It's time to be amazed by Rafael Devers

Rob Bradford
August 14, 2019 - 6:30 am

It would seem to be a good time to appreciate what we're seeing in Rafael Devers.

Tuesday night the Red Sox third baseman offered the latest punctuation on what has been his breakthrough season, doing so in historic fashion. He became the first player in major league history to collect six hits, four of which were doubles. That, in case you're keeping score at home, is 10 total bases in what would ultimately be a 7-6, 10-inning win over the Indians in Cleveland. (For a complete recap of the Sox' win, click here.)

The weird thing is that this sort of thing from Devers doesn't seem like all that much of a surprise.

When the lefty hitter steps into the batter's box, takes his usual deep breath and settles into that open stance, hands held high, there is an expectation something notable is going to happen. It has been that way for a while.

Sure, there are times the storyline doesn't go as anticipated, with those outcomes usually a product of Devers' enthusiasm getting the better of him via a wildly emotional swing. (By the way, the best thing about those moments of failure is how he manages to reel in what seems like an unavoidable outburst almost on a dime.) But all things considered, it seems fair to blame at least part of the dip in batting average with runners in scoring position and two outs (.273) on simple overexuberance.

For the most part, Devers' presence represents something few hitters in baseball can offer. And in case you didn't know, he was born just 22 years ago.

"Historic. Amazing," said Red Sox manager Alex Cora of Devers' latest performance. "For a guy that in the first at-bat he was swinging at breaking balls down and bouncing and he was all upset at himself. To put a night like that, amazing, amazing."

"Special night, special night," said Jackie Bradley Jr., the owner of the game-winning homer in the 10th. "What was even more impressive was every single ball was a scud missile that he hit, he hit everything hard, there were no cheap hits and he’s going to be a special player."

Devers is hitting the ball. The numbers (.325 batting average, .947 OPS) would confirm that. But, as Bradley Jr. reminded us, it's how he's hitting the ball that is one of the traits that has allowed the third baseman to separate himself.

Nobody in baseball has as many balls hit 95 mph or better, with Devers managing the feat 192 times. The next on the list is the Yankees' DJ LeMahieu with 178, with Mookie Betts sitting one behind at 177.

Did we mention he is just 22 years old?

There have been others to manage this sort of level at such a young age. Miguel Cabrera turned in almost identical numbers to what Devers is producing at the exact same age. Mike Trout was also well on his way by his Age 22 season, winning his first American League MVP. But when it comes to Red Sox hitters, this is something we simply aren't used to witnessing.

Games like this will undoubtedly help surface the conversation Devers deserves. 

Forget his age or previous perception, we are looking at an MVP-caliber season. Batting average (2nd). Runs (2nd). Doubles (1st). RBI (1st). Extra-base hits (1st). Go-ahead RBI (1st). Game-winning RBI (1st). Runs created (3rd). Games of two or three hits or more (1st in both). Hits (1st). Seems like a quality candidate, right?

Devers likely won't win the award primarily because of Trout, who is the beginning and end to every MVP conversation thanks to his continued historic Wins Above Replacement. The Angels' outfielder leads all of baseball at 7.5 while Devers sits with a 3.7 WAR, which is 11th in the American League.

So be it.

No matter where Devers ends up in the postseason award world one thing has been defined: This is an elite baseball player. Tuesday night helped remind baseball of that fact.