On paper, the Boston Red Sox might just have the most talented roster in all of Major League baseball. With a golden glover (Betts) and two potential golden glove winners (Bradley Jr. and Benintendi) patrolling the outfield, two former all-stars holding down the middle infield and a pitching staff that features the likes of Chris Sale, David Price, Rick Porcello and Craig Kimbrel in the closer role, it’s hard not to picture this team competing for a world championship. After a slow start to the season, highlighted by an initial record of 21-21, the Red Sox began to heat up going into the All-Star break. From top to bottom, the bats really started to produce, and guys like Drew Pomerantz and Rick Porcello turned in some excellent outings. However, this momentum has not carried into the second half of the season as the Red Sox have found themselves 4-7 in their past 11 games, which included a split with the last place Blue Jays and an underwhelming series loss to the Los Angeles Angels. With all of this being said, the Red Sox still find themselves in first place of the AL East with a 2.5-game lead over their arch-rival Yankees. This is promising, considering the Sox have underperformed to this point and will hopefully start to play some better baseball heading down the stretch.
One big shake up that occurred shortly after the all-star break was the release of third baseman Pablo Sandoval. The Red Sox signed Sandoval prior to the 2015 season to a five year, $95 million contract as he was highly regarded as one of the best third basemen in the game. A proven winner with three World Series victories under his belt with San Francisco, coupled with a career slash line of .294/.346/.465, the Sox faithful believed that “The Panda” would hold down the hot corner and help bring a ninth world series championship to Boston. However, this never came to fruition as Sandoval battled injuries and the media buzzed with rumors that Pablo was dealing with an eating disorder that caused him to become very overweight. Prior to his release, Sandoval was batting just .212 in 108 PA and was playing less than stellar defense. Pablo Sandoval is still owed $49.8 million by the Red Sox through the 2019 season and his contract will surely go down as one of the worst in franchise history.
Up to this point, the Red Sox have gone with a platoon at third base which included the likes of Deven Marrero and Tzu-Wei Lin. Both have been serviceable when in the lineup, but the instability at third base is a glaring weakness for this otherwise very strong Red Sox team. Also, former all-star utility man Brock Holt has recently returned from the 60-day DL following his battle with vertigo, but there’s no telling how productive the scrappy left-hander will be the rest of the season.
With all of these circumstances taken into account, the Red Sox made the executive decision to call up their top prospect, Rafael Devers, to the big league club following their 3-2 loss to the Angels on Sunday. People knew that Devers was going to get his shot in the future, but not many were expecting it after only playing nine games in AAA Pawtucket. This automatically makes Devers the youngest player in the MLB, at 20 years and 274 days old at the time of his call-up.
The Red Sox signed Devers as an international free agent out of the Dominican Republic shortly after he turned 16 years old. Scouts have raved about Devers’ big league body to go along with his plus-plus raw power for years. It was only a matter of time for Devers to thrive against professional pitching. Rafael Devers has skyrocketed to the top of the Red Sox organization and has continued to produce at every stop he’s made in the minor leagues. He’s consistently been an all-star at various levels and has participated in the Futures Game twice now. Between AA/AAA this season, Devers has slashed an impressive .311/.377/.578, which includes 20 home runs and 20 doubles. Not to mention that Devers is consistently facing guys who are three to five years older than him night in and night out. He’s been an average defender, but his bat will have to carry him if he wants to stay with the big league club for the rest of the season.
Personally, I love this move, given the fact that Red Sox third basemen have hit an embarrassing .224/.284/.307 this year to go along with below average defense. Something clearly needed to be done and the Red Sox decided to address the need internally, rather than pursuing a trade to acquire the likes of Ian Kinsler or Todd Frazier (recently traded to the Yankees). I predict that Rafael Devers will plug somewhere into the six-eight spot in the lineup and will be the everyday third baseman moving forward. Don’t be surprised if you see Devers struggle at first like Yoan Moncada did last season, as it’s a tough transition for power guys to adjust to major league pitching. Expect to see a bunch of strikeouts and maybe some mental errors here and there, but when you see this 20-year-old square up a baseball and hit it 450ft, you’re going to want to see him in a Red Sox uniform for a long time. Red Sox nation is going to be totally captivated by the talent that is just surfacing from this kid, and he isn’t even old enough to go out for a beer on Yawkey Way following a big win! So pick up your Rafael Devers jersey now, because we’re all about to witness something special at Fenway Park these next couple months.
Just think about a line-up like the one below. Opposing pitchers are going to have their work cut out for them, as there’s not one easy out in the entire order. That’s a scary thought for the rest of the league. Throw Sale on the bump and they’re practically unbeatable.
- Betts 9
- Benintendi 7
- Pedroia 4
- Ramirez DH
- Bogaerts 6
- Moreland 3
- Bradley Jr. 8
- Devers 5
- Vasquez/Leon 2