Photo: Sports Illustrated
At the beginning of the season, it was wishful thinking on the Boston Red Sox part that Pablo Sandoval could handle the hot corner again.
They traded away a viable option in Travis Shaw over the winter (.292, 24 HR’s, 74 RBI’s in Milwaukee), thus putting all of their eggs in the Sandoval’s basket. It didn’t take long for all to realize that this year was just a continuation of a failed experiment. His five-year contract ($95 million) was a dumpster fire! In total, the “Kung Fu Panda” project lasted just 161 games and yielded 14 home runs and 59 RBI’s.
Photo: Total Pro Sports
He was so bad that the club was willing to “eat” the final $48 million he is still owed leaving big shoes to fill at third (literally and figuratively). But by whom, Deven Marerro? How about Tzu-Wei Lin? Surely it wouldn’t be a 20 year-old who was toiling in Double A (Portland, Maine), right?
One outside option was Chicago White Sox third baseman, Todd Frazier. In many circles the odds that the Jersey kid was about to change his sox from white to red were very high. That was until July 20, when Brian Cashman swooped in and not only netted Frazier, but bullpen bolsters, David Robertson and Tommy Kahnle. Wow, not only did he improve his team, but conventional wisdom was that he also blocked his blood rival in the same transaction. Talk about the win-win!
Photo: Sports on Earth
Well, here’s where that 20 year-old I mentioned earlier comes in. Rafael Devers (pronounced – DEH-vers) is a 6 foot, 215 pound third baseman that the Red Sox signed as an international free agent in 2013. In what was a deep franchise minor league system (before burning multiple stud prospects for Chris Sale, Craig Kimbrel, and Drew Pomeranz), he was the one Dave Dombrowski refused to part with. That is because most baseball publications had him ranked among the top 5 prospects in the minor leagues, and clearly pegged as the Sawx third-sacker of the “future”. Or so we thought. He was absolutely killing it for the Portland Sea Dogs (.300, 18 HR’s, 56 RBI’s), before being bumped up to Pawtucket for 9 games (.400, 2 HR’s). All of 35 AB’s in Triple A couldn’t possibly prepare him for an MLB pennant race though, could it?
Photo: Boston Herald
With his team struggling to get multiple hits, let alone scratch out two or three runs a game, thanks an unwitting assist by Cashman, Dombrowski went with the kid. And oh has he raked (so far)! Since getting his call to the bigs on July 24, Devers is 13-for-30 (.433) with two doubles, three home runs and six RBIs. He is riding a six-game hitting streak, and is only the sixth Red Sox player in the past 50 years to reach base safely in his first seven major league games. Did I mention in one of those games he was 4 for 4? I know, I know, seven games does not a hall of fame career make, but he has been Devers-tating! And just think, chances are he would still be progressing in Pawtucket right now if Todd Frazier did end up in Beantown. Frazier since donning pinstripes is hitting .181, with one home run and two RBI’s. Baseball is of course a marathon, and this is a small sample size for both players. In case you were wondering, the teams play each other ten more times this year. Friday, August 11 in the Bronx is when Cash will get his first glimpse of the third baseman he helped promote to the majors.