Red Sox third baseman Rafael Devers is on a mission
By Sean Penney
Boston Red Sox manager Alex Cora says that third baseman Rafael Devers is on a mission to take a significant step forward in 2019.
The Boston Red Sox had the best offense in baseball last season but they are capable of raising the bar even higher in 2019 if Rafael Devers is able to take the next step in his career.
Devers stumbled through a sophomore slump last season, hitting .240 with a .731 OPS. It was a step back from his promising rookie campaign and a long way from the expectations he entered the league with as a top prospect in the organization.
It’s almost inevitable for a 21-year old to encounter some bumps in the road as they acclimate to big league competition, as most players their age are still figuring things out in the minors. There’s plenty of untapped potential in that bat and his manager believes we’ll see it unleashed this season.
"“He’s on a mission,” Alex Cora told reporters, per MassLive.com’s Chris Cotillo. “If this kid clicks the way (Miguel) Andujar did for the Yankees, we’re that (much) better offensively.”"
Cora went on to discuss that Devers benefited from his first full season in the majors. While he struggled at times over the course of the grueling major league schedule, the way the young third baseman finished the year left an impression on his manager. Devers blasted five home runs and posted a .807 OPS in 19 games in September. He followed that by hitting .294 with a home run and nine RBI in the postseason.
A hamstring injury sent Devers to the disabled list twice in the second half. The second stint cost him 17 games in August but his rehab assignment on his way back from that injury was the turning point in his season.
"“When he went on that rehab assignment, either he missed the big leagues or he decided to make an adjustment,” Cora said. “He slowed down the at-bats. He wasn’t chasing too much up in the zone.”"
Devers had the 18th highest swinging strike percentage in the American League at 18.2% and his percentage of swings at pitches outside of the strike zone was 17th at 37.3% last season. Chasing bad pitches was primarily responsible for his plummeting batting average. When he wasn’t striking out on those swings, he struggled to put the sweet spot of his bat on those high pitches.
Missing time with an injury may have been the best thing that happened to Devers last year. Time spent back at Triple-A during his rehab assignment allowed him to catch his breath and make adjustments. He carried that with him when he returned to the Red Sox late in the season and those adjustments paid immediate dividends.
2018 was a learning experience that will only help Devers grow. The lessons he learned will fuel him to a breakout year. Devers is on a mission to become a devastating threat in an already lethal lineup. The rest of the league has been warned.