Ever since Rafael Devers joined the Red Sox in late during the 2017 season, I’ve found myself firmly on the young prospect’s bandwagon. He debuted as a 20-year-old third baseman, was the youngest active player in Major League Baseball at the time, and made a great early impression on all of us by homering for his first hit.
We all remember the greatest moment of that rookie season, however, and it’s hard to picture a time when that won’t be the top moment we think of when we think of Devers. I speak, of course, of when the 20-year-old hit a game-tying home run in the ninth inning at Yankee Stadium off of Aroldis Chapman last August – after something like that, he was incredibly easy to love for Red Sox fans. Anybody who can leave the crazy fans in the Bronx in stunned silence like that will quickly become beloved in Boston.
The potential for Devers is through the roof, as we all know. In just 58 games last year, he hit 10 home runs, contributed 30 RBIs and hit for a .284 batting average while being 11 percent better than the league-average hitter by wRC+, and that was, again, at age 20. By the time he reaches the prime of his career – roughly age 25 through 33 or so – he could be hitting anywhere from 30 to 40 homers a year. That is, if his career continues to pan out. Nothing in sports is ever a guarantee, unfortunately.
In 2018, at age 21, Devers has continued to show off his potential. He’s crushed 11 homers with 35 RBIs through mid-June, but just like with every young baseball player, he goes through frequent slumps, and that is evident with his current .239 average. Every day, Devers continues to make further progress in his career, but at the same time, he can be very frustrating to watch.
His inconsistent, error-laden defense at third base has been a constant trend this year. It’s not uncommon to see him botch a routine grounder, or to let a ball that takes a bad hop get further away from him than it would any other third baseman, or to make a wild throw to first base. But Devers is still young, and he still has plenty of time to improve. He’s also been known to flash some nice glove at the hot corner at times as well, showing that he at least has the tools to settle in as a solid gloveman at the position.
It’s not just the glove that is inconsistent, though. Devers can be equally frustrating at the plate. He strikes out a lot, frequently becoming far too aggressive and swinging at absolutely anything and everything a pitcher throws to him. As a baseball fan, that can quickly become maddening to watch.
But then it always comes back to the age. The biggest thing to remember is that he’s still only 21 and that he’s got so much baseball ahead of him still. The sky is the limit for Devers; he just has a very long way to go to get there. And in the meantime, I will continue to sit comfortably on the Devers bandwagon. After all, it’s worth it when he rewards the faith, such as Sunday afternoon when he blasted a three-run homer in the third inning at Safeco Field in Seattle. That was pretty special, and a perfect encapsulation of what he can do when things are going well.