RED SOX INSIDER

Tomase: Devers as trade bait? He's showing why that's a crazy idea

RED SOX INSIDER
After a slow start to his 2020 season, Rafael Devers has turned it on lately, hitting .365 with 8 HR over his last 21 games.
Getty Images

And that's why you don't even entertain the idea of trading Rafael Devers.

The young Red Sox slugger is basically following his 2019 blueprint in 2020, except this time he only has one month to reverse a slow start instead of five.

He appears intent on making up for lost time, very quietly reclaiming his place as one of the most fearsome hitters in baseball over the last three weeks.

It's OK if you've missed it because the Red Sox are unwatchable, but to recap: a third of the way through this truncated campaign, Devers found himself hitting just .183 with two home runs and a piddling five RBIs. It was remarkably similar to last year's start, in which he didn't drive in a run for two weeks or homer until May.

Then as now, however, once Devers started hitting, he basically didn't stop. In 2019, that meant launching 32 homers, driving in 115 runs, and ripping a league-leading 54 doubles at age 22. He finished 12th in the MVP voting.

Tomase: Dalbec, Groome could still make 2016 draft a good one for Sox

This year it has meant a 21-game stretch that has seen him hit .365 with eight home runs, 26 RBIs, and a 1.154 OPS. Were this a normal season, he'd have a shot at 40 homers and 120 RBIs. Instead, the 23-year-old will have to settle for reminding everyone just how crucial he is to the future of the organization.

"Raffy, for me, he's back now where he was last year," said manager Ron Roenicke after Devers homered in a 4-3 win over the Rays on Thursday. "And just hitting everything. Hitting fastballs up, offspeed down -- he covers a big portion of that plate.

 

"He's on time better right now. I don't know why that timing gets out of whack. But everything he's swinging at, if he's on time for the fastball, he knows he's on time and he doesn't have to cheat."

Given the circumstances of this season and the Red Sox' place at the bottom of it, it's easy to forget just how talented Devers remains. When he's locked in, he hammers anything in or near the zone. When he struggles, he expands the plate and doesn't give himself a chance.

Getting Hot at the Hot Corner

Rafael Devers' batting average over his last 11 games, during which he has hit 6 HR with a .511 OBP and 1.463 OPS.
.452

As Devers continues to mature, the former version of himself should outnumber the latter one. That makes him a legitimate MVP candidate and building block for Chaim Bloom, which means the help to find pitching must come from some other part of the roster.

"Obviously, I just continued to have that positive mindset that I always had," Devers said of his early struggles. "I came to the ballpark every day with a smile, and obviously, it was tough at first. I'd come in here every day happy, but I'd still be frustrated with the way things were going for me. But I just understood that that's part of the game and I just continue to go after it and just improve and try to get better every single day. Now, I'm actually hitting the ball better, but I've never changed the way that I approach the game."

Tomase: 10 most likely Sox to be traded away this offseason

At this time last year, Devers was completing a five-week fade after a three-month hot streak. He still finished that season leaving Red Sox fans giddy over his future. It turns out that nothing has changed, which is why he isn't going anywhere.

"There's definitely confidence within the coaching staff," Roenicke said. "But you don't know when it's going to happen. It went about a month and half, I think, last year before he got hot. So, a month and a half this year, we're almost done. I'm glad he kicked it in a little earlier than that."