The next Red Sox slugging prospect? Rafael Devers makes memorable debut

June 02, 2014 - 8:30 am

Though he might as well be light years from the big leagues, the next Red Sox middle-of-the-order power hitting prospect made a notable first mark in his professional debut on Saturday. Rafael Devers went 3-for-5 with a single, double and a home run while driving in four. The location of the home run was particularly noteworthy -- the left-handed hitter drove one out to the opposite field in his third professional at-bat, something that is virtually unheard of at the Sox' facility in the Dominican, let alone by a 17-year-old playing his first official game. It is a performance that immediately lent credence to the initial impressions in made by Devers in the fall instructional league after the Red Sox signed him to a $1.5 million bonus last summer. When he competed in the instructional league, he showed the ability to drive balls out to right field -- clearing the fence by plenty -- but perhaps even more surprising was the fact that he squared the ball up and hit liners to the opposite field. The fact that he's already shown the foundation of an ability to drive the ball to the opposite field (the home run in the DSL on Saturday went at least 385 feet) represents a very, very early glimpse of a player with uncommon upside as a hitter and power hitter, even if he'll require years to develop the approach to consistently apply that ability. If Devers (a third baseman) had been born in the States, he'd be a high school junior right now -- and in a typical year, the Sox would almost never have access to such a player coming from the amateur ranks. Devers has the sort of power and approach that likely would make him a consideration for an early first-round pick in the States. Instead, thanks in part to the brutal year the Sox endured in 2012, the team had more latitude to spend money in the international amateur free agent talent pool (Major League Baseball's recommended international bonus pool allotments (without penalties) are determined by the reverse order of the previous year's standings), putting it in position to sign Devers. "I couldn't imagine walking in and seeing a junior putting on a show like that in the batter's box. I do know there would have been a lot of scouts who would have followed him around to see his progression, because I'm sure he would have gotten a lot of organizations watch him as a high schooler if he was in the States," Red Sox hitting coordinator (and former amateur scout) Tim Hyers said earlier this year in a Minor Details podcast. "He's a bundle of joy, a bundle of energy and when he steps into the batter's box, he's a guy that, you just feel like something is going to happen. He can hit it over the fence or hit a scorching line drive. He was going to make something happen at the plate. "We have to control his aggression and control his energy so he stays within himself so he can be more consistent with the barrel, make contact. ... He's a guy that's really got to learn to be selective more often and get his pitch," Hyers added. "[But] if he gets his pitch, he has a chance to hit it hard. He's a fun guy to work with."