The Boston Red Sox have no shortage of young talent, but one of their brightest superstars is also one of their youngest. 22-year old Rafael Devers first made the major league roster midway through 2017 at the young age of 20. With a year and a half of promising-yet-inconsistent play, can the youngster play up to his potential?
Boston Red Sox 2019 Preview: Rafael Devers
Perception of how Rafael Devers did in 2018 is entirely reliant upon your expectation entering the season. After being perhaps the best power hitter on the 2017 Red Sox, many expected Devers to take the next step and become one of the league’s elite hitters. Because of that, some may feel disappointed with Devers’ final .240/.298/.433 slash line and accompanying 90 wRC+. At the same time, Devers is just 21 and the fact he’s doing this well already shows that there is a bright future ahead for this kid.
At the plate, Devers is somewhat inconsistent but shows great promise. On the field, Devers is highly inconsistent but shows some promise. There’s no such thing as a routine ground ball with Devers, as he’s prone to bobble or misthrow the most mundane plays. That said, Devers has good reflexes and an absolute cannon of an arm. He has all the raw tools to be a serviceable third baseman, although he hasn’t shown the ability to use those tools with any consistency.
All in all, 2018 was an uneven but ultimately encouraging season for Devers. He flashed power, as evidenced by his 21 home runs, and played his best baseball as the season went on. This is basically what you want to see from a young player still trying to get their footing in the majors.
Devers had his moments throughout 2018, but he lacked consistency. Like most young players, Devers was subject to several peaks and valleys throughout the course of the season. For example, Devers was on fire in the month of June, hitting .284/.305/.510 with a 112 wRC+. However, between May and July he combined to hit .212/.280/.369 with a 72 wRC+.
Additionally, Devers needs to work on his plate discipline. Devers finished 2018 with a 7.8% walk rate and a 24.7% strikeout rate. While these aren’t the worst numbers in the world, Devers can certainly work to improve this portion of his game.
Lastly, Devers needs to work on getting better with the glove. While the Red Sox clearly want him to stick at third base, his future at the hot corner is still uncertain. Devers will need to prove that he can capably man third base, or else he could move to first base in the future. With players like Michael Chavis and Bobby Dalbec almost pro-ready, Boston could opt to move Devers to first if he doesn’t show quick defensive improvement.
Steamer Projections believes Devers will substantially build on his 2018. Steamer anticipated Devers to finish 2019 with a .270/.328/.476 slash line and an accompanying 111 wRC+. The projection site also anticipates Devers to hit 22 home runs, just one above his 2018 total.
The slash line and wRC+ sound about right. At age 22, Devers still probably won’t play up to his full potential in 2019. That said, Devers should still be an above-average hitter in 2019. He’s not Mookie Betts, but Devers should be a solid bat in the middle of the Red Sox lineup.
The one surprise is the low home run projection. Devers has more natural power than anyone on the Red Sox roster outside of J.D. Martinez. Even then, Devers might have Martinez beat in raw ability. Even as an inconsistent 21-year old, Devers managed to hit 21 homers in 2018. He should crush that total in 2019 and could easily push 30 homers on the season.
Based on our Twitter pole, most of you agree that Rafael Devers will be an above-average hitter, but not quite a superstar.
Our Large Son Rafael Devers had an inconsistent but encouraging rookie season. How will be fare at the plate next season?
— Red Sox Unfiltered (@bosoxunfiltered) January 4, 2019