Rafael Devers will be the next Red Sox MVP
The ballparks are empty, the fields covered in snow, and as we await any sort of rumbling about the next CBA, we’re left to look to the future. There’s not much we can do as the Hot Stove has gone colder than a Maine winter thanks to the lockout. With no new news coming across the wire it feels like the perfect time for a good old-fashioned bold prediction, and this one is all about Red Sox third baseman Rafael Devers.
It’s safe to say that Raffy has become one of the more beloved members of this roster and yet he’s only been in the big leagues since 2017. It also hasn’t taken long for “Carita” to put his name next to some of the greatest to ever play the game in the record books. When you’re constantly being linked to Ted Williams in the annals of Red Sox history, you’re doing something right.
So, with that being said, let’s get to my bold prediction for the young infielder. Once the dust settles on the 2022 season, and the confetti has all been swept up, young Raffy will be named your American League Most Valuable Player. That’s right, he’s going to walk away from next season with the highest honor a player can achieve for their individual performance in a single year.
I bet plenty of you scoffed at the notion that Devers can win the MVP, especially in the shark-infested waters that is the American League, but you better believe he can get it done. Twice in his career he received MVP votes, he finished 12th in 2019 and 11th in 2021, both were benchmark years for the young lefty. While neither of those campaigns ended how Boston would’ve wished, Red Sox Nation was at least treated to statement seasons from our promising slugger.
Again, I know it won’t be an easy task considering he’ll have to out-duel Shohei Ohtani, Vlad Guerrero Jr., and the always lurking Mike Trout, among others. If he wants to accomplish this goal he’ll need to be more 2019 than 2021, as his second full season in the league saw him lead the AL and all of MLB in offensive categories. The offense isn’t something that I worry about with Rafael as even with just one arm he was able to smash balls to Jupiter.
To break into that upper echelon he’ll need to tighten up his defense and make it sharper than it’s ever been. I was hoping with the return of Alex Cora this season we’d get an improvement in his defense, but that just didn’t happen. If he can work on his glove this winter and eventually in spring training to get it as good as it can be, he’ll have a shot.
He finished this year with 22 errors, the worst in all of baseball. Had J.D. Martinez opted out of his contract I have no doubt Raffy would’ve been moved to DH. But with Martinez remaining in Boston to finish out his contract in 2022, Devers will stay at third where he’ll have at least one more chance to prove he isn’t a liability in the field. Though I do think it’s a matter of time before his defense becomes too much of an issue and he becomes a designated hitter full-time.
So how does a guy that’s never cracked the Top-10 in MVP voting walk away with the crown? We’ve already gone over a few of the points in that his offense must continue to be the lifeblood for the Red Sox. We know what happens when his bat is white-hot and what can happen when it’s ice cold. His biggest weakness is the whiff and getting the swings and misses down while using patience to get his walks up is a step in the right direction.
The extra-base hits will be there, the RBI will be there, the secret to success lies with controlling his aggressiveness at the plate. Look no further than his efforts in the Postseason while he was hurt. He had to lay off more pitches than he ever has before in his life which allowed him to be more dangerous at the plate as well. If he can take that same mentality with him going forward when he’s healthy, the opposition has no chance.
Mix in a lethal offensive mentality with a sharper glove on defense and the door to the MVP will unlock itself. It wouldn’t hurt if the Red Sox did well in the standings though baseball is one of those sports that ignores a team’s success in the MVP voting. Lookin’ at you, Mike. Raffy has all the talent and skill to be in the conversation of the best players in the league, it’s just a matter of finding all the pieces he needs, and in 2022, he’s putting the puzzle together.