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Monday, May 27, 2019

Why Alex Cora believes Rafael Devers can be among the elite - The Boston Globe

Read the article to read Cora’s comments.

Devers was 2 for 4 and finished the road trip 13 for 27 with four home runs, eight RBIs, and eight runs in six games. He has hit .377 with a 1.055 OPS over the last month to raise his slash line to .330/.393/.508 for the season.

That puts him firmly in the same company as Bregman and Oakland star Matt Chapman.

“No chance,” said Devers, who answered the question with a mix of Spanish and what is rapidly improving English. “I have more work to do.”

Jim Furtado Posted: May 27, 2019 at 07:16 AM | 21 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: rafael devers, red sox

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   1. Walt Davis Posted: May 27, 2019 at 08:01 PM (#5846022)
I have to agree more with Devers than Cora for now. By today's standards, Devers is not showing a lot of power which means that seasonal line is relying a lot on that 330 BA which is relying a lot on his 367 BABIP. That's not necessarily impossible to maintain but it's more likely that, even if he is a good BABIP hitter, that it will settle down around 330-340. Bregman in particular walks like a madman and has shown an ability to sustain a 390ish OBP while putting up a 250+ ISO. Chapman as a hitter appears a little closer to Devers' overall production but also with substantially more power. Anyway, sure, if Devers can consistently hit 320-330, then it doesn't matter much if his ISO hangs around 170-180. Or of course since he's still just 22 -- 3 years younger than Bregman, 4 than Chapman -- it would be no surprise if more power showed up.

Still, 3B is packed and they're not old. Machado of course is still just 26, Bryant and Suarez 27 ... it's Arenado at 28 and Rendon at 29 that are the old men here. But sure, 5 years from now, I wouldn't be surprised if Devers was the best 3B in the game (at least hitting). Of course I wouldn't be surprised if it was Vlad Jr or the kid Atlanta just called up or ... we really do seem to be in the golden age of 3B.
   2. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: May 27, 2019 at 08:11 PM (#5846027)
relying a lot on that 330 BA which is relying a lot on his 367 BABIP. That's not necessarily impossible to maintain but it's more likely that, even if he is a good BABIP hitter, that it will settle down around 330-340. Bregman in particular walks like a madman and has shown an ability to sustain a 390ish OBP while putting up a 250+ ISO. Chapman as a hitter appears a little closer to Devers' overall production but also with substantially more power. Anyway, sure, if Devers can consistently hit 320-330, then it doesn't matter much if his ISO hangs around 170-180. Or of course since he's still just 22 -- 3 years younger than Bregman, 4 than Chapman -- it would be no surprise if more power showed up.

The other thing is that Chapman is all-world on defense. Devers has to outhit him, or Arenado, by a good margin just to be equal overall.
   3. the Hugh Jorgan returns Posted: May 28, 2019 at 12:19 AM (#5846048)
The other thing is that Chapman is all-world on defense.


An accusation that will never be levelled towards Devers. He's a fun young player who is improving each year, but Arenado and Chapman in particular, are insanely great with the leather and can also hit a bit. I see in 5-7 years a lot of teams with having some pretty solid 1B as some of these guys move across the diamond.
   4. Jose Needs an Absurd Ukulele Concert Posted: May 28, 2019 at 12:27 AM (#5846049)
I think Devers can become a good third baseman. He’s kind of the anti-Jeter, his range is phenomenal but just because he gets to a ball doesn’t mean he’ll catch it or make an accurate throw. If he can solidify those aspects of his defense he’ll be very good.
   5. Petunia inquires about ponies Posted: May 28, 2019 at 02:55 AM (#5846060)
An accusation that will never be levelled towards Devers

He's 22.
   6. Walt Davis Posted: May 28, 2019 at 03:05 AM (#5846061)
I was limiting it to offense. FWIW, Rfield has Devers at 0 so far this year compared with -13 last year. TZ has him pegged more like last year at -4 so far, on pace for -12. His RF9 is well up but so is the entire league (that seems a bit odd), his FP is also up (league constant) meaning the errors are way down. But those useless raw numbers seem to be up because his putout rate is way up -- a lot of pop-ups to 3B or is he getting a lot of forces at 2B in the shift?
   7. Fancy Pants Handle struck out swinging Posted: May 28, 2019 at 03:19 AM (#5846063)
I mostly agree that Devers has no shot at being in the conversation for MVP or best 3B or anything like that, at least for now. It is very much worth noting though, that he is still only 22. There is no reason to assume he is a finished product. After a rough start to the season (like pretty much all of the team), he has really started tearing the cover off the ball. It's been a hell of a lot of fun to watch, and I am very much content with that for now.

I have to agree more with Devers than Cora for now. By today's standards, Devers is not showing a lot of power which means that seasonal line is relying a lot on that 330 BA which is relying a lot on his 367 BABIP.

He is up to 8th in MLB in average exit velocity per statcast (and a few of those ahead of him would not have the PAs to qualify as of now). Other than Yelich, all of those ahead of him also strike out significantly more. Which may be a sign that the power is going to come. It may also be a sign that his BABIP is more legitimate than one might expect, especially when combined with his much lower average launch angle (meaning fewer routine flyouts (also fewer homers but those don't count towards BABIP), and more line drives, and hard hit grounders).

