The Boston Red Sox have an outstanding cache of infielders in their Single-A team down in Greenville, South Carolina. Earlier in the week I reported on Cuban defector Yoan Moncada, but it was third baseman Rafael Devers who stole the show at the game I attended on Sunday, where he went 2-for-5 and launched his ninth home run of the season.
Devers was signed out of the Dominican Republic in 2013 for $1,500,000 and then dominated the Dominican Summer League and the Gulf Coast League in 2014 where he combined for a slash line of .322/.404/.506.
The left-handed hitter has been getting rave reviews from scouts for his mature hitting approach and raw power potential. I interviewed Greenville's manager Darren Fenster after Sunday's game and asked him what made Devers so special.
"He's an advanced bat and has the ability to get the barrel of the bat on the ball," said Fenster. "Because of his swing, he keeps the barrel through the zone for a very long time. So sometimes it might seem like he's out in front, but because the barrels staying through the zone for a long time, he's putting himself in a good position to get the barrel on it."
Devers approach has led to a strikeout rate of 17.2%, which is fairly decent for an 18-year-old nearly four years younger than the rest of the hitters in his league. Fenster was most impressed with Devers' work ethic however, and his love for the game.
"His big best attribute is just his genuine love for the game, and because he loves the game so much, he loves to work," said Fenster. "His attention to all those details and his enthusiasm to work to get better every single day, that's just something inside of him where he he's putting himself in a great position for when it's game time."
Devers is playing his first full season of pro ball in a league where he's three and a half years younger than his competition and he's putting up impressive numbers. The Dominican is batting .301 with 21 doubles and nine home runs in 79 games.
The 18-year-old third baseman has turned heads this season and was invited to the All-Star Future's Game as their youngest participant in 2015. Devers gained valuable experience during the exhibition as he faced some of the top young pitchers in the game, including Angels prospect Sean Newcomb rated No. 32 overall by John Sickels.
Reports on his glove is that he still has work to do and he's shaky on defense with decent range. During the game on Sunday Devers did well making the every day play, but struggled when athleticism or quick reflexes were required to make the play.
Probably the most exciting potential about Devers is his power. Devers posted an ISO of .172 in the DSL and .202 in the Gulf Coast League, but it was a story that his former Dominican scout shared with the Boston Globe that stands out for an example of his strength.
"During our [scouting] process, I saw him hit a home run over the left-field wall [in a simulated game at the Sox' Dominican Academy]. I'd never seen a lefthanded hitter do that," said Manny Nanita. "It was an above-average fastball. He was able to react to it."
Rafael Devers is still very young and a long ways away from playing in Fenway. The Red Sox are sure to take their time with this player who is still learning patience at the plate and how to hit against lefties.