NEW YORK -- Pablo’s just not promising.
Rafael Devers must go to Triple-A Pawtucket first, and keep mashing there, too. But the Red Sox need a peek at the top prospect some time midseason.
The 20-year-old third baseman’s next game at will be his 50th of the minor-league season. Before he plays his 100th, the Sox should see what the left-hander with pop can do in the big leagues.
THE THIRD-BASE PROBLEM
- Evan Drellich: You're right at the brink of 'You gotta do something' at third base
- Pete Abraham: Sandoval can't play third anymore
Assuming he keeps performing well, mid-July might the best point for a a trial run. Give Devers -- who remains at Double-A Portland -- a month with Pawtucket. Then, assuming success there, roll the dice.
That plan would build a cushion. If Devers is not ready and an outside alternative is needed, there’s still a chance for a trade before the non-waiver deadline.
Developmentally, the best thing for Devers would be to remain in the minors for the rest of the season — never mind through July. There’s no doubt about that. As ESPN’s Buster Olney highlighted Monday, Devers may not be at third base long term.
But win-now seasons don’t adhere to ideal development cycles, which is why Andrew Benintendi has not played every day of late. Same thing with Sam Travis: in a perfect world, he’s a lineup fixture.
As long as the Sox are confident Devers could bounce back from potential failure -- and the best usually can -- they should take a look mid-summer.
President of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski said recently that the ever-thinning infield depth isn’t altering his outlook for Devers.
"Not really,” Dombrowski said six days ago. “I'd love to say yes (to the possibility of the Red Sox recalling him) in some ways, because he's such a good player and such a good prospect. [But] I think you have to do what's good for him.
“It doesn't mean we don't love him a great deal. He's continued to play pretty well, consistently from the defensive perspective. It's been a little bit of a slump from an offensive perspective. So if we were going to move him up, it wouldn't be today per se. It would basically be based upon how he's performing rather than what our needs are at the major-league level.”
Devers was indeed dipping a bit . . . but not anymore. In his last five games, from the second game of a doubleheader May 31 through June 3, the left-handed hitter (and former big-dollar signee) from the Dominican Republic was 10-for-19 with a pair of home runs.
He was 6-for-44 in 11 games before that, but still finished May with a higher OPS (.919) than he did April (.748). Devers has 10 homers on the year, a .308 average and .371 on-base percentage.
Most important though: he walked 16 times in May compared to just twice in April.
Pablo Sandoval hasn’t been back very long, but watching him in the field isn’t enjoyable. If the Red Sox can find a suitable third-base upgrade in-house, it allows them to direct more of their trade deadline resources -- prospects, luxury-tax threshold room -- somewhere else.
David Price’s return means that even if the Sox need an upgrade in the rotation, they don’t necessarily need a big one. Eduardo Rodriguez will be on the shelf for the forseeable future, but there's still a chance he'll return in the second half.
Carson Smith is nearing his return to the bullpen. Tyler Thornburg is still far off, so a reliever could be desirable even if Smith looks strong upon activation.
But the Sox need to see if Devers can bring something to the table. There’s still time for Sandoval to show he can be of use this year, but he’s becoming harder and harder to believe in.