By Michael Hurley, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) — The general consensus regarding 20-year-old third baseman Rafael Devers is that he would need a full year at the Double-A level to get up to speed with pro baseball before the Red Sox could ever consider bringing him up to the major league level.
But through Devers’ first 29 games in Double-A, the kid might be forcing the Red Sox to reconsider.
Devers — who bats from the left side — went deep on Sunday, belting his seventh home run in just 105 at-bats. On the season, he’s hitting .324, getting on base at a .394 clip and slugging .590. All told, he ranks fourth in the Eastern League in both OPS (.984) and home runs.
The Red Sox have seen some ascend through the ranks ahead of schedule before, and it happened just last year with Andrew Benintendi, who started 2016 in high-A ball before moving up to Double-A Portland. There, he batted .295 with eight homers, 18 doubles, five triples and an .872 OPS before getting the call to go to the big leagues in early August. He’s since made himself a mainstay in the lineup, batting second, third and fourth in the order this year for John Farrell’s team.
With just seven doubles and no triples this year, Devers isn’t quite providing the same consistent pop that Benintendi did in 2016, when he turned 22 in early July. (Devers won’t turn 21 until October of 2017.)
Perhaps it’s still premature to speculate that Devers might make an impact at the big league level this season. But, Farrell has spoken about the issues he’s had at third base this year. Pablo Sandoval, Brock Holt and Marco Hernandez are all on the disabled list, and collectively, Red Sox third basemen have committed 13 errors — five more than any other team in the majors. The .598 OPS of the Red Sox third basemen ranks second-worst in the majors and dead last in the American League.
If the situation doesn’t improve by the middle of the summer, Dave Dombrowski and Farrell may start exploring other options. It is, after all, well-known how highly regarded Devers is by the front office.
Granted, Devers had a rough showing in big league spring training this year, batting .136 (3-for-22) with no extra-base hits, albeit in limited action. Defensively, he’s posted a .942 fielding percentage, committing four errors on 69 total chances. Sandoval had an .889 fielding percentage at third before getting hurt, while Hernandez struggled to the tune of an .800 fielding percentage at the position.
Devers was named Eastern League Player of the Week for hitting .440 with four homers and 10 RBIs in the first week of May. He’s the first Sea Dogs player to receiver the honor since … Andrew Benintendi.
If the performance continues, it won’t be the last time those two names are spoken in the same breath this year.