Boston Red Sox Scouting Report on 3B Rafael Devers
After seeing a number of fellow prospects traded and the Boston Red Sox #1 prospect likely to graduate from lists after a week of the season, Rafael Devers becomes the top Red Sox prospect. What does his future hold?
The Boston Red Sox signed Rafael Calcano Devers out of the Dominican Republic as an international free agent for a $1.5M bonus.
Being a big-money signing with the Boston Red Sox puts a special spotlight on a prospect, but Devers came out of the gate showing he was able to handle that pressure.
In 2014, he made his professional debut in the Dominican Summer League, but he was quickly promoted after less than 30 games in the DSL, moving up to the Gulf Coast League.
Combined between the two levels, Devers hit .322/.404/.506 with seven home runs and five stolen bases with an 11.59 percent walk rate and 16.56 percent strikeout rate.
His excellent debut performance was noticed by national prospect rankers, as Baseball America ranked Devers #99 in their top 100, MLB Pipeline ranked him #96 and Baseball Prospectus ranked him #90.
Devers took a big step forward in 2015, playing a full season in low-A Greenville in the South Atlantic League as an 18-year-old. He hit .288/.329/.443 with 11 home runs and three stolen bases. Devers also hit 38 doubles along with a 4.72 percent walk rate and 16.54 percent strikeout rate.
Holding his own in full-season ball rocketed Devers up the prospect rankings as he rated #18 overall by BA, #17 by MLB Pipeline and #35 by BP.
2016 was a crazy season for Devers. He played with high-A Salem as one of the youngest players in the entire Carolina League, and the Red Sox opened the season with a loaded team in Salem, with fellow major prospects Andrew Benintendi and Yoan Moncada on the team along with guys like Mauricio Dubon in one of the best lineups in the minor leagues.
Only Devers didn’t start out the season hitting like he belonged in such a lofty description. The old baseball adage is that you begin to make big changes if issues are going on once Memorial Day rolls around rang true as Devers kicked his hitting into gear a week ahead of Memorial Day.
On May 22nd, the week ahead of Memorial Day, he was hitting .180/.268/.293 with three home runs and five stolen bases. He had posted a 10.7 percent walk rate and 19.05 percent strikeout rate. His astonishing .209 BABIP indicated much better things were around the corner.
They certainly were, as Devers closed the season on a tear, hitting .326/.365/.507 with eight home runs and 13 stolen bases from May 24 through the end of the season with a 5.82 percent walk rate and 16.4 percent strikeout rate.
Overall, he hit .282/.335/.443 with 11 home runs, 18 stolen bases, 32 doubles and eight triples, posting a 7.33 percent walk rate and 17.22 percent strikeout rate.
That excellent finish to the season left Devers sitting right around the same spot he was in last season in most rankings, sitting #17 with MLB Pipeline, #18 by BA and #13 by BP.
I had Devers #15 in my top 125 prospects for Call to the Pen in January.
Devers is listed at 6’0″ and 195 pounds. I honestly believe that could be a signing listing as he looks to have added an inch or two and about 15 pounds to his frame. Devers made some strides in the 2015-2016 offseason to clean up his frame, which has left him with a very well-put-together frame that portends a future power hitter.
Contact (60) – Devers has a very quick swing through the zone, allowing him to make plenty of contact.
While he does have very good bat speed without much as far as length in his load or back swing, Devers’ swing is a big, long swing, which generates explosive contact, but also leads him susceptible to excellent breaking stuff.
Power (60) – From the get-go, the calling card with Devers has been his future power. He’s not exhibited a ton of over-the-fence power to this point, but his gap power has been impressive, and he’s been in fairly pitching-friendly environments as a teenager to this point.
With the work he did on his physique, the sound off the bat is even more pronounced, and it would not surprise me one bit if he sees a jump of significant notice moving into more neutral and hitter-friendly parks in the Eastern League this season.
Eye (55) – Devers shows the ability to recognize pitches out of hand, but he struggles to lay off of stuff out of the zone once he’s committed due to his longer swing.
He will need to continue to work at this due to his swing as he ages, but he’s got the raw recognition to be solid in avoiding strikeouts, even if his walk rate won’t ever be double-digit percentage rate.
More from Call to the Pen
Speed (45) – Devers really slipped off plenty in the eyes of many scouts before 2016 due to the speed he’d lost as he gained bad weight onto his 18-year-old frame.
His dedication to his training allowed him to improve his quickness, though his top-end speed is still only really average at best. However, that added quickness did allow him to tally eight triples and 18 stolen bases, which was 10 more than his total in his previous two seasons combined.
Defense (60) – Devers’ improved conditioning really allowed his defense to take a step forward to the point where some reports I had were that he was the best third base defender some scouts saw on the summer.
I wouldn’t go quite that far (mainly because I saw Matt Chapman, who is quite possibly the best defender at third in the majors or minors currently). However, he has made significant strides in coming in on balls and being able to respond quickly to balls to his left or right with the increased quickness from his better conditioning.
Arm (60) – Devers has always possessed a strong arm. Being able to physically put himself in better fielding position allowed him to throw the ball from much better position, allowing his plus arm to really play up in accuracy in 2016.
MLB Player Comp
Though Devers takes his cuts from the left side, his swing naturally looks like the rebuilt swing that allowed Justin Turner to acquire a four-year, $64M deal this offseason.
Defensively, the strides that Devers has made over the last year really does put him in a class that Turner is an excellent comp as well.
When you break them down further, it’s interesting how similar they truly are. The last three seasons, Turner has had walk rates of 8.7, 8.2 and 7.7 percent while striking out 18, 16.2 and 17.2 percent in those three seasons. Those rates correlate fairly well with what Devers has posted in his career thus far.
They’re also built similarly, as Turner is listed at 6’0″ and 200 pounds, but probably is more in the 215-220 range at this point with Devers having added a bit of height and weight to a similar listing.
After finishing the season very well in high-A in 2016, Devers will likely open 2017 in AA at age 20 for the entire season. With a standout performance in the first half, he could even find his way to AAA.
Currently in Boston, Pablo Sandoval is making an effort to re-establish his value at the third base position, and he still is under contract through 2019 with a 2020 team option. That could give Devers plenty of time to work his way to Boston at his pace, whatever that pace may be.
Of course, that assumes that he isn’t used as a key trade piece to bring back whatever it is that Boston needs to win in 2017!