The Situation: It’s July 23rd. Red Sox third baseman have hit .224/.284/.307. Rafael Devers can probably do better than that.
The Background: Devers signed out of the Dominican Republic as part of the 2013 IFA class for $1.5 million. He came stateside the following summer after just 28 games in the DSL. In 2015, he was given an aggressive assignment to the South Atlantic League as an 18-year-old. He held his own—batting .289/.323/.443—and jumped up our 101 from No. 90 to No. 35. He almost xeroxed his line in 2016 as a 19-year-old in Advanced-A, and that was after an ice cold start to the season. The continued development of his offensive tools—along with solid on-field performance as one of the youngest players in the Carolina League—made him one of the top-20 prospects in baseball coming into this season, despite questions about his ultimate defensive home. If a top-20 prospect in baseball could “break out,” Devers 2017 would qualify. He mashed in Double-A, hitting .300 with 18 bombs in a half season before a recent promotion to Pawtucket. It took a mere week of additional mashing to get the call to Boston. Devers checked in at No. 5 on our Midseason Top 50, but he had a case for No. 1.
Scouting Report: Rafael Devers may have the best overall offensive tool set in the minors right now. He can get pull-happy at times, and he takes his hacks, but he can cover just about everything including premium velocity. The power plays to all fields and is potential plus-plus in games in short order. He stays in well left-on-left and doesn’t try to do to much. Devers is a big boy, with big legs and a big ass, but he’s a better athlete than that description. He popped 4.2 (average speed) for me when he smelled an infield hit, and he’s a canny baserunner. So about that third base glove…I think he can play there, and certainly should be fine in the short term. He’s got soft hands and a borderline 7 arm. Devers is never gonna be super-rangy, but he was comfortable coming in on balls and making throws on the run. The body is high-maintenance and is likely to eventually force a move across the diamond. Could be at 25, but could also be at 30. .280 and 30 bombs will play out at either spot though.
Immediate Big League Future: It’s a week to the trade deadline, and it sure seems like the Boston front office has decided to roll with Devers for the foreseeable future. His aggressive approach may allow major league arms to exploit him some at first, but their are positive harbingers in the offensive profile, and he will absolutely punish even major league mistakes. The Red Sox saw this go badly with Yoan Moncada last year, but Devers has a better present hit tool than Moncada had last summer, and I am more confident in his ability to keep his head above water (and again, check out that 2017 third baseman triple slash above). There’s also…significant upside in the bat here if he treats the majors as rudely as he’s treated every other level so far this season. —Jeffrey Paternostro
Fantasy Impact: Well that was fast. It’s seemed like Devers would get the call at some point this season for a while, but July 24 is about as early as any fantasy owner could’ve hoped when the season began given that Devers entered the season with 0 at-bats above High-A. Guess that’s what mashing in the Eastern League and making a splash in the International League will do for ya.
Will Devers succeed immediately in the big leagues a la Andrew Benintendi, or struggle off the bat like Yoan Moncada. Honestly, there’s no way to tell! But the chance that he could play everyday in a potent (if not elite) offense for the rest of the year makes him worthy of significant FAAB splurges in medium-to-deepish redraft leagues. Devers can really hit and really hit for power, and while there’s a chance he flops and is demoted, there’s no chance he’s on the MLB roster but not playing every day. The Red Sox will let him sink or swim, because they don’t really have any other choice. Perhaps this is another reason for dynasty owners to thank Brian Cashman for the Todd Frazier trade.
Long-term, Devers is a potential fantasy stud, but you already knew that. I mean, you have to be pretty damn good as a prospect for Dave Dombrowski not to trade you. We’re talking top-5 3B upside if it all really clicks, but Devers is a ways away from the .300-hitting, 30-homer monster he could one day be. At first, hope for more of a .270-.280 average and 15-20 homers with solid RBI stats as a tertiary fantasy tool. Bret Sayre and I ranked him as our No. 5 dynasty prospect a few weeks ago, so the talent is real. This should be a very fun career. —Ben Carsley