I’ve mentioned this before, but if you don’t read every round table, well first of all how dare you and second of all I hand out the question to the staff early in the week, usually Monday morning. Obviously, things have shifted quite a bit since Monday this week what with the whole “baseball is coming back” thing. But that hadn’t happened when I sent out the question this week, so that’s not what we’re talking about in this roundtable. Instead, we’re going to continue with the theme I’ve been going with for the last few days on the next award winners in the organization, and specifically the next MVP. The question, simply, was who is the next MVP in the Red Sox organization?
I feel like the only answer to this question is Rafael Devers. In his second full season he finished within striking distance of the top 10 in MVP voting, and he still has room to grow as a player, especially where pitch recognition and drawing walks are concerned. For some context, two of my favorite hitters in recent Red Sox history are David Ortiz and Manny Ramirez. In Ortiz’s second full season he was hitting .272/.339/.500. He moved on to the Red Sox and became a legend. Manny’s second full season was at age 24 in 1996. He hit .309/.399/.582. Devers, in his second full season hit .311/.361/.555. But more importantly, he did it at age 22. He didn’t turn 23 until October.
The lack of baseball until this point in the year hurts his development, but it’s worth noting that he’s still younger than either of these GOATs were when he put up his first 5+ fWAR season. You might wonder when each had theirs. Ortiz’s first was in 2005 at age 29. Manny’s was in 1998 at age 26.
The sky is the limit for Devers. He is the only player in the organization that I would feel comfortable betting on being a future MVP.
For me it was a toss up between two players, but in the end I think Rafeal Devers has the best chance to be the next MVP award winner. He has then talent (obviously) but also the age. He will be playing in his age 23 season this year. He has the raw power to put up 35 home runs consistently which will add to his counting stats. If the Sox make a World Series run in the future, it will be because Devers destroyed the league.
If anyone on this current Sox team is going to win an MVP, it has to be Rafael Devers. Devers absolutely mashed last year to the tune of an OPS over .900, and proved himself to be one of the best young players in baseball. At just 23 years old, he ranked 9th in the majors in offensive WAR. Plus, at such a young age, Devers clearly has plenty of time to improve. It’s a scary thought to think about what he has the potential to over the next decade.
The biggest hurdle to a Red Sox player taking home MVP honors right now is walking MVP Mike Trout. While Mookie Betts was able to top him, Trout is essentially the default in any given season until we learn that he’s either injured or old. Xander Bogaerts? Rafael Devers? J.D. Martinez? As much as I’d like to think one of them could put up a big season during their time in Boston it probably will still fall a little short.
Maybe Chris Sale could come back and have an absolutely dominating season as a pitcher - the rare Cy Young and MVP winning achievement - but he’d still have to overcome the hurdle of being so amazing that he’d steal the MVP away from a position player. Over 300 strikeouts? A dozen complete games with under 105 pitchers per nine innings? Multiple perfect games? Verlander was able to pull it off because Ellsbury lost votes during a team collapse. Trout gets votes even though the Angels are terrible. Any pitcher now would need to do more than Verlander.
The next MVP on the Red Sox isn’t on the 25-man, 40-man or in the system. He’s probably born. Maybe in high school right now. Or Maybe there’s a reunion in December with a certain current Dodger who pulls off the trick of topping Mike Trout a second time.
Any Red Sox attempting to win an AL MVP has an uphill climb since Mike Trout will be around for the foreseeable future, but Mookie Betts showed that someone besides Trout can take home the trophy. It might still be a while before someone has as good a season as Betts did in 2018 for the Red Sox, but I think Rafael Devers could get close.
Devers is just 23 years old and he produced just a shade under six fWAR last year. He also slashed .311/.361/.555, mashed 32 home runs and led the AL in doubles (54) and MLB in total bases (359). He also played at a defensively intense position, so he can’t really be penalized for just being a good hitter. That’s an incredible year for anyone, but considering he was in his age 22 season at the time, it’s more than that. Devers hasn’t hit his peak yet and with that much potential, he could put together an MVP season no problem. He already finished 12th in MVP voting last year and I think he’ll be climbing higher and higher as the years go on.
For me it has to be Rafael Devers. Last year, at just 22 years old, he had 90 extra base hits! That put him behind only Jimmie Foxx’s team record set in 1938 and 2004 David Ortiz, they had 92 and 91 respectively. Foxx won the MVP that season while setting the Red Sox record for home runs at 50 and RBI, which still stands, at 175. He was 30 years old when that happened. Ortiz was 28, two years away from breaking Foxx’s home run record, and enjoying one of the best seasons of his career on his way to legendary postseason heroics. Devers put himself in that discussion at 22. If Devers can continue to improve his defense and his approach at the plate he will be in the discussion for players who can win the MVP. It’s not likely to happen because Mike Trout exists, but Juan Soto, Cody Bellinger, Christian Yelich, Mookie Betts, and Ronald Acuña Jr. all play in the other league. I don’t need to stretch my imagination too much to envision a 45 home run, .300 batting average, and .600 slugging percentage season with improved defense and an AL MVP award at the end.
The first name that came to mind with this question was J.D. Martinez because he’s just so consistently good at hitting, but he is aging and is mostly a DH, and voters don’t seem to like that. The next best two options are the left side of the infield and since Devers is still developing I’ll go with him. Devers was finished 12th in MVP voting in 2019 and if it wasn’t for a terrible first month + of the season he probably would have been in serious consideration to win it. Devers has 40+ homer power and the ability to hit well over .300 and that’s just such a rare combo that if he’s able to put it together he should be consistently in the top of the voting for some time to come.
Xander Bogaerts checks every possible box, and could easily win it in a year like the forthcoming chaotic one. I think Bogaerts’s competition is too strong right now, when he’s at his absolute ceiling, to pick him over Mike Trout et al. in the abstract, but as a shortstop he’s always got a built in advantage a la Miguel Tejada. People want to pick shortstops. I want to say Rafael Devers, and started to when I started this answer, but everything could line up for Bogey like the seas parting in a way I can’t see for someone at the hot corner who’s not Alex Rodriguez. If anyone says anyone but these two I will be extremely surprised, but of these two, it’s X for me.
If we’re being honest, Carlucci is probably the only correct one as the odds are always in favor of a team not having an MVP on the roster at any given time unless you’re the present-day Angels. But that’s no fun. I knew Devers would be a popular answer and maybe the most popular, but I’m surprised just how little love Bogaerts is getting. I’m with Bryan here, and while I love Devers for all the reasons everyone else does, we should remember that Bogaerts is still only 27, plays a more premium position and has been better offensively than Devers was last year in each of his last two seasons, including being somewhat significantly better in 2019. Anyway, I already wrote this up yesterday.