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August 7, 2015 at 8:00 AM

Scouting Scratch: Rafael Devers

The Greenville Drive lineup is one of the deepest in the system prospect-wise. After looking at the pitchers these past few days (Part 1, Part 2), it is time to look at the position players. During the four games we were down in Greenville, we got a chance to see every position player and below is the first piece on these players, starting with the new number one prospect in the SoxProspects.com rankings.

GREENVILLE, S.C. -- Every time I’ve seen Rafael Devers play, going back to his first Spring Training in 2014, he has impressed me. A recent four-game stint in Greenville was no different; in a lineup loaded with prospects, the 18-year-old Dominican third baseman was the clear standout at the plate, and perhaps more notably, he was also impressive in the field.

As we have discussed here before, except for his face, Devers doesn’t look like a teenager. His listed height and weight of 6-foot-0, 210 pounds, looks about right, and there is some projection remaining, especially in his upper body. He has a thick, well-developed lower half, and looks to be in much better shape than he was in spring training. It is notable that he was coming off a stress fracture in his ankle during the Fall Instructional League that limited him for part of the offseason. Devers does have a high-maintenance body, but in the shape he is currently in, he moved much better and showed more agility and range at third base than in prior looks. Previous concerns about his ability to stay at third base were based mostly on concerns that he would outgrow the position, but if he continues on the path he is on physically, that should not be much of a concern.

When he signed out of the Dominican Republic, Devers was mainly known for his bat, and he has shown why, hitting at every level. It is not a stretch to project the left-handed hitter for at least a plus hit tool and plus-to-better power at his peak, and even those projections might be on the low side.

Devers has excellent feel for hitting and exudes confidence at the plate. Devers starts with his feet square in a slightly crouched stance. He has a wide base and quiet lower half, utilizing a toe tap timing device. He gets really good hip rotation and uses his strong lower half very efficiently to generate his power. He has very quick hands and strong wrists, generating easy plus bat speed and bringing the bat through the zone with a controlled violence, keeping the barrel in the hitting zone for a long time.

Devers takes a very professional batting practice, showing the ability to make solid contact and drive the ball to all fields. For an 18-year-old, he has a solid knowledge of the strike zone and the ability to recognize spin. He is still developing an approach, and will still got caught out in front of off-speed pitches, especially changeups, a little too often, but that is something that should improve as he develops. 

Devers has power to all fields and is not afraid to let he ball get deep then drive it to left field. During the four-game look, Devers hit two home runs, both to right-center field off of right-handers throwing the low-90s. Both pitches were fastballs down in the zone, a pitch Devers seems to really like, which allowed him to get extended and follow through, generating easy power to drive the ball 400-plus feet. Devers also had a double that was arguably more impressive than the home runs, missing a home run by about five feet, high off the top of the green monster in left field at Fluor Field. The pitcher on that occasion was sitting 95-96 mph, and Devers kept his weight back then exploded with his hands, driving the ball. Many young hitters would have had to cheat to try and get out in front of that type of velocity, but Devers did not try to do too much and was fine letting the ball get deep, letting his hands do the work.

As impressive as Devers was at the plate, what was more encouraging for his future prospects was his work at third base. With Michael Chavis also on the roster, Devers is splitting time between third base and designated hitter, but that does not seem to have slowed down his development, and he was actually the more impressive of the two during this look. Though he has a big body and is already a below-average runner, he showed off surprising agility and improved range, especially moving to his right. On one occasion specifically, Devers was playing off the line and ranged deep behind the base to his right to field the ball before making a strong, accurate throw across the diamond to first to get the out. He has solid footwork both when getting his feet in a good throwing position and when charging the ball. Both in infield practice and in the game, Devers showed off a plus-to-better arm, one that will easily play at third base and allows him to make all the throws at the position.

With how he is playing this year, it is not out of the question for Devers to finish the year with Salem, even as an 18-year old who would be one of, if not the, youngest players at the level. Everything about his game is advanced for his age—on his current development path, he will continue to be one of the youngest everyday players at each stop, but that is no concern, as from all accounts he has the mentality and work ethic to be able to handle that kind of pressure. With his offensive upside and the improvements defensively, Devers has established himself as the top prospect in the system and one of the top prospects in all of baseball.

Below is video of Devers hitting from Spring Training this year. Check out the SoxProspects.com YouTube page for more prospect videos.

Photo credit: Rafael Devers by Kelly O'Connor

Ian Cundall is Director of Scouting for SoxProspects.com. Follow him on Twitter @IanCundall.