Fantasy Baseball: Rafael Devers’ call-up could be a league-winner –

There’s no such thing as a “can’t-miss prospect.” 

No matter how much the skill set might scream “superstar,” the jump from the minors to the majors can expose even the most talented players’ flaws. Aaron Judge has taken the league by storm in 2017, but that’s only after he struggled mightily after a mid-August call-up last season.

And, if there’s no such thing as a “can’t-miss prospect,” there’s certainly no such thing as a can’t-miss, 20-year-old prospect. Of course, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be excited about Red Sox third baseman Rafael Devers, who will get the call for his major-league debut Tuesday. There are no sure things in this sport, but Devers looks like just about the closest thing you can have as he gets set to make his first trip to the majors.

Fantasy players should already know his name well. Devers has been one of the top hitters in the minors all season, hitting .305/.373/.575 with 20 homers in 85 games, despite being one of the youngest players at both Double-A and Triple-A.

Devers was ranked No. 2 in Scott White’s midseason prospect rankings, and he actually ends up beating No. 1 Amed Rosario to the majors. A few years ago, Devers was the kind of prospect you could dream on, a lefty with a sweet swing who just needed to grow into his power. The dream has been realized this season, and this is exactly the kind of prospect all Fantasy owners should be rushing out to grab in all formats – he’s still available in 67 percent of leagues as of Sunday evening.

Devers has developed into one of the best power hitters in the minors, swatting 20 homers and 20 doubles this season. The homers represent a career-high, and they suggest he could be an elite power hitter in the majors, too. We’ve seen a power spike in MLB over the last two seasons, and it has resulted in a strange phenomenon – young hitters are producing more power in the majors than they did in the minors:

Judge and Cody Bellinger are the most obvious examples, seeing their ISOs jump .113 and .107 points from their time in the minors in 2016 to their time in the majors this season, and it’s not a coincidence. The ball is traveling further in the majors, and it’s making the jump from Triple-A to MLB a bit easier to manage.

If you can make contact, of course. The fastballs are still sitting in the high-90s in the majors, and the breaking balls still make even the most seasoned hitters look foolish from time to time. Judge and Bellinger have plenty of swing-and-miss in their games, but this is where Devers looks like he could be an outlier. He has never struck out 100 times in a season (career-high of 94 last season), and hasn’t had to sell out contact in his power breakout in 2017 – his 17.2 percent strikeout rate in Double-A is below the league-wide average of 19.7 percent.

This isn’t to say Devers is definitely going to be a Fantasy difference maker down the stretch. The Red Sox were looking to trade for a third baseman as recently as a week ago, before a reportedly “inevitable” Todd Frazier trade fell through. Despite his contact abilities, Devers has the kind of aggressive approach at the plate that could be exposed by pitchers with better slow-and-bendy stuff than your typical Eastern League hurler.

Devers could end up overmatched in his first taste of the majors, and he wouldn’t be the first elite prospect to face that fate – Mike Trout famously hit just .220/.281/.390 as a 19-year-old in his MLB debut.

However, he also has everything you’re looking for in an elite hitting prospect. He has tons of raw power to all fields, and has enough bat-on-ball skills to hit for average too. In terms of pure hitting ability, he might be the best prospect to get the call this season, which is saying quite a bit given what Bellinger has done. Whether he is ready to turn that talent into actual production against the likes of Chris Archer or Dellin Betances – to name just two of the fireballers he’ll have to face in the AL East – is the big question.

Devers has a skill set you can dream on. If everything clicks, it’s hard to overstate just how good he could be, given his power and contact combination; comparisons to the likes of Nolan Arenado and Adrian Beltre come to mind, at least with the bat.

So, sure: he’s not a can’t-miss prospect. Nobody is. But, Devers is a must-add player nonetheless, and could be a real difference maker down the stretch.  


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