2019 Will Be Rafael Devers’ Big-Boy Breakout Year

It’s hard to believe, but this will be Rafael Devers’ third season with the Boston Red Sox. Well, technically, his second-and-a-half, since he was called up from the Minors mid-2017, but you get the point.

I’ve called him many things over the last couple years: Baby D, child prodigy, infant, 12-year-old, any moniker you can think of to convey the fact that he’s really young to be playing in the Big Show.

But Raffy is growing up, and already has quite the impressive big-league resumé. With more time, experience, and practice, he’s poised to have an incredible career, and I think we’re going to see a lot of growth and power from him this season.

Here’s why:

He had a strong, but struggle-filled 2018

Devers did hit 21 homers in the regular season, but he also led the league in errors for a time. He also landed on the DL in August with a hamstring injury, and the Sox sent him to rehab in Pawtucket, a move many thought was actually just an excuse to get his head on straight.

Assistant hitting coach Andy Barkett said that Devers “came back [from Pawtucket] a different human being… his work was better, cleaner, more productive… it started translating into games…” (via Boston Globe)

I’ve often said that Devers did not have enough developmental time in the minors before getting called up. The Red Sox needed a third baseman and bat power in 2017, so they called him up. It was a show of faith in the young player, but also an act of desperation, and both of those motivations were evident in his playing over the last year and a half, for good and for bad. Luckily, Devers has already begun developing into a beyond-promising player, offensively and even defensively.

His postseason record is already pretty impressive

An embarrassingly unforgettable 2017 ALDS had one bright spot: Rafael Devers. He’d barely been in the big leagues for two months – and was the youngest player in baseball at the time – when the Red Sox faced off against the Astros, but he ended up being one of the only productive bats in Boston’s postseason lineup: in 11 at-bats, he had 4 hits, 5 RBIs, and 2 home runs, including becoming the youngest player ever to hit an inside-the-park homer in a postseason game. He also became the youngest player in franchise history to homer in a postseason game, and only the 6th player in MLB history to homer in the postseason before the age of 21. Suffice to say, his first postseason ever was impressive. For reference, David Ortiz’s first postseason with the Twins in 2002 yielded zero homers in 29 at-bats.

His second postseason wasn’t bad, either. He hit .295 over three postseason series, had an RBI and stole a base in the ALDS, homered and had 6 RBIs in the ALCS, and had 2 RBIs in the World Series. He had at least two hits in each series. Two years in a row, the youngest player on the team proved incredibly effective against the Houston Astros. Did I mention his home run was a 3-run blast off of Justin Verlander? It was.

While players like Mookie Betts have soared in the regular season and struggled in October, Rafael Devers already knows how to deliver when he’s needed most. That’s an innate skill, not one you can easily learn if you don’t have it already imbedded in your system.

He’s got a great support system

Between the greatest rookie manager Alex Cora, the studious JD Martinez, and the greatest postseason hitter David Ortiz, Rafael Devers is surrounded by role models who are there to guide him. They’ve set great examples for him with their own playing careers, and it’s clear that Papi, in particular, is invested in Devers’ bright future.

Whether it’s Cora bribing him with Chipotle and ice cream, JD turning him into a nerd, or Papi teaching him how to demolish Yankee pitching, Rafael Devers might be the luckiest little boy in the world.

And we’re pretty lucky to have him on our team.

Spring Training games start this week! 

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