Arguably one of the top prospects in the international free agent market was Rafael Devers. Devers, who was just 16 at the time, drew interest from a number of teams including the Boston Red Sox. Boston, so impressed with Devers gave him a $1.5 million signing bonus in July of last year. The sky is the limit for this young third baseman, playing professional baseball at just 17-years old.
As far as the scouting report goes, not a whole lot can be said about Devers. Listed at 6 feet, 215 lbs., Devers seems like a prototypical young Dominican power prospect, which definitely was his selling point during the free agent frenzy. Right now, scouts consider Devers’ power good, but believe it could become great. The lefty makes solid contact against a 90-mph fastball, but has not really been challenged above that speed during any of his competition. Devers always looks comfortable at the plate and did in Spring Training when playing against relatively advanced competition. It is worth noting that Devers has an exaggerated leg kick to help him time pitches, so this should help him out while trying to deal with more advanced pitching.
On defense, Devers, who is primarily a third baseman, also takes some reps at first base. Defense is definitely the thing he needs to work on the most, but at just 17, Devers still has plenty of time to figure it out. On the plus side, Devers does have a good arm for someone his age, hitting 88-mph on the radar gun in January 2013. It is not that he is particularly weak on defense, it is just that he is not as advanced as he is at the plate.
Running is not his selling point, but Devers is not the slowest guy ever. His 60-yard dash time puts him slightly below average for speed.
Lucky for Boston, Devers could still grow as he went from 5’11” in January 2013 to 6’1″ in May 2013 while gaining 20 pounds. Even if Devers never gets taller, he still has room for some muscle as well as some bulk. Devers overall is a raw prospect but has outstanding potential to become a serious power hitter.
Before the start of the season, it was widely assumed that Devers would start his professional career in the Gulf Coast League, however that has not been the case. On the Dominican Summer League Red Sox roster released a few days ago, it had Devers listed as a third baseman on the team. In yesterday’s game, Devers went 3-for-5 with a home run in his professional debut. Although just one game, it was a glimpse of the potential Devers shows on a daily basis.
If Devers knocks the cover off the ball in the DSL, which he should, then expect Boston to ship him up to Fort Myers in a few weeks to play in the Gulf Coast League when it starts. Here, Devers will take on the big challenge of playing outside of his native Dominican Republic for the first time for a full season. Even though he went to Spring Training, much of that was spent with an all- or at least half-Dominican team. In the GCL, Devers not only will have to adjust to a higher skill level, but also the States, but that should not pose nearly as big of a problem for him as it would for many other players.
To recap, Rafael Devers may have the highest ceiling out of all of the Red Sox international prospects. Devers obviously still has a long way to go and a lot to prove at every level, but he is a fun guy to watch and could one day, in the distant future, be a great ballplayer. There is a reason why Boston gave him such a large signing bonus, as they definitely see him as a special player.