Butch Dill/USA Today Sports

Bradford: Why Red Sox will need more than Rafael Devers

Rob Bradford
July 23, 2017 - 9:54 pm

Here's the most important quote from Dave Dombrowski to reporters in Anaheim Sunday afternoon.

"Really, for us, we think he gives us as good a chance as anybody we’ve had a chance to acquire for third base," the Red Sox president of baseball operations said.

"He" is of course Rafael Devers, who is now a major leaguer after spending nine games in Triple-A. And one of the question the move immediately leads to is this: why bother with a stint in Pawtucket was prioritized at al? The answer would be that Dombrowski really didn't view the stop after Double-A Portland as that much of an importance. He can say the Red Sox wanted to see how the 20-year-old handled the next level, but it would be fair to say the organization pretty much had their mind made up on the third baseman's readiness.

So, now he's here.

No Jed Lowrie. No Zack Cozart. No Adrian Beltre. No Mike Moustakas. No Eduardo Nunez. Devers is what the Red Sox, and their uncomfortably inconsistent offense, is rolling with.

It's hard to imagine this move can hurt a Sox lineup that has gotten an American League worst .600 OPS and .320 slugging percentage out of its third base spot. So if the rookie is just adequate it will be an upgrade. But this can't just be about Devers, because if you're expecting the rise and fall of this Red Sox' team's fate to hinge on whether or not the lefty hitter can become the answer to this run-scoring conundrum, it's not going to work.

If the Red Sox are going to truly fix what ails them, the guys who are already here have to live up to the expecations presented heading into this season. Other than Dustin Pedroia, not one member of this batting order is having the year the Dombrowski was counting on when hatching this plan. And if that doesn't change, get ready for a big ol' waste of a really, really good pitching staff.

Reminder: Previously, the two most prominent 20-year-olds to join the Red Sox were Xander Bogaerts and Yoan Moncada. 

We remember Bogaerts for starting in the World Series while not being able to legally sip the clubhouse champagne. But remember, this was a kid who only started 12 games during his six-week stint to close out the regular season, cracking the starting lineup on back to back days during that stretch just once. By the time the postseason rolled around, you had a played almost exactly half of his 110 innings in the field at his postseason position of third base, having hit just .250 with a .684 OPS. 

The point is that the Red Sox didn't need to lean on Bogaerts. The same went for Moncada last year.

Thanks to the underwhelming performances of Aaron Hill and Travis Shaw, the switch-hitter was called upon to fix a third base position that was similarly productive as it's current state. But when it became clear Moncada wasn't ready, the rest of the Red Sox lineup managed just fine. From Sept. 7 until the end of the 2016 regular season, you had the likes of Hanley Ramirez (1.085 OPS), David Ortiz (.970), Mookie Betts (.808) and Andrew Benintendi (.805) carrying their team to a 16-8 record the rest of the way.

So, right now, it is undeniable that the Red Sox are more reliant on Devers producing than any rookie they've called up in recent memory. But they still need so much more.

For the 47th time this season, Sunday, the Red Sox scored all their runs in just one or two innings. Whether it's because of injuries or not, this team simply can't live with the kind of July production supplied by Andrew Benintendi (.731 OPS), Jackie Bradley Jr. (.613), Xander Bogaerts (.520), Mitch Moreland (.451) and two catchers who have sub-.500 OPS for the month.

When it's that bad, Devers can't be expected to be the be-all, end-all.

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