Red Sox 3B Rafael Devers
The world of projecting MLB prospects is a depressing one. In basketball or football, you can watch a college player and see skills that would translate right away to the pro level. Baseball is not like that. It takes years of development, going from minor league affiliate to minor league affiliate before finally reaching the highest level.
That process wipes out countless players, whether through the inability to adjust to more advanced pitching and hitting or through injuries that prevent a player from getting much-needed development time. The hit rate on international players is even lower.
Those players can sign with a major league team as early as 16 years old, meaning it could take them half a decade to climb from the Dominican Summer League all the way to pro ball. Simply put, the player that scouts see during their international trips are rarely the ones you see at the major league level. That’s what makes Rafael Devers so special.
Like Bogaerts, Devers was pretty much the youngest player at every level he played at, but he was never close to being overwhelmed. He hit .322 as a 17-year-old in rookie ball, hit .288 as an 18-year-old in A ball, and hit .282 as a 19-year in High-A.
The Red Sox were determined not to rush Devers to the majors, but he forced his hand in 2017. He earned a promotion to Triple-A by slashing .311/.377/.578 in Portland, and, after homering twice in his first nine games, was brought to Boston to spark a struggling offense.
Devers was clearly major league ready by the time he made his debut, but he kept making improvements to his game to elevate himself to superstar status. He improved his conditioning to stay on the field more and has missed just 17 games over the last four seasons.
He’s gotten a lot better against lefties and upped his batting average versus southpaws from .229 in 2018 to .333 this season. He’s cut his strikeout rate by nearly 9% from his rookie season and even upgraded his much-maligned defense from disastrous to passable.
The only question remaining for Devers is how long he will be in Boston. The 24-year-old will be a free agent at the end of the 2023 season, and will likely garner a contract upwards of $300 million. As Devers continues to get better and is just now entering his prime, he looks like a sure bet to be well worth the investment.