Sure, the present state of the Red Sox at third base is up in the air since no one knows what kind of season Pablo Sandoval is going to have, but the future looks bright. You can thank Rafael Devers for that, as the 19-year-old, while still having plenty to work on, has so much potential to be a threat with the bat in the majors someday.
MLB's prospect analysts think as much, too, as Devers ranked second among all third base prospects in the game in their latest release of the positional lists. He only came in behind Joey Gallo, who has already been to the majors briefly and whose power measures an 80 on the 20-80 scouting scale.
Devers was just 18 in 2015 -- in fact, he was a year ahead of schedule in his arrival to full-season ball, according to MLB's scouting report. His youth didn't slow him down much, as, despite not facing a single pitcher younger than him all year long, he hit .288/.329/.443 in a league where the average line was .256/.325/.372 and the average position player more than three years his senior.
Devers will likely spend 2016 at High-A Salem, and probably all of it, as there is little reason to rush him through the system. If he dominates the Carolina League, though, then a trip to Double-A Portland isn't out of the question, but don't expect him to necessarily keep tearing through the opposition. He's advanced for his age, but still has a lot to learn, and it's unclear just what his actual position is going to be in the long run.
Devers has a huge offensive ceiling. His well-above-average raw power was his most obvious tool as an amateur, and he generates it with electric bat speed and impressive strength. Devers is a more advanced hitter than expected, exhibiting a mature approach and letting his power come naturally.
Devers improved significantly at third base from 2014 to '15, though there still are questions as to whether he'll remain at the hot corner in the long run. He has the hands and the arm strength for the position, but he could outgrow the position -- especially if he doesn't remain diligent with his conditioning. Presently an average runner, Devers figures to lose a step once he matures physically.
MLB lists Devers' ETA as 2018, which seems right. A year at High-A, maybe finishing up in Double-A, and then at least a season in the high minors could be enough to get him to the majors. At that rate, he'd join Xander Bogaerts and Mookie Betts as recent Red Sox prospects who made it to the majors at a time when other players their age were being drafted. Yoan Moncada might be part of that list by that point, too.
Speaking of Moncada, MLB ranked him as the top prospect at second base as part of this series. He's not the only Sox prospect to get that treatment, as both Anderson Espinoza and Sam Travis also made appearances on positional top-10s. MLB still has to get through shortstop and the outfield, so the Sox might not be done just yet.