Red Sox

In Rafael Devers, Red Sox have a player every prospect watcher dreams of

Rafael Devers (right) celebrates a home run with Kiké Hernández.
Rafael Devers (right) celebrates a home run in May with Kiké Hernández. John Tlumacki/Globe Staff


Suffice to say, the puzzle has started to fall together for the Red Sox even if it’s taken a shape few of us expected. Despite Shohei Ohtani outclassing them again on Thursday, Boston has still won 16 of 22 — baseball’s best team since May 18.

That this has gained them almost no ground in division, the Yankees (14-7), Rays (12-8), and Blue Jays (13-6) on their heels in the same period, is a heck of a thing, and seems like a potential wakeup call when AL East play resumes. (Somehow that’s still two weeks off, Boston’s next series in Toronto beginning June 27.)


The unquestioned star of this run has been the starting pitching, with three complete games among the 22 — the entire rest of baseball has five in this stretch — and just two in which Boston’s starter gave up more than four runs. Not far behind is Rafael Devers.

With a .960 OPS, 80 hits, and 36 for extra bases, Devers is not merely ahead of his pace to this point in his breakout 2019, he’s on the short list of best offensive players in the majors. With as much as he swings, and how rarely he rests, no one puts more rockets into play.

That it’s happening at the same time his defense at third, in regression the last two years, is back as good as it was in 2019? He is an all-around star like few in the game.

“Devers is getting better. . . . At third base, you do or you don’t, you will or you won’t. You either catch the ball or you don’t. He’s starting to catch the ball better. What I am seeing is improvement in his decision making,” Atlanta coach and baseball lifer Ron Washington told the Globe last month. “He’s still young. Defense is something you grow into. Very few of us come out of the womb good on defense. . . . Devers is starting to learn how to play it, all the nuances. I like what I see from him.”


When Boston came to terms with Devers at the beginning of the international signing period in 2013, he was already the most exciting of their additions, turning heads in instructional league as a 17-year-old. He went from No. 18 to No. 4 across three Sox Prospects rankings in 2014, and he wasn’t No. 1 until July 2017, the same month he debuted in the majors with a home run in Seattle.

I’m not noting that to cast any shade. The alchemy of prospects becoming major leaguers, be they serviceable or stars, is endlessly fascinating to me. Scrolling through those names ahead of Devers is a time capsule. A window to alternative histories.

Mookie Betts is there for a flash before his 2014 emergence in Boston, as are the final days before Xander Bogaerts went up. There’s Eduardo Rodriguez, who got $77 million from Detroit this winter and looked good in a rehab start Thursday. Andrew Benintendi, whom Kansas City is sniffing around trading following a hot start to his walk year.

Yoan Moncada, the comparisons with which Alex Speier covered in depth for the Globe last month.

There’s also Anderson Espinoza, who needed Tommy John surgery twice after the Red Sox “gave him away” for Drew Pomeranz in 2016 and who only reached the majors in May. Blake Swihart, the catcher who never panned out. Henry Owens, the lefty still unable to control his walks in independent ball.


It all strikes me amid what’s, to my untrained eye, a weird year within the Red Sox system. I don’t have to tell you it feels as though this is the final season before Boston turns over a big chunk of its major-league roster, yet it hardly feels like there’s a slew of people knocking down the door to fill spots on the position side.

Triston Casas suffered a high ankle sprain and hasn’t played in Worcester for nearly a month. Jeter Downs has flashed slightly more power than he did a year ago, but is still hitting .184 and striking out at an alarming clip.

The pitching side feels far more promising in the short term. Brayan Bello looks great in Worcester, at least, with lefty Brandon Walter joining him there after posting absurd numbers (68 strikeouts, 3 walks) in Double A.

(Also of note, last year’s No. 4 overall pick Marcelo Mayer is back playing for High-A Salem after a sprained wrist, as is Bryan Mata, the righty who missed three years due to the pandemic and Tommy John last April.)

It’s the nature of the business that they won’t all work out, and that some very talented players will become this generation’s Trey Ball. Which makes me think of another name: Yordan Álvarez.

When Houston signed its homegrown slugger to a six-year deal, buying out three years of free agency at $26 million each, they added him to a homegrown core with Alex Bregman and Jose Altuve for at least the next two-plus seasons.


It was the latter who noted that in the face of Gerrit Cole, George Springer, and Carlos Correa all walking out the door as free agents — the latter two drafted and developed in the Houston system — it was a rejuvenating development.

“Really happy to know he’s going to be here six more years,” Altuve told reporters. “Happy for him. Happy for the organization. Happy for the city of Houston. This is a great deal for everybody.”

“It allows us to build the roster around him, build a lineup around him,” GM James Click said. “And that sort of security, both for him and for us as we continue to try to compete for World Series championships is huge.”

Developing those sorts of players with regularity is at the core of everything the Red Sox are trying to do. They’ve had their share of failures, but amid plenty of successes.

Retaining them and building around them? That might be just as difficult, and it’s certainly just as important.


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