1%||.200||.600||.462|
What's most encouraging about his growth is the jump in nearly every category between 2016 season and 2017. This doesn't guarantee him a seamless transition to the bigs, but his ability to adjust to higher levels of competition while increasing his statistical output is certainly exciting.
The fourth-best prospect in all of baseball, according to MLBPipeline, Devers is now the youngest player in the majors by more than a year. No pressure, kid.
But Devers isn’t being asked to be a savior; he just needs to be better than what they've had at third, which shouldn't be too hard. He will likely slot into the bottom of the order, and the team could sit him against lefties, something they did last night.
The timing of his call-up makes sense. With the trade deadline still a week away, Boston can evaluate Devers’ performance at the big-league level. While the sample size will be too small to be truly meaningful, if he happens to look completely overmatched, the Red Sox will still be able to swing a trade for a veteran who may be able to help the team right away.
What Boston -- the 10th-best team in baseball and one with 80.7% odds of reading the postseason, per our numbers -- is hoping for is a spark. The 20-year-old with prodigious power could provide it.