Sunday, April 14 2024

Red Sox third base outlook: Devers’ defense must improve in 2024 originally appeared on NBC Sports Boston

Boston Red Sox spring training workouts are set to begin when pitchers and catchers report to Fort Myers, Fla. on Feb. 14. Full squad workouts begin on Feb. 19.

Ahead of spring training, we’re assessing the Red Sox’s situation at each position for the 2024 campaign. We’ll break down the players expected to play the position for Boston in 2024, followed by a confidence grade. These positional outlooks will be updated as moves are made in the offseason.

In this installment of the series, we focus on the third base position.

After losing shortstop Xander Bogaerts last winter, the Red Sox made sure to lock up Rafael Devers on a contract extension to make him the new face of the franchise. They signed the slugging third baseman to a 10-year, $313.5 million pact just before the 2023 campaign. The upcoming season will mark the first official year of the lucrative deal.

Devers is the only player remaining from Boston‘s 2018 World Series team. Unlike that remarkable season, when he was part of a stacked roster that included All-Stars Mookie Betts and J.D. Martinez, Devers will have to do most of the heavy lifting. With the departure of Justin Turner, he’ll likely have little help in the lineup outside of second-year first baseman Triston Casas.

Last season, Devers’ seventh in MLB, was more of the same for him at the plate. The 27-year-old led the team in homers (33) and RBIs (100) while posting an .851 OPS. Those are stellar numbers for most players across the league, but it still feels like Devers has another level to reach offensively.

Rafael Devers hits a single against the Twins.Rafael Devers hits a single against the Twins.

Rafael Devers is the only member of the 2018 World Series team left on the Red Sox roster.

As great as Devers is with the bat, he was that bad defensively at the hot corner last season. His 19 errors tied Detroit Tigers shortstop Javier Baez for the most in the American League, led all AL third basemen, and tied for the third most of all MLB players. Somehow, his .949 fielding percentage still wasn’t the worst of his career.

Those defensive woes have sparked debate over whether Devers will be forced into a designated hitter role sooner rather than later. It’s hard to believe Boston would want to pay its DH a whopping $30 million a year, but it’s still a fair question to ask. He had -9 outs above average in 2023 to give him -24 for his career. That’s alarming, and the lack of improvements in recent years points to a move to DH being inevitable not-so-distant future.

For 2024 though, Devers will spend the entire season at third barring a surprise addition to the roster. He’s the only third baseman currently on the Red Sox depth chart unless you include Bobby Dalbec, Pablo Reyes, or the recently acquired utility man Romy Gonzalez. The only way Devers is forced off of third base this year is if Boston signs someone like Matt Chapman in free agency, and that appears highly unlikely at this point.

Red Sox fans will once again have to take the good with the bad when it comes to Devers this year. Of course, he’s the absolute least of Boston’s worries with other glaring holes on the roster, such as the lackluster pitching staff and the absence of a reliable right-handed bat.

Third base confidence grade: B+

At this point, we know what to expect out of Devers. He’ll do just enough at the plate to distract us from his shortcomings in the field. His defense is worrisome, especially with the team looking to improve in that category after an abysmal defensive season all around, but he’s the one true star in Boston’s lineup heading into the 2024 season. You can just about guarantee a 30+ homer, 90+ RBI, .850+ OPS campaign for the two-time All-Star. The only factors keeping this confidence rating out of the A range are Devers’ fielding issues and the lack of depth at the position if he misses time.

Source: Yahoo Sports

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