It’s hard to believe Rafael Devers is still only 22 years old. Devers came up for Boston in 2017 and put up a fine performance for a 20-year-old. He followed that up with a mediocre 2018 campaign. At 21, it wasn’t awful. It was a learning year, but as fans, we expect so much more out of the young future stars that come up to the majors that early. There’s a reason why they got called up. With players like Betts, Bogaerts, and Benintendi surrounding him, it’s hard to live up to that level of play, especially when they all took much greater strides the same season. For Devers, it’s still so early in his career development. He has plenty of time ahead of him to catch up to those stars.
The beginning of 2019 has been interesting for Devers. First, his plate discipline has improved greatly. He’s swinging less at pitches out of the zone, while also making more contact with those pitches, whiffing much less on breaking stuff. This has led to a three-point increase in walk percentage and a nearly 10 point drop in strikeout percentage from last season. Devers has been driving the ball better, hitting the ball harder with more line drives. This has dropped his home run output significantly as his fly ball rate has gone down to compensate. These changes have made him a better overall hitter this year as his OBP is sitting close to .400 with a 121 wRC+. Last night, he was able to show off his power potential going 3-5, R, HR, 2B, 4 RBI. If he can continue to deliver that power while keeping the plate discipline improvements, Devers will be another star in the Red Sox lineup for years to come.
Let’s look around the rest of the league to spot the best hitters from Friday’s games.
Tim Anderson (SS, Chicago White Sox) — 2-4, 2 R, HR, RBI. Anderson has set himself apart early this season as one of the most fun players to watch play the game. After a blistering start, he’s cooled off a bit and the Sox dropped him down the order to the seven hole. His May hasn’t been as notable as the first month plus of the year, but Anderson has improved his plate discipline cutting back on strikeouts.
Mitch Moreland (1B, Boston Red Sox) — 2-3, 2 R, HR, 2B, 4 RBI. Who leads the Red Sox in home runs this year? It’s easy! Everyone, let’s say it together. 1… 2… 3… Mitch Moreland! With this 11th on the season, Moreland is now leading the Sox by four more homers than any other player. He’s enjoyed quite a surge this year in hard hit rate. He looks to really be swinging for it each at-bat as his zone contact rate has dropped over six points. At 16% owned, he could be considered if you are desperate for extra power.
Austin Meadows (OF, Tampa Bay Rays) — 2-4, R, HR, 2B, 2 RBI, BB. It’s been far too long that we’ve had to wait for Meadows to return to his impressive ways. In his first game back from his thumb sprain, Meadows picked it right back up. Be confident plugging him right back into your lineup moving forward as he continues his breakout.
Michael Conforto (OF, New York Mets) — 3-3, 3 R, HR, RBI, BB. Conforto came into the 2019 season fully able to participate in Spring Training not coming off of a shoulder injury. He was able to step right into the season ready to go, and it showed. However, just like the rest of the Met’s offense, he stopped hitting for a few weeks batting .163 over 16 games prior to last night. He came out of the slump big time with a 3-3 night including a home run. Players have slumps, teams have slumps, and good players will break those slumps.
Mitch Garver (C, Minnesota Twins) — 1-1, 2 R, HR, 2 RBI, 3 BB. It isn’t often you see a guy with one hit find his way into the Batter’s Box, but Garver pulled off a fun little line last night. With a home run and three additional walks in his four plate appearances, the Tigers just couldn’t get him out. If you’ve owned Garver, you’ve been reaping the catcher rewards. He’s still owned under 50% in Yahoo, so there’s a chance you could still grab him.
Jake Marisnick (OF, Houston Astros) — 2-3, R, HR, 2B, RBI. Marisnick has been starting in center for the Astros most of the time while not walking, striking out a bunch, and hitting too many ground balls. He’s been hitting the ball harder than previous years though, but with an average launch angle of under zero degrees. His average launch angle has dropped from about 16 over the past two years to below zero. Last night, Marisnick put two solid hits in the air, so hopefully that is a sign for things to come.
Alex Gordon (OF, Kansas City Royals) — 2-4, 2 R, 2 HR, 3 RBI. The ‘real’ Alex Gordon seemed to be rearing its ugly head over the past few games leading up to last night. Two strikeouts in each of his last three games brought his K rate closer to the 20 plus percent norm for Gordon. He’s been rocking it around 10% all season, an incredible achievement and improvement. However, Gordon put a stop to that strikeout streak last night, changing those two Ks to home runs. Gordon continues to impress with the changes he’s made to his game at 35 years old.
Andrelton Simmons (SS, Los Angeles Angels) — 4-5, 2 R, 2 RBI. Simmons is always an interesting fantasy player. He hits around .300 with about 10 steals and home runs, while maybe putting up just enough RBIs and runs to think about rostering him. He never strikes out, always putting the ball in play. This year though he’s been making better contact, resulting in him nearly reaching half his doubles mark from last year. He won’t give you much power, but he is batting in the top three spots in the lineup every game which has boosted his RBI and run totals.
Chris Davis (1B, Baltimore Orioles) — 2-3, R, HR, 2 RBI, BB. Who doesn’t like looking at Davis’ stats this year since he first got a hit? It’s been impressive. Over that time, he is still sporting a .300 plus batting average with a 157 wRC+. Last night, he added his fourth homer on the year, a nearly 400-foot shot.
Trevor Story (SS, Colorado Rockies) — 3-5, 2 R, HR, 2 RBI. This 30/30 threat keeps lighting it up for Colorado. There wasn’t much for him to improve upon after his incredible 2018 campaign but he’s out of the gate this year hitting the ball harder than he has in the past. He keeps hitting well against the fastball and offspeed stuff. However, his struggles against the breaking ball continue. If he can figure out that weakness, Story could be unstoppable.
Joc Pederson (OF, Los Angeles Dodgers) — 2-5, 2 R, 2 HR, 2 RBI. It’s been a while since we’ve seen this name here, where he frequented nearly every day at the start of the season. Joc punished the ball last night, hitting a 113.7 MPH ball 402 feet. His other homer traveled 419 feet. Pederson will still take a seat against the lefties every so often especially with his struggles this past few weeks. Notably, his struggles may be stemming from a sub .200 BABIP on the year driving his batting average down to .229.
(Photo by Mark LoMoglio/Icon Sportswire)