Boston Red Sox: Five things for fans to look forward to in 2020
By Drew Athans
Besides (former) Red Sox outfielder Mookie Betts, who was their best player before being traded this past week, the Red Sox have several other excellent homegrown players. Three of them took huge leaps in 2019 and look to continue on that trajectory for 2020 and beyond. These three, in particular, are the cornerstones on the brink of stardom, so we’ll go through them one at a time.
Xander Bogaerts had already established himself as one of the better shortstops in the American League by the end of the 2018 season, but he took it to another level in 2019. He finished the year with a .309 average, 33 home runs, 117 RBI, a .384 OBP and an OPS of .939, all career highs.
His defense was greatly improved and he also brought home a Silver Slugger as well as an All-Star nod. Xander went from being a very good shortstop to one of the best in the American League and there’s no reason to think he won’t continue to be in 2020.
The knock against Christian Vazquez had always been that he was all defense and no bat, but he put that notion to rest in a big way in 2019. In addition to his excellent defense behind the plate at a premium defensive position, Vazquez hit a career-high 23 home runs (besting his previous high of five in 2017) to go along with a .276 average, 72 RBI, a .320 OBP, and an OPS of .798.
Those are excellent numbers for a catcher (especially these days) and if he can show that the increased power wasn’t an aberration and is actually here to stay, that will help the Red Sox greatly this season.
Perhaps no player took a bigger leap in 2019 than Rafael Devers. The young third baseman had a solid year at the plate in 2018 but was such a liability on defense that there was serious talk of having him become JD Martinez’ heir apparent at DH or moving him to first base.
Devers put in a lot of work over the winter and after a shaky start to 2019, turned into a solid and dependable third basemen with the glove. It was at the plate, though, where he made his greatest strides.
Devers went on a tear in 2019 and apart from a few relatively short stretches where he slumped slightly, he was a monster. His .311 average, 32 home runs, 115 RBI, .361 OBP, and .916 OPS were all career highs and he finished with 54 doubles, leading the league and narrowly edging out Bogaerts (who had 52). As long as Devers continues on this trajectory, the Red Sox should be set at third base for a while…and by the way, he’s only 23.