Red Sox Slugger Rafael Devers Is the Star No One Talks About

Rafael Devers has long been one of the top offensive producers in MLB, but his name is rarely mentioned amongst the great hitters in the game.

Rafael Devers of the Boston Red Sox looks on against the Tampa Bay Rays during the seventh inning at Fenway Park.
BOSTON, MA - OCTOBER 5: Rafael Devers #11 of the Boston Red Sox looks on against the Tampa Bay Rays during the seventh inning at Fenway Park on October 5, 2022 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo By Winslow Townson/Getty Images)

The 2024 Boston Red Sox have been starved for offense, as they sit just two games over .500 despite having one of, if not the best, pitching staff in baseball so far this season.

One of the few bright spots for the team at the plate has been Rafael Devers, who recently rediscovered his power stroke, homering in six straight games from May 15-20 to set a franchise record.

So far this season, Devers ranks in the top 10% in baseball in xwOBA, xSLG, average exit velocity, hard hit percentage, and barrel percentage. He has also made great strides with his plate discipline, ranking in the top 12% with a 12.8% walk rate.

For anyone who has followed the Red Sox or Devers closely, this recent power surge should come as no surprise. The third baseman has always been streaky. He has the potential to become scorching hot with a single swing of the bat.

Ad – content continues below

When Devers is locked in at the plate, he has an almost Vladimir Guerrero Sr.-like ability to get his bat to any pitch anywhere even remotely close to the strike zone.

His power, too, has been well-documented ever since he burst onto the scene in 2017 with an opposite-field home run off of Aroldis Chapman. That homer made Devers the second left-handed hitter ever to homer off of the flamethrower.

Since then, Devers has continued to torment the New York Yankees, with 45 extra-base hits and 63 RBIs in 100 games against his bitter rivals. He has homered seven times off of ace Gerrit Cole.

Devers isn’t just a Yankees killer, though. He has had sustained offensive success throughout his major league career.

Since 2018, his first full season, Devers ranks third in all of baseball in doubles and sixth in RBI, ahead of the likes of Bryce Harper, Aaron Judge, and Juan Soto. Since 2019, his breakout season, he has accumulated 135.0 wRAA, the batting component of FanGraphs WAR. That ranks 10th in baseball, higher than Paul Goldschmidt, Jose Altuve, and Corey Seager.

Over the course of his career, Devers has hit the ball as hard as just about anyone in baseball. He has been in the top 7% or better in average exit velocity every year since 2019 and the top 10% in maximum exit velocity every year since 2018. He’s been in the top 10% or better in hard-hit percentage five of the last six years.

Ad – content continues below

This has led to three seasons (2019, 2021, 2022) in the top 10% in expected batting average and four seasons (2021-24) in the top 10% in expected slugging percentage and xwOBA.

Despite all of this success, Devers is rarely mentioned amongst the game’s greats. I believe there are several reasons for this oversight. First, he has been overshadowed amongst AL third basemen by José Ramírez, who often steals the shine and positional awards from Devers.

Additionally, the state of the Red Sox has made it a challenge for Devers to rise to the level of notoriety that many of his counterparts enjoy.

When Devers first arrived in the majors, the team was in the middle of a terrific run. The Red Sox won three consecutive AL East titles from 2016-18. The roster was laden with homegrown talent, and the “Killer B’s” – Mookie Betts, Xander Bogaerts, Andrew Benintendi, and Jackie Bradley Jr. – were the faces of the franchise to a national audience.

Since then, Devers has become the face of the franchise, but the team has not had nearly enough success to launch his stardom to the next level. Being the best player on a last-place team just does not drum up the kind of attention that Devers deserves.

That being said, the Red Sox organization recognized his importance to the franchise and inked Devers to a whopping 11-year, $331 million contract extension during the 2023 offseason.

Ad – content continues below

While that is certainly a difficult contract to live up to, Devers has the potential to make it look like a bargain. When all is said and done, he could finish as one of the greatest Red Sox hitters of all time. If Rafael Devers quietly continues to be one of the best hitters in the game each and every year, there is a chance his number 11 could one day be retired along the right field facade in Fenway Park.

Stats and rankings updated prior to first pitch on May 23.