Whether he can keep up those underlying numbers is of course an open question. But at least for now, they do pass the eye test.
   8. Fancy Pants Handle struck out swinging Posted: May 28, 2019 at 03:25 AM (#5846064)
I was limiting it to offense. FWIW, Rfield has Devers at 0 so far this year compared with -13 last year. TZ has him pegged more like last year at -4 so far, on pace for -12. His RF9 is well up but so is the entire league (that seems a bit odd), his FP is also up (league constant) meaning the errors are way down. But those useless raw numbers seem to be up because his putout rate is way up -- a lot of pop-ups to 3B or is he getting a lot of forces at 2B in the shift?

Haven't really looked at his fielding numbers this season. But if the errors are way down, that would be to me a clear sign of progress towards being cromulent (and I would lean towards Rfield in that case). Devers has always had pretty good range, and reactions, and an exceptionally strong (but very inaccurate) throwing arm. Bar far his biggest problem has been his error rate (mostly throwing the ball away especially on rushed plays, but occasionally just switching off on defense as well). If he has genuinely fixed that, I would expect him to be at least average-ish.
   9. Steve Balboni's Personal Trainer Posted: May 28, 2019 at 09:18 AM (#5846082)
As other have noted above, Devers is 22, doesn't even turn 23 until after the 2019 season is over. His strikeouts are way down this season, and his batting average is way up. The BA will come back down to Earth, I presume, but he is getting a lot better quickly, and he is not a finished product. What I'm interested in is if the Red Sox will put him at first base at some point, particularly if they can either acquire a big-time 3B, or if Dalbec develops in the minors. A core of Devers/Betts/Benintendi/Bogaerts is pretty awesome.
   10. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: May 28, 2019 at 09:30 AM (#5846084)
He's 22.

Defense generally starts declining in the early 20s. There are exceptions of course, but D peaks really, really young.
   11. Tom Nawrocki Posted: May 28, 2019 at 09:41 AM (#5846090)
Machado of course is still just 26, Bryant and Suarez 27 ... it's Arenado at 28 and Rendon at 29 that are the old men here.


It's not like there's some bright line here - Suarez is four months younger than Arenado (and Bryant is nine months younger). Justin Turner is the old man of the group at 34.

Chapman's the odd case of a guy who has, like Aaron Judge, hit better in the majors than he did in the minors, although unlike Judge he doesn't have his home park working in his favor. Chapman could very well be the AL MVP this year, and he could very well be the fifth- or sixth-best third baseman in baseball.

   12. SoSH U at work Posted: May 28, 2019 at 09:41 AM (#5846092)
Defense generally starts declining in the early 20s. There are exceptions of course, but D peaks really, really young.


Range certainly would. But given Devers' problem is in making errors, I'd say it's less likely that he's peaked defensively.
   13. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: May 28, 2019 at 09:46 AM (#5846095)
Range certainly would. But given Devers' problem is in making errors, I'd say it's less likely that he's peaked defensively.

How does that matter? Just because range isn't his problem now, it doesn't mean it's not going to get worse. If he makes strides on errors over the next 3-4 years, he's likely to give a bunch of it back on range.

I mean, I'm not trying to knock the kid, he's a tremendous young talent. It's no insult to not be as good as Chapman or Arenado.
   14. SoSH U at work Posted: May 28, 2019 at 09:53 AM (#5846100)

How does that matter? Just because range isn't his problem now, it doesn't mean it's not going to get worse.


I'm not saying he's going to peak defensively at 30. But the fact that his weakness is making errors, something that's a hell of a lot easier to fix than range, means he should have more room for growth than the typical peak-early defender.
   15. Walt Davis Posted: May 28, 2019 at 10:23 AM (#5846110)
He is up to 8th in MLB in average exit velocity

Average exit veolicty, at least on its own, does not correlate particularly highly with offensive production. The guys at the very, very top are usually quite impressive but you quickly get into a pretty random sort. In short, Mike Trout's average exit velocity rankings:

2015 6th
2016 57th
2017 98th
2018 41st
2019 90th

Barrels is probably better as it combines EV and launch angle ... but only for basically the best hits so we might want something broader than that. But at least Trout has been no worse than 21st by barrels/PA (never better than 5th). Currently Devers is 167th by barrels/PA. Pujols is 103, Granderson is 73, Jordy Mercer is somehow 47th, Panda (!) 19th so barrels/PA ain't the be-all, end-all either. But certainly an average EV of 93 is probably more promsing than 85.
   16. PreservedFish Posted: May 28, 2019 at 10:37 AM (#5846114)
I know for the sprint speed they only look at the best 10% or something like that. Is there an equivalent for exit velocity? Because Trout must be murdering a whole lot of balls.
   17. Fancy Pants Handle struck out swinging Posted: May 28, 2019 at 11:20 AM (#5846128)
Average exit veolicty, at least on its own, does not correlate particularly highly with offensive production.

