“FENWAY'S BEST PLAYERS”


 
2017-PRESENT
#7   RAFAEL DEVERS

 

Eddie Romero, the general manager of the Red Sox, was the director of international scouting for Boston when Rafael Devers was discovered. One of his scouts, Manny Nanita, told Romero that he had to make the trip to see this 14-year old Dominican kid that he had seen.

Teams and organizations often have to seek out young talent in the Dominican Republic. There are very few scheduled workouts and showcases like there are in the United States. Many of the talented young players are found practicing at fields held by agents or at a very casual workout organized by the player himself. Devers was no exception.

Devers, at age 14, was practicing on a field in Santo Domingo near a horse track. Nanita was at the practice but originally had the intent of scouting some of the older players. However, the young Devers stood out among the group and caught Nanita’s eye.

After that practice, Nanita and Devers, along with his father, developed a professional relationship and the Red Sox scouted Devers for a little over a year. When Romero was told to go see Devers play, it was already decided within the organization that Devers was a must-sign. The Red Sox battled against the Arizona Diamondbacks and Toronto Blue Jays who also had significant interest in the young third baseman. However, Devers chose the Red Sox because of Nanita’s loyalty.

There was really no debate about Boston’s capability when it came to signing Devers. At 16-years old, Devers received a $1.5 million signing bonus after agreeing to a deal in August of 2013. After that, he was immediately sent to a Red Sox academy in El Toro, about 35 minutes away from where he was originally discovered.

Like many talented players from the Dominican Republic, Devers was excelling on pure, raw talent but needed some serious refining and discipline. The Academy he was sent to allowed Devers to learn how to workout daily, practice daily, and maintain endurance while playing 3 to 4 games a week. It also helps players learn English and adapt to the “pro lifestyle.”

At the Academy was manager Jose Zapata who had the responsibility of introducing Devers and the other players to the “Red Sox way” of baseball as well as prepare them for the highest level of the game.

Devers spent one year in the Dominican Academy before being moved to Greenville in 2015, where the Single-A team is. He hit .288 with a .773 OPS and was one of the youngest players in the minors.

After quickly adapting and excelling at the lower levels, Devers was promoted to High-A Salem to start the 2016 season and he finally hit a wall. He batted .233 with a .633 OPS over the first two months of the season. However, due to his talent and age, the Red Sox were not too concerned.

Devers ended up adapting and excelling once again, hitting .288 with a .779 OPS across 128 games. When spring training started in 2017, Devers was invited and there were immediately some speculation about his eventual call-up.

He began the 2017 season in Portland and hit .300 with a .944 OPS across 77 games. Devers earned a spot at the MLB All-Star Futures game and the Eastern League All-Star game in the same week, representing the Boston Red Sox. Before reaching the majors, the Red Sox gave Devers an opportunity in Triple-A Pawtucket but he didn’t need it.

He was promoted to the Boston Red Sox, five days after the team released Pablo Sandoval. On July 26, Devers collected his first major league hit, a home run off of Andrew Moore of the Seattle Mariners. Devers became the youngest Red Sox player (at 20 years, 275 days old) to hit a home run since Tony Conigliaro (at 20 years, 265 days old) in 1965. 

On August 13, Devers hit a ninth-inning game-tying home run off of Yankees closer, Aroldis Chapman. Chapman's pitch was clocked at 102.8 mph (165.4 km/h), which was the fastest pitch hit for a home run since 2008, when MLB started tracking pitch velocity. 

On August 15, while playing third base, Devers initiated a triple play on a ground ball against the St. Louis Cardinals. During the regular season, Devers appeared in 58 games with the 2017 Red Sox, batting .284 with 10 home runs and 30 RBIs. Defensively, he started 56 games at third base and had a .906 fielding percentage.

In the postseason, Devers hit a two-run home run in Game 3 of the ALDS against the Houston Astros, giving the Red Sox their first lead in any game of the series. Devers became the youngest Red Sox player to homer in the postseason, and only the sixth player in MLB history to hit a home run in the playoffs before his 21st birthday.  In Game 4, Devers hit an inside-the-park home run, becoming the youngest MLB player (at 20 years, 350 days old) to hit one in the postseason. During the ALDS, Devers batted 4-for-11 (.364) with two home runs and five RBIs.

Devers began the 2018 season as Boston's regular third baseman. He hit his first career grand slam on April 18th, off of Tyler Skaggs of the Los Angeles Angels. He hit his second grand slam on June 30th, off of Sonny Gray of the New York Yankees. That night, Devers, who went 5-for-5, became the youngest player to hit a grand slam in a Sox-Yankees game, at the age of 21 years and 249 days On August 8th he hit a home run against the Toronto Blue Jays. On September 26th, Devers went 4-for-5 with 2 home runs and 6 RBIs.

During the regular season, Devers appeared in 121 games, batting .240 with 21 home runs and 66 RBIs. He performed much better in the postseason, becoming the fifth player to hit at least three home runs before his 22nd birthday. In Game 5 of the2018 ALCS, Devers hit a go-ahead three-run home run in the sixth inning, helping to sending the Red Sox to the World Series. In Game 4 of the World Series, Devers became the youngest player with a go-ahead RBI in the 9th inning or later of a World Series. 

Devers had a breakout season in 2019. He resumed his role as Boston's regular third baseman for 2019. He went on a tear from May thru August.

On June 3rd, he was named the American League Player of the Month for May, having batted .351 with eight home runs during the month. On August 13th, Devers became the latest MLB player to record six hits in a game; he was 5-for-5 in the first nine innings of an away game against the Indians, and had his sixth hit in the 10th inning. In addition, Devers' four doubles in his 6-for-6 night make him the only player since 1900 to record six-plus hits with at least four doubles. On August 18th, Devers became the first MLB player to record 100 RBIs during the 2019 season. On September 21, Devers hit his 31st home run of the season, setting a new Red Sox franchise record for home runs by a third baseman in a season, passing Butch Hobson who had hit 30 in 1977. On September 29thj, the final day of the regular season, Devers reached the 200-hit plateau. He finished the season with 201 hits and a .311 average, along with 32 home runs and 115 RBIs.