By Matt Dolloff, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) — The Red Sox have had a glaring problem at third base for most of the season, especially on offense. They may have the answer looming in the minor leagues. So what is keeping them from giving Rafael Devers the call-up?
Appearing in last Saturday’s All-Star Futures Game and continuing to rake at Double-A, Devers is as close as any Red Sox prospect to cracking the major league roster in 2017. He has smacked 18 home runs for the Portland Sea Dogs, the fourth-most in the Eastern League. He’s batting .300 and has driven in 56 runs, fifth-most in the league. He has nothing left to prove at the Double-A level, which means a promotion to at least Triple-A Pawtucket must be imminent.
Unfortunately, there are two large roadblocks at that level for Devers: the much-maligned Pablo Sandoval, who is on a rehab assignment after hitting the DL with an “injury”, and 35-year-old Jhonny Peralta, whom the Red Sox signed near the end of June.
The Red Sox likely (and understandably) want to give Devers some time at Triple-A before bringing him up to the majors, but Devers himself believes he’s ready to leapfrog Pawtucket and go straight to Boston.
“He’s ready but it’s not his decision to make. But he feels ready,” Devers’ interpreter told the Portland Press Herald at the Eastern League All-Star Game in Manchester, N.H. on Wednesday.
It’s not just the mere fact that Devers plays third base that is making him a prime candidate for a call-up to the Red Sox. It’s not just that he has a high ceiling or a bright future as a hitter.
Devers could be good enough to contribute to the Red Sox lineup right now.
Sea Dogs manager Carlos Febles, who also coached former top Red Sox prospect Yoan Moncada last season, recently described Devers to the Boston Globe’s Alex Speier as way more of an advanced hitter than Moncada was at the same age. He even said Devers’ defense is “more refined” than Moncada’s and that he wouldn’t struggle at the hot corner in the major leagues.
A new video by Baseball America’s Ben Badler, meanwhile, goes into detail describing Devers’ bat, which remains his biggest asset. His fluid, effortless swing projects for plus power. He’s still just 20 years old, but he doesn’t look like it with a bat in his hands.
Devers’ age and relative lack of experience, however, is certainly one thing that’s keeping Dave Dombrowski from promoting him to the majors. There’s not much of a need to rush Devers to Boston when the team sits at 50-39 and in first place in the AL East. But if and when their current platoon of Tzu-Wei Lin and Deven Marrerro fizzles out at third – and when they figure out what they’re doing with Sandoval and Peralta in Triple-A – Devers should at least be on the verge of making his major-league debut.
Red Sox third basemen have combined for a .625 OPS so far this season, which is 29th in the major leagues. Devers would likely be able to at least give them that as a 20-year-old call-up with an advanced approach at the plate.
It also wouldn’t exactly be unprecedented if a precocious rookie made a real impact on a playoff team – or even a World Series winner. See Bogaerts, Xander and his .296 average in the 2013 postseason – or Ellsbury, Jacoby and his .902 OPS in 33 games in 2007 and .438 average in the 2007 World Series.
As noted in the ups and downs of the Red Sox’ first half, the team really needs some power. They are still last in the AL with just 92 home runs on the season. If anyone could give them a fresh boost in that department without making a big trade, especially at third base, it’s Devers.
The countdown should begin now.
Matt Dolloff is a writer/producer for CBSBostonSports.com. Any opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect that of CBS, CBS Radio, or 98.5 The Sports Hub. Have a news tip, question, or comment for Matt? Follow him on Twitter @Dolloff985 and email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.