Rafael Devers ranked the top third base prospect in baseball
MLB Pipeline has ranked the Boston Red Sox 20-year old the number one third base prospect among MLB teams.
Rafael Devers has been receiving a lot of attention on BoSox Injection lately and rightfully so. A deeper profile on the 6-foot, 195-pound 20-year old can be found here as well as a profile of the Red Sox’ overall farm system here. MLB Pipeline is in agreement with regard to his potential, as they had this to say about him.
"Devers has been overshadowed in Boston’s system by the likes of Andrew Benintendi and Yoan Moncada, but that should change in 2017 with Benintendi in the big leagues and Moncada traded to the White Sox. Devers blends a rare combination of hitting ability and power potential, and he’s ready for Double-A at age 20."
On the whole, his 2016 season at High-A Salem appears to be a down-year in an otherwise stellar minor league career. His 113 wRC+ was the lowest mark he’s posted as a professional, but that’s largely due to his struggles during the first half of the season. Over his first 65 games, Devers hit just .239, with 4 home runs and 30 runs batted in. Across his final 66, he hit .327, with 8 home runs, 45 runs batted in, 44 runs and 24 doubles.
Devers flat-out raked over the second half of the season, flashing the type of bat that can carry a player through the minor league system. When you look at his ability to adjust in-season and produce the way he did, as the second-youngest player in the Carolina League at the time, it’s easy to see why MLB Pipeline believes he’s the number one-third base prospect in baseball. And why the Red Sox refused to include him in the package used to acquire Chris Sale.
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After turning 20 on October 24th, Devers still has a lot of time left to develop in the minor leagues. He’ll start the 2017 season at AA, part of his yearly ascension through the system. It’s a long-shot to expect him to be major league ready at some point this season, but his target ETA should be 2018.
But as he starts the year at AA, there is the chance that his development takes off – we’ve seen it happen quite commonly with the Red Sox’ top prospects. Xander Bogaerts, Mookie Betts and Andrew Benintendi all made the leap from AA to the majors in one season. However, Betts and Benintendi did it at a more advanced age. With his potential, and no positional depth blocking his way at AAA or the majors, I wouldn’t be surprised if we saw Devers earn a promotion half-way through the season. His ability to stay at the hot-corner through his career is debatable, but his bat will be enough to earn him a starting role at whatever position he winds up sticking with.
Regardless of the questions surrounding his permanence at third, he’s more than capable of manning the position in the short-term. Should Pablo Sandoval falter as he has the last two seasons, Devers will be able to step in and start once he’s major league ready.
Next: Sam Travis crack's ESPN's top-100 prospect rankings
Fans should also keep an eye out for Bobby Dalbec to make his way up this list in the future. Drafted in the fourth round of the 2016 draft, he displayed his massive raw power potential hitting 7 home runs with a 1.101 OPS over 34 games at Low-A Lowell in 2016.