Imagine having no money, being young – say 17 or 18 years-old, no cultural understand, no grasp of the language and having your future employment being able to adapt while immersed in this new experience.
This is what Hispanic players faced in the 1950s and even up to the present. In the 1950s you would read stories about players who eventually became successful discussing their difficulties. No one on the team speaking Spanish and their own inability to just get the basics such as food and laundry. Pedro Ramos, the fine Cuban pitchers with the old Washington Senators, talked about eating the same meal every day for months since it was all he knew.
Times have changed.
Spanish culture and influence is quite strong in America. Spanish is the premier language taught in schools. Every major city and many lesser ones have extensive Hispanic areas. This is a significant improvement from the days where many a promising player returned home simply over cultural anxiety.
Rafael Devers signed with the Boston Red Sox in 2013 as an International Free Agent. Devers, from the Dominican Republic, received a signing bonus was 1.5M and was heavily scouted in the DR. The Red Sox have their own baseball academy in the DR and many players within the system are Hispanic. The Caribbean and South and Central America is a treasure trove for baseball talent.
Today with such investment the Red Sox, as do other teams, provide all the necessary support for adapting to a new cultural experience. Many players are already familiar with what to expect thanks to word of mouth, media and what may be learned at tryout camps.
The teams will provide interpreters and even player support of a trusted friend as with the signing of Yoan Moncada.The financial risk and potential payoff justifies the expense.
Devers introduction to the minors was spectacular. His first stop was the Dominican Summer League where he stood out and was quickly sent to the Gulf Coast League Red Sox and slashed .312/.374/.484 with four home runs and 36 RBI in 42 games.
Devers’ is a potential power machine batting from the left side. He weighs in at 215 pounds on a 6’ frame and is still physically developing. Devers, who throws from the right side, plays third and is holder of an average arm and limited quickness around third. Some projections point to eventually playing first base or becoming a DH.
Power is the real calling card and it is power to all fields. Devers’ bat speed and control are mentioned as being advanced for someone of his age. This is a player that reminds me of a young Gregory Polanco with the bat and size.
Devers next stop is with the Greenville Drive of the Low-A South Atlantic League where he is lighting it up with a slash of .341/.359/.500 in 22 games. Devers is currently ranked fifth on Sox Prospects and fifth on MLB Prospect Watch for Red Sox players. Devers just may move up the Red Sox chain as fast as Mookie Betts.
Statistics through 5/8/2015 via Greenville Drive
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