Rafael Devers remains a promising young third baseman but his defensive lapses leave us questioning if he’ll stick at that position for the Boston Red Sox.
Here’s a hot take about the hot corner – Rafael Devers is not the future at third base for the Boston Red Sox.
At least he may not be in the long run. The immediate future is more clear, as Devers will undoubtedly open the 2019 season as the primary third baseman. The question is whether or not he can stick at the position.
The 22-year-old endured a Sophmore slump this season, although that’s somewhat expected for a player his age who also dealt with nagging injuries. Devers still flashed the potential of his powerful bat and the ceiling remains high for what he can accomplish at the plate. Nobody should be giving up on Devers as a hitter despite a bit of regression from his outstanding rookie season.
It’s his glove we’re worried about. Devers led the league with 24 errors at third base and his -13 defensive runs saved ranked next to last at the position. Those numbers are even more troubling when you consider he played only 121 games. His .926 fielding percentage is the lowest a Red Sox third baseman has recorded in a single season since Butch Hobson (.899) in 1978.
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His youth should afford him the benefit of the doubt that he’ll improve defensively but Devers may not have that luxury given the competition on the horizon. Boston’s top two hitting prospects, Michael Chavis and Triston Casas, are third basemen. While the latter may be a few years away after being selected in the first round of the 2018 draft, Casas projects to arrive in the majors while Devers is presumably still in town. Chavis is already knocking on the door to his big league debut and would be a candidate to make the roster next spring if the Red Sox had a spot for him.
Chavis doesn’t have the range that Devers does but he has a strong throwing arm and may be the safer choice if Raffy doesn’t cut back on the errors. The 6′-4” Casas may be too big to handle the position at this level but he’s athletic enough that scouts believe he’ll manage to stick at third.
We can make room for all three of these young talents on our future vision of the Red Sox roster but only one of them can be the primary third baseman. One of them can move across the diamond to first base, which could be the plan as early as 2020 when Mitch Moreland and Steve Pearce could both be gone. One among this trio may eventually be the DH once the contract of J.D. Martinez runs out.
There’s also the chance that one of these players could be dangled as trade bait for Dave Dombrowski’s next blockbuster deal. Boston could aim to capitalize on their depth at third baseman to upgrade at another position of need. With No. 6 prospect Bobby Dalbec also waiting in the wings, the Red Sox can afford to deal from this surplus. The prospects are more likely to be dealt but we can’t rule out Devers being moved in a trade if the other team is looking for a major league-ready talent.
Devers has plenty to work on this offseason but his defense is chief among those priorities. His power will come naturally and his batting average should rise closer to last year’s .284 rather than his .240 average from this season. He should still be considered one of the pillars of this young core but if Devers doesn’t improve his defense next season then his role on the team will need to change. There are too many promising third base options in the pipeline to allow a butcher with the glove like Devers to block their path.