I wasn't using it as a predictor of overall offensive production though. I was specifically looking at it in the context of BABIP. I was basing that on the completely unscientific, and unproven idea, that harder hit balls are more likely to be hits. Call me crazy.

Here are the 7 BABIPS of the players in front of him: .372; .387; .368; .440; .291*; .256**; .338

*That's Yelich. Dunno, maybe all those homers are bringing his BABIP down. He had a .373 BABIP last season, so not too worried about that comp.

**That's Gary Sanchez, and his literally off the charts 58.1% flyball rate. For context, last season Rhys Hoskins led MLB among qualified hitters, with 51.7%. Nobody else was above 50%.

Dunno, if (and that is a big if) Devers can continue to torch the ball like he has, I feel pretty good about his BABIP staying up.
   18. jacksone (AKA It's OK...) Posted: May 28, 2019 at 03:04 PM (#5846215)
Dunno, if (and that is a big if) Devers can continue to torch the ball like he has, I feel pretty good about his BABIP staying up.


I'm not looking at any of the #'s, but watching him, he is consistently lining the ball. I like the fact he's done it in a building-block sort of way - just hit the ball hard, then hit it hard to open spots, THEN get some power. His overall slugging is down because of his slow start to the season: .373 through April, .640 since.
   19. Karl from NY Posted: May 28, 2019 at 03:29 PM (#5846225)
There are exceptions of course, but D peaks really, really young.

Are we setting up our excuses for the NYC softball game already?
   20. Walt Davis Posted: May 28, 2019 at 07:45 PM (#5846283)
How does that matter? Just because range isn't his problem now, it doesn't mean it's not going to get worse. If he makes strides on errors over the next 3-4 years, he's likely to give a bunch of it back on range.

Mayve we should stop being so fixated on "peak" this and that. Speed/range might peak at 22 and maybe that means defense peaks at 22. But that is one slow decline from peak. It's not players go from +10 at 22 to 5 at 23 to 0 at 24 to ... 1B at 27 to Cecil Fielder at 30. Guys who are good defenders are generally good defenders for like a decade before they start showing up as average (barring injury).

Compared with a big cut in error rate (if it's real), any loss in range Devers might have isn't going to come close to "giving back a bunch." His error rate coming into this year was 33.6 per 150 (full) games. So far this year it's 27 ... so that's some mix of 6.5 runners/bases not being given away, something like 4-5 runs. There's no way players on average lose 4-5 runs of range per year starting at 22-23.

I really wish statcast would do something with infielders.

I know for the sprint speed they only look at the best 10% or something like that. Is there an equivalent for exit velocity? Because Trout must be murdering a whole lot of balls.

That's essentially what "barrels" are tryig to be -- batted balls that meet some joint criteria of exit velocity and launch angle that equates to "creamed the ball." Trout does do pretty well there but doesn't dominate. Possibly "barrels" are too close to HRs where Trout has just 3 seasons in the top 10.

In general of course, things like EV, LA, barrels, whatever only apply to contact ... from a value standpoint, I don't see how they could tell you more than on-contact BA/SLG (from a "here's what you need to work on" standpoint sure). But of course the main issue with them from a value/production standpoint is they say nothing about contact rate and walk rate. Trout gets a lot of value from BBs (and being pitched around and maybe generally getting worse strikes to hit is another thing statcast isn't gonna pick up on) and this year has dropped his K-rate below 20% (but his ISO is down a good bit).

So far for his career, Trout hits 411/771 on-contact. He'll come down from it but I believe 411 would be the best of all-time and 771 would probably be top 5 (Ruth of course leads in both). So yeah, Trout hits the ball as well as anybody ever has basically.

The EV data also shows the dangers of rank data. The differences between 30th and 70th might be less than 1 MPH (don't have time to check) which itself might just be "this guy had 5 extra really bad contact BIP at 50 MPH while the other guy has 5 extra cans of corn at 80 MPH." A 1 MPH difference is almost never going to make a difference in result. A poorly hit ball is a poorly hit ball and it doesn't matter a lot how fast it's travelling -- the little squibber probably has a better chance of resulting in a hit/error anyway.
   21. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: May 28, 2019 at 08:21 PM (#5846286)
Mayve we should stop being so fixated on "peak" this and that. Speed/range might peak at 22 and maybe that means defense peaks at 22. But that is one slow decline from peak. It's not players go from +10 at 22 to 5 at 23 to 0 at 24 to ... 1B at 27 to Cecil Fielder at 30. Guys who are good defenders are generally good defenders for like a decade before they start showing up as average (barring injury).


Really? Lot's of guys go from average to good defenders to not being able to play the position by 30. Many, many 3B are 1B by that time. The below avg. D, great bat 3B, who's a 1B after 4-5 years is almost a stereotype. I think it's far more likely that Devers is a 1B at 27, than a plus 3B.

And frankly Red Sox fans should care much more about the bat than the glove. If he's a 130 wRC+ 1B, that's a fantastic outcome. It's not like I care whether Gleyber can hack SS or not. If he hits like this, 2B is just fine.

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