While there had been high hopes for the Red Sox’ Rafael Devers, did anyone really expect him to take this type of meteoric leap from 2018 to 2019:
647 At Bats
.311 Batting Average (201 Hits)
32 Home Runs
8 Stolen Bases
.361 On Base Percentage
.555 Slugging Percentage
.339 Batting Average on Balls in Play
The big development wasn’t in his power (his HR/FB went from 16.5% to 17.7%) or his average potential (27.7% Oppo%, 37.7% Hard%), all marks that would support his .339 BABIP. Instead it was his strikeout rate that took a significant step forward, going from 24.7% to 17.0%. Of course his approach remains questionable as he posted a 12.0% SwStr% and 40.6% O-Swing%. While the swings and misses didn’t come against any one pitch, they also weren’t particularly good against any one either:
- Hard – 13.09%
- Breaking – 14.43%
- Offspeed – 11.70%
It certainly makes you wonder if he can maintain the improved mark, and a 23.4% strikeout rate in September shows that risk. That could take a .300+ average off the table, but it doesn’t remove the upside of a .280+ hitter.
That alone isn’t enough of a red flag, especially for a player whose HR/FB is believable and he supplemented the power with 54 doubles and 4 triples. You could argue the the split between RHP/LHP is a bit unsustainable, though that split is more skewed in his average (.330 vs. RHP, .269 vs. LHP) than his power.
When you put the believable power with the solid average you get the following projection:
.287 (172-600), 35 HR, 105 RBI, 95 R, 6 SB, .313 BABIP, .331 OBP, .538 SLG
Those are good numbers across the board, even with the regression in his RBI/R (though that’s not a big leap to expect, considering the gaudy numbers he posted last year). Even at a deep position there’s an awful lot to like, creating a Top 5 option. While he’s not a five-category performer (he’s never going to be a source of stolen bases), he’s got a lot of upside in the other four. There’s a small step backwards coming from 2019, but that doesn’t mean the breakout wasn’t for real.
Sources – Fangraphs, Brooks Baseball