Will Middlebrooks, Pablo Sandoval, Travis Shaw, Pablo Sandoval (again), Deven Marrero.
These are the names of the primary third basemen for the Boston Red Sox since 2013. Middlebrooks didn’t last. Sandoval was given $95 million to be the savior. Travis Shaw won the job from him only to be traded away for Sandoval who played so poorly that he was released in year three of a five year deal. After that, Deven Marrero and company tried to hold down the fort.
Enter Rafael Devers.
On July 23, 2017, another Red Sox third baseman was given the opportunity. Rafael Devers was summoned from the minor leagues at 20 years old (and just recently turned 21) and gave the Boston Red Sox a jolt they needed. He started with eight home runs and 16 RBI’s in his first 20 games which put in the same company as Babe Ruth.
However, not all was smooth for the remainder of the season, and here’s what I believe will be keys to helping Devers succeed.
This is the biggest key to making Rafael Devers a great all-around player. All throughout the minors, scouts warned fans and others that Devers’ defense was skeptical at best. However, he got off to a great start defensively and made a lot of sparkling plays that made the scouts look clueless. But as the games went on, the errors came. By the end, Devers had played 56 games and committed 14 errors. Yikes. The majority of the errors were throwing errors, which is a little more concerning. Everyone in and around the organization was excited for Devers to get in full-time work with highly-heralded coach Brian Butterfield, but he was let go as a part of the coaching rearrangement this winter. However, a full spring training, coupled with new manager Alex Cora and third base coach Carlos Febles teaching Devers, he should make big strides on his defense.
Development as a Consistent Hitter
Simply put, the kid can swing it. And that’s what Boston needs to continue. Being last in the American League in home runs, Devers has the kind of power the team needs. Assuming a hitter or two will be brought in to help the offense, Devers needs to learn and develop to be the 30+ home run hitter they envision.
At the beginning of his young career, Devers showed excellent plate discipline and power to the opposite field. But as opposing teams and pitchers gained a scouting report on him, Devers became jumpy and less disciplined. He will need to adjust to the top level of pitchers while staying patient enough to take his walks and let pitchers come to him to do the damage everyone knows he can provide.
Don’t Get Overwhelmed
Rafael Devers just turned 21 and was the youngest player in baseball until Ozzie Albies made his debut. One of the biggest areas Devers will need to grow is not letting the game speed up on him. He’s going to be in a lot of pressure situations in a big media market, and it’s up to his coaches, teammates, and himself to make sure he doesn’t lose his confidence.
There is nothing that can kill a career more than young player losing trust and faith in himself. Devers has the skills to be a dominant, elite hitter in baseball, but there will undoubtedly be times that he goes through struggles. As long as he’s able to stay calm, confident, and work through those. He will grow as a player.
Boston fans should expect big things from Rafael Devers in 2018. He showed a ton of promise in a short sample size and even had a couple big hits in the postseason. He can be the real deal and even more should he grow in these areas.