Signed out of the Dominican Republic for $250,000 in 2016, Jose Devers is an ideal combination of youth, raw talent, and potential.
Introduced into the pro ranks in 2017 with the rookie-level Yankees team in the Dominican Summer League, the cousin of Red Sox third baseman Rafael Devers got his feet wet in 11 games. He batted .239 with a .581 OPS in 46 AB, then was moved to the Gulf Coast League. He batted .246 there in 42 games, and immediately showed promise at bat and on the base-paths, ending the season with 10 XBH (.707 OPS) and 15 steals. Perhaps most surprising was his nearly-even K/BB ratio (18 BB, 21 K). Between his DSL and GCL appearances, Devers had twelve multi-hit games, fourteen games with one or more RBI, and stole at least one bag in thirteen games. Perhaps not normally worth mentioning, but Devers was a seventeen-year old player in his first season of pro ball, and it was reflective of his raw skill set.
Assigned to the Low-A Greensboro Grasshoppers to begin 2018, Devers has handled himself pretty well for a teenager. Through 70 games, he’s popped 12 doubles and four triples, driving in 19 and scoring 35 runs. His slash line of .274/.309/.347 (.656 OPS) is good enough for a player of his age and experience. He’s been an extreme ground-ball hitter, this year (2.71 GB/FB ratio), but in the Gulf Coast League he was a fly-ball pull hitter (0.85 GB/FB ratio, 45.3% fly-ball pct., 50.4% pull pct.), who showed the ability to drive the ball with more authority than his 6’, 160-pound frame would suggest.
While it may seem on the surface that Devers is being pushed to Low-A too soon, there is no reason to think that he can’t continue to handle full-season competition. He already shows advanced pitch recognition for his age, and does manage to drive the ball from time to time, despite his slight frame. As he fills out, he will likely show a tendency to fill the gaps with liners and run out doubles and triples a-plenty. He’s definitely an above-average runner, and picks his spots reasonably well. Having been caught stealing five out of fifteen attempts is more a product of stronger arms behind the plate and lower pop times than it is a reflection of his decision-making ability on the bases. Twenty steals per year should take little effort for Devers. As his frame fills out, what he may lose in speed will be compensated for by his keen base-running.
In the field, Devers is a smooth operator at short. Quick hands and transfers, natural footwork and enough arm for the position mean he’s liable to stick at short as he advances. His speed, agility, and above-average arm could allow him to be used at second, third, or left field, if the Marlins should consider moving him around.
Much of the attention after the Stanton trade went to RHP Jorge Guzman and his insane fastball (rightly so), but Devers is going to make his own mark for the Fish. Granted, his ETA is likely no sooner than 2022, and there’s no real need for him to be in the big leagues any sooner. With a little patience, the Marlins are going to like what they see.