Red Sox 3B: Rafael Devers
After years of showing flashes of superstardom but not being able to put it all together, Rafael Devers had his best campaign in 2021. His 38 home runs and 113 RBI helped him not only become a first-time All-Star but the American League starter at third base.
He improved his walk rate by nearly three percent from 2019 and did damage with the pitches he did swing at, ranking in the 93rd percentile in average exit velocity, 92nd in hard-hit percentage, and 94th in weighted on-base percentage. He stayed healthy, leading the Red Sox with 156 games played, and was at his best in October (5 HR, 1.029 OPS).
Devers is making the progress that you look for in young stars. His chase rate was the lowest of his career while his swing percentage was the highest, proving that he’s reading pitches better than he’s ever had. There is still a lot of work to do, as his whiff and chase percentage are both well above average, but it’s clear that he’s taking steps in the right direction.
There are very few hitters in baseball like Devers, not just in terms of how well he hits, but how he does it. He excels against pitches that baffle most other hitters, slugging a whopping.585 against breaking balls. Though he might be best against breaking balls, Devers can do damage against any pitch, as he had a slugging percentage of at least .500 against off-speed pitches, breaking balls, and fastballs.
For Devers to take the next step, he needs to step up his defense. Every once in a while, he’ll stop a hard grounder with a sprawl and fire a bullet to first or barehand a slow roller with ease, and you can see the makings of an elite defensive player. But just when you think he’s turning the page, he’ll play a grounder to the side that he should get in front of or airmail a throw he has all day to make. The numbers sum it up: Out of 241 qualified fielders, Devers was 239th in Outs Above Average.
As inconsistent as his defense may be, there are absolutely no questions about his offense. In fact, there is evidence that Devers might have even gotten unlucky last season. Though Fenway Park is known as a hitter’s park, the dimensions might have held Devers back, as his home run total would have been higher in 27 out of 30 ballparks. His .307 BABIP represented a 30 point drop from 2019 last season despite the fact that he hit the ball much harder.
All signs point to Devers being one of the best hitters in baseball, and as he enters his age 25 season, the Red Sox third baseman should only continue to move up the ranks.
Stat Prediction: .297/.384/.568, 42 HR, 118 RBI, 5.2 WAR