5 bold predictions for the 2023 Boston Red Sox

Red Sox pitcher Chris Sale and infielder Rafael Devers
Red Sox pitcher Chris Sale and infielder Rafael Devers / Maddie Malhotra/Boston Red Sox/GettyImages
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Red Sox superstar Rafael Devers
Red Sox superstar Rafael Devers / Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/GettyImages

Red Sox star Rafael Devers will lead the majors in extra-base hits

Why it could happen: Devers has ranked top-10 in the majors in extra-base hits in each of the last four seasons. That includes 2019 when he led the majors with 90 XBH. Devers mashed 32 homers that season while leading the league with 54 doubles.

The Red Sox lineup was a bit underwhelming at times last season but they still maintained the tradition of leading the league in doubles. The towering Green Monster in left field at Fenway Park is an inviting target that turns routine fly outs into wall-ball doubles. Last season, four of the top 10 AL hitters in doubles were from the Red Sox, including Devers, who ranked fourth in the league with 42.

Rafael Devers finished eighth in the majors with 70 extra-base hits last season. He was still collecting doubles in bunches but his home run total dipped from his career-high 38 in 2021 to 27. Devers collected 22 of those home runs during a scorching first half of the season but a hamstring injury sent him to the injured list in late July. He struggled through a miserable month of August, clearly still hampered by the hammy, hitting a meager .164 with only 3 home runs and 4 doubles.

The 26-year-old has shown that he has the 30+ homer upside and we can count on him being among the league leaders in doubles, but he still hasn't reached his ceiling. After being rewarded with a massive contract extension that cements his status as the face of the franchise, Devers is free of distractions and poised for a career year. As long as he can avoid the nagging injuries that contributed to his summer slump last year, Devers has the talent to be among the game's best hitters.

Why we can't lock it in: Is it too simple an explanation to say that Devers might fall short because Aaron Judge still exists? The Yankees slugger demolished the league with 90 extra-base hits during his historic campaign last season. We shouldn't expect a repeat performance and it's noteworthy that Devers tallied more extra-base hits than Judge in each of the previous three seasons. However, it's fair to call Judge the betting favorite entering the season.

Setting aside that there are also several other elite hitters who could challenge for the league lead, Devers faces other challenges that could prevent him from reaching this goal.

The Red Sox lost Xander Bogaerts and J.D. Martinez to free agency, two established stars who typically hit behind Devers in the Red Sox lineup. While Boston has improved in other areas and found suitable replacements, such as Justin Turner, the revamped lineup lacks the star power that strikes fear into opposing pitchers. Until his teammates prove they can get on base ahead of Devers and provide protection behind him, teams could pitch around the star third baseman, daring someone else to beat them.