Rafael Devers Solved the Red Sox Third Base Problem
Sometimes, the best moves are the ones you don't make.
All season long, the Boston Red Sox have had third base issues. A combo platter of, Pablo Sandoval, Tzu-Wei Lin, Brock Holt, Christian Vazquez, Josh Rutledge, Marco Hernandez and Deven Marrero ate up most of those plate appearances to the woeful tune of a .239/.294/.345 slash line, the worst in baseball at the hot corner. Making the situation even more frustrating was that the team traded Travis Shaw to the Milwaukee Brewers, where Shaw is enjoying a career season .
At the trade deadline, rumors swirled that the Red Sox would make a deal to shore up third base. And while they did acquire Eduardo Nunez, the real move came when they called up their young uber-prospect, Rafael Devers, from the minors.
It was a risky move. After all, Devers is just 20-years-old and had played only 77 games in Double-A, and a mere 9 in Triple-A. However, he had crushed the opposition at those levels, specifically in Triple-A, where he batted .300/.369/.575 with 18 home runs, a walk rate of 9.7%, and a strikeout rate of 17.2%. Despite those numbers, it was a risky move to bring up a near-teenager with such a small resume, but it sure seems as though it was the right button to push.
Devers had his first career multi-homer game on Monday night against the Cleveland Indians, following a monster home run against the New York Yankees on Sunday night in the top of the 9th inning against left-handed relief ace Aroldis Chapman.
ICYMI: @Rafael_Devers introduced himself to #TheRivalry in style. pic.twitter.com/A2qhTqwJRU
— Red Sox (@RedSox) August 14, 2017
It was an impressive blast off the hardest throwing pitcher in the game.
Rafael Devers home run was off a 102.8 MPH pitch.... Hardest pitch hit for a HR... Welp ever in the tracked velocity era. (2008)
— Daren Willman (@darenw) August 14, 2017
The Red Sox would go on to win that ballgame in extra innings, elevating Devers to "legendary" status in just his 15th career MLB game. And he's helped Boston's push to win the division in a big way.
On July 25th, when Devers made his Major League debut, Boston had a one-game lead in the AL East. Today, that lead is 4.5 games, and our projections show Boston's odds of making the playoffs has increased from 80.7% to 97.1% since he was called up.
It's been quite a productive first few weeks for the left-handed slugger. In his first 16 games he is batting .339/.397/.677 with 6 home runs, 12 RBIs, 11 runs scored, a weighted on-base average (wOBA) of .445, and a weighted runs created (wRC+) of 179. In just three weeks of action, he has an fWAR of 1.0. If you extrapolate that over 162 games, Devers would be on pace to have a 10-win season.
Devers is making franchise history with his early-career blitz. He's the first Boston rookie in 100 years to three or more homers and 20 or more hits their first 16 MLB games, and his multi-homer game on Monday night was also something few Boston players his age had ever done before.
At 20 years, 294 days old, @Rafael_Devers is the third-youngest @RedSox player with a multi-HR game (Tony Conigliaro, Ted Williams). pic.twitter.com/39kpUEG4Ip
— MLB Stat of the Day (@MLBStatoftheDay) August 14, 2017
As impressive as anything is what Devers is doing against left-handed pitching. In 17 plate appearances, he's hitting .375/.412/.625 against southpaws, including that monster dinger off Chapman. Not bad for the youngest player in the Majors by more than a year,
It's too late in the season for Devers to challenge Yankees slugger Aaron Judge or his teammate Andrew Benintendi for Rookie of the Year honors. But he is helping to re-shape the American League East.