Red Sox

Mitch Moreland explains why he connected Rafael Devers with future Hall of Famer Adrian Beltre

Mitch Moreland explains why he connected Rafael Devers with future Hall of Famer Adrian Beltre

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Mitch Moreland saw locker mate Rafael Devers struggling early last season and wanted to do something to help. Unfortunately, there was a language barrier, because Devers speaks Spanish and Moreland speaks what he calls "Mississippi."

But he knew one man who could make a difference -- future Hall of Famer Adrian Beltre.

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The two played together in Texas on opposite corners of the diamond, and Moreland figured the Gold Glove third baseman could provide some guidance for Devers, who boasts similar superstar potential.

"I was like, man, I happen to know the greatest third baseman whoever came out of the Dominican Republic, I'm sure this guy knows Adrian, probably looks up to him, a role model to Raff," Moreland explained on Friday. "I was like, you want to talk to Adrian? He goes, think he would? I was like, yeah. I texted and called Adrian and he was like, man, please, give him my number, get us in contact, and they talked a few times. Adrian, I think checked on him. Adrian is that type of guy. I mean, first-class, professional teammate. I still talk to him today for stuff I have to deal with.

"I can't think of a better person for Raff to be in contact with to help him through the struggles, through the highs and the lows as far as that goes."

Devers and Beltre ending up talking once or twice a month for the rest of the season. Devers, at 22, put Beltre's advice to good use, finishing a breakout campaign with a league-leading 54 doubles and 359 total bases, batting .311 with 32 homers, 115 RBI, and a .916 OPS.

"Raff, he's going to be a special player for a long time, so if he can learn a little something from Adrian to help him, great," Moreland said. "I thought that would be a good one to know, a good one to talk to. That's kind of what happened and the reason I got them in contact or even got it started."


 

Who are the best center fielders in Red Sox history? Ranking the Top 5

Who are the best center fielders in Red Sox history? Ranking the Top 5

The Red Sox have employed all manner of center fielders throughout their history.

Whereas left field has generally been home to run producers and right to all-around threats, the men in the middle have covered a wide range of styles. There are straight speedsters like Jacoby Ellsbury, defensive dynamos like Jackie Bradley Jr., fun-loving eccentric types like Johnny Damon, underappreciated standouts like Ellis Burks, and even plodding sluggers like Tony Armas.

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Only in recent years have the Red Sox consistently prioritized defense in the role, from Coco Crisp to Ellsbury to Bradley.

But that doesn't mean they haven't featured some talented players there, including a turn-of-century Hall of Famer, the younger brother of baseball royalty, and the one who fans over 50 still lament got away.

Click here for the Top 5 center fielders in Red Sox history.

MLB's Top 100 players for 2020 season: Numbers 100-76

MLB's Top 100 players for 2020 season: Numbers 100-76

There was once a time when a list of baseball's top 100 players would've been dominated by men in their 30s or even 40s. In 2004, for instance, the NL MVP was 39-year-old Barry Bonds and the Cy Young went to 41-year-old Roger Clemens. It was the seventh respective award for each.

We now can be almost certain that neither accomplishment was achieved without help, but if any good came from that era, it's that it forced baseball to address its PED problem, which means that a top 100 list now looks very different.

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Our list will reflect that shift. What it won't include are three pitchers guaranteed not to play in 2020 because of Tommy John surgery — Noah Syndergaard of the Mets, Luis Severino of the Yankees, and of course Chris Sale of the Red Sox.

Over the next four weeks, NBC Sports Boston will unveil its top 100 players, 25 at a time, and the list is dominated by youth. Never have young players been so essential to winning, whether it's 20-year-old Juan Soto helping lead the Nationals to last fall's shocking World Series title, or 23-year-old Cody Bellinger being named NL MVP.

Click here for Part 1: Players ranked 100th to 76th on our list.