Rafael Devers Is Ascending

Boston's favorite son is putting it all together at the plate.

On Tuesday night in Tampa, Rafael Devers homered in his sixth consecutive game, setting a Red Sox franchise record.

Devers now stands alone, a considerable achievement considering the ballclub’s storied history. Devers brokechecks notesBobby Dalbec’s (??) previous record of five consecutive games with a ding dong, which the much-maligned first baseman set in the COVID-shortened 2020 season.

Devers signed a 10-year, $313-million extension this past offseason. The Red Sox made a conscious choice between Mookie Betts, Xander Bogaerts, and Devers, and they opted for the younger third basemen with a fearsome bat.

John Henry and Craig Breslow expect Raffy to be the cornerstone of the next great Red Sox team.

We’re six weeks into that contract, and Devers might be proving them right.


Laying Off


Devers has always been a bit of a free-swinger.

That’s fine. He’s a power-heavy southpaw third baseman. Swinging hard and often is characteristic of that profile.

But he’s starting to read the zone better now that he’s locked down for the next decade.

Devers has lowered his chase rate to a career-best 32%, primarily by improving his out-of-zone swing decisions.

Devers ranks 32nd among qualified hitters in swing-take run-value added (+9), with most of his added value coming on chase decisions (+6)or, should I say, decisions not to chase.

He’s increased his walk rate to a career-high 13%, drawing 25 walks in 37 games. He’s reached base safely in all but four outings and is currently on a 16-game on-base streak, slashing .266/.329/.641 during the stretch.

Devers is on pace to post a career-high OBP, a .374 mark that ranks 17th among qualified MLB hitters, sandwiched in between Vladimir Guerrero Jr. and Bryce Harper.

It’s worth mentioning that Devers is also swinging less on pitches inside the zone (74%), leading to a career-low swing rate overall (51%). But he’s been swinging less at bad pitches outside the zone and making more aggressive swing decisions on balls he can drive.

Devers was always heralded for his power, bat-to-ball skills, and ability to control the strike zone. He’s always made contact with pop. But he’s never shown such a patient approachhe’s never drawn more than 72 walks in a season, yet is on pace for 81.


Prodigious Power


The best hitters in MLB history feature a unique power-discipline combination.

Think Ted Williams, Barry Bonds, Mike Trout. These guys make excellent strike-zone judgments and even better swing decisions, unloading when the right pitch comes.

The best part of Devers’ season so far is that he hasn’t sacrificed an ounce of power in his quest for more walks. He still ranks among the top 10% of qualified hitters in every batted-ball metric, and his .548 expected slugging indicates his .567 slugging isn’t just smoke and mirrors. Devers ISO has jumped to a career-high (.270) after a somewhat disappointing 2023 (.229), and he’s approaching a career-high expected wOBACON (.458).

His contact rate remains around 75%, but he’s barreling everything, tying his career-high barrel rate (15%), which ranks in the 91st percentile of qualified hitters.

He’s crushing all pitch types. He’s slugging .605 off four-seam fastballs. He’s slugging an obscene .762 off offspeed pitches, including .733 against changeups.

Two power-related things stand out to me.

First, Raffy’s opposite-field power is astounding. Only the strongest hitters have true oppo power, and Devers leads the league in opposite-field wOBA.

Surprisingly, Devers is on pace for a career-low opposite-field rate (21%). He’s still pulling right-field rockets but hasn’t elevated those shots yet.

If he can start pulling more balls in the air, Devers could see another bump in power numbers. What a scary thought.

Second, Devers can golf pitches better than any active MLB hitter.

Devers is slugging .553 with a .437 wOBA on pitches below the strike zone. Three of his 10 homers have come on pitches below the kneeshere are all three:

Who else can smack 400-foot bombs on these pitches? And did you notice how two went out to dead center? Special stuff.

Devers is specifically mashing below-the-zone secondary stuff.

Devers vs Below-The-Zone Pitches

Part of Raffy’s development has been an improved whiff rate on secondary stuff, tied directly to his career-best chase numberspitchers use secondary stuff to generate low-zone chases. But when Devers sees those spinning baseballs, he’s obliterating them, partially because he has elite below-the-zone swing range combined with improved below-the-zone decision-making.

This combination of plate discipline, opposite field power, and breaking/off-speed low-ball power makes Raffy a tough out.


Stats and Records


Altogether, Devers is on pace for a career-best season, including career highs in OPS (.925), wRC+ (153), and wOBA (.396). He’s genuinely among the league’s elite hitters.

This heroic 2024 season is the culmination of a half-decade of offensive production. Since 2019, Devers ranks third among all MLB players in total bases (1449)trailing only Freddie Freeman (1525) and Marcus Semien (1472)buoyed by the most extra-base hits during the stretch.

Sure, Raffy will never play elite defense at the hot corner, which will ultimately pull down some of his overall WAR numbers. Although he has the athleticism and range to make every play, consistency is an issue.

But Devers is elevating his offensive prowess to previously unforeseen levels behind a newfound power-discipline combination.

He’s only 27. Devers is entering his prime. And Red Sox fans are clearly thrilled to have their middle-of-the-order masher locked down for years to come.

Photo by Icon Sportswire | Adapted by Aaron Polcare (@bearydoesgfx on X)

2 responses to “Rafael Devers Is Ascending”

  1. Billy Bathhouse says:

    Damn, I was casually floating him for higher-end underperforming OFs but I may stop after reading this.

    • Tanner McGrath says:

      I think this is sustainable. His expected stats are not much lower than his actual, and FanGraphs on-pace metrics have him with a 150 wRC+ for the rest of the year. Stop chasing bad pitches, crush good pitches, and Raffy will soar.

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