Sun Shiny Devers
It hasn’t exactly been a “shining” start to the 2023 season for the Boston Red Sox, even after their recent 14-5 win on Saturday over the lowly Detroit Tigers.
While the Red Sox are 4-4 as of Sunday, they sit in last place in the AL East and seem to be facing an uphill battle in a division that also features the juggernaut Yankees, the rising Orioles, and the 8-0 Rays.
If there has been one bright spot for the Red Sox through eight games, however, it may be Rafael Devers.
The 26-year-old continues to be a tour de force at the plate for Boston, an encouraging sign for the Red Sox and their fans after the club inked the third baseman to an 11-year, $331 million extension this offseason.
Source confirms: Rafael Devers in agreement with Red Sox on 11-year, $331M extension that begins in 2024. Deal includes $20M signing bonus. First with agreement was Carlos Baerga. Amount is indeed $331M, not $332M.
— Ken Rosenthal (@Ken_Rosenthal) January 4, 2023
Sometimes, stars who sign a long-term extension experience a period of “struggle” as they adjust to the heightened expectations that come from such a major financial commitment. That hasn’t been the case for Devers, who hasn’t missed a beat in 2023 after he hit .295 and produced 27 home runs, 88 RBI, and scored 84 runs last season.
In eight games and 36 plate appearances this year, Devers is not only hitting .343, but he is producing an insane .771 slugging percentage and 1.132 OPS. Today against Joey Wentz and a woeful Tigers bullpen, Devers hit two home runs and also produced five RBI in four at-bats, which brought his totals to four and nine in those respective categories. His performance helped the Red Sox cruise to such an easy victory that he ended up getting taken out in the late innings for infield reserve Yu Chang.
It’s only an eight-game sample, but the early returns for Devers also hint at a power surge in 2023, especially when one takes a look at his Statcast metrics this season.
So far this season, Devers is producing a barrel rate of 17.4% and an average exit velocity of 97.3 mph on batted balls. In addition, his hard-hit rate is 65.2% this year, which would be roughly 15% higher than his mark in that category a season ago.
Of course, it’s only been 36 plate appearances, so it’s unlikely that Devers will maintain these batted ball metrics over the course of a 162-game season in 2023. However, the early power boost shows that Devers will at the very least this season maintain the batted-ball quality he demonstrated in 2021 and 2022, which helped him produce 55 home runs and 201 RBI over that two-year span. That is a good sign for not just Red Sox fans, but also fantasy baseball managers who roster Devers this season and expect him to be one of their primary run producers.
The expectations for Boston don’t look too sunny in 2023, especially with PECOTA projecting them to win around 78 games according to their latest standing projections.
For some clubs, that kind of record would be an accomplishment (particularly Cincinnati and Kansas City). On the other hand, that is not acceptable for this organization, especially after they won a World Series recently in 2018. The hopes remain high in Boston, and another sub-.500 season could turn up the heat on Chaim Bloom and his regime which has failed to find consistent success since he took over.
Conversely, though, the outlook for Devers seems to be a different story, especially after his first eight games this season.
Expect Devers, as long as he stays healthy, to continue to provide a lot of bright moments like Saturday’s game throughout this dark, possibly mediocre campaign for the Red Sox in 2023.
Let’s see how the other hitters did Saturday
Brandon Lowe (TB): 1-2, HR, 4 R, 3 RBI, 3 BB.
It already feels like a classic Lowe season: some excellent power and on-base skills, but the batting average will continue to be low and hurt fantasy managers in traditional five-category leagues. He’s only hitting .235 this year, but his OBP is .435, and his OPS is .847, both stellar marks. Lowe hit his first home run of the year against Oakland on Saturday and also collected his first three RBI of the season as well. There’s a lot to be optimistic about with Lowe right now, but he’s definitely a better play in OBP leagues than batting average ones for now.
Kyle Farmer (MIN): 3-4, 2B, HR, 3 R, 3 RBI.
Farmer hit 16 home runs in 2021 and 14 home runs in 2022 for the Reds, but the surprise return of Carlos Correa to Minnesota made Farmer’s outlook with his new club hazy at the start of the season. However, Farmer has made the most of his at-bats, as he is hitting .350 with a .914 OPS through seven games played and 22 plate appearances. Against Luis Garcia and the Astros, Farmer had his best performance of the season, with three hits, three runs scored, three RBI, and a home run, the latter being his first of the season. It may be difficult to project where he will play in the field from day to day, but expect Farmer and his hot bat to stay in the Twins lineup.
Andrew McCutchen (PIT): 3-4, 2B, HR, 2 R, 2 RBI, SB.
The return of McCutchen to Pittsburgh at the surface seemed to be a move that was aiming to bring more fans to the ballpark rather than wins on the field. After all, he is 36 years old and coming off a season in Milwaukee in which he hit 17 home runs, his lowest number since his sophomore season in 2010, and posted a .700 OPS, the lowest mark of his career. That said, McCutchen has gotten off to a sensational start, as he is hitting .375 with a 1.098 OPS for a Pirates team that is 5-3 and surprisingly second in the NL Central division. Is this breakout for real? The 6.3% barrel rate and 37.5% hard-hit rate suggest that regression could be due soon, but considering he’s only rostered in 19 percent of Yahoo leagues and 13 percent of ESPN leagues, he may be worth a flier for fantasy teams that need outfield help for now.
Nolan Arenado (STL): 2-3, HR, R, 3 RBI, BB.
Arenado hit his 300th career home run on Saturday against the Brewers, which also happened to be his first of the year. Arenado continues to be a force in the lineup, as he is hitting .364 with a .874 OPS in 36 plate appearances. The walk rate is a little low, as it is only 3.2%, which would be a career-low if this persists. Also, there are some concerns with his barrel rate, which is at only 4%, and his xwOBA of .274, which is 48 points lower than his actual wOBA as of Sunday. A big contributor to those alarming numbers may be his 7.4-degree average launch angle, which means that he’s hitting a lot of groundballs to begin the season. Fantasy managers should expect that number to correct itself soon, especially with his 18.2-degree career average launch angle.
Randy Arozarena (TB): 2-5, HR, R, 4 RBI.
Going into the season, it was difficult to say if Arozarena was indeed a “star” player in Major League Baseball after two “up and down” full seasons with the Rays in 2021 and 2022. So far though in 2023, he’s making his case that this indeed will be a breakout campaign for him, as he is hitting .367 with a 1.139 OPS in 36 plate appearances. Arozarena has also collected 10 RBI and hit two home runs, his latest coming on Saturday against the Oakland Athletics. Surprisingly, he hasn’t had a stolen base yet this year, and manager Kevin Cash may be limiting his green light on the basepaths after he got caught 12 times last year. But in terms of power production? With a barrel rate of 19.2% and a hard-hit rate of 57.7%, there’s a lot to be optimistic about with regard to Arozarena’s outlook for the remainder of the season.
Ketel Marte (ARI): 3-5, 2B, HR, 2 R, 2 RBI.
Oh, what a difference a game makes, especially during this early part of the year. Going into Saturday’s game against the Dodgers, Marte was only hitting .188 with a .525 OPS. After his three-hit performance though? Those numbers improved to .243 and .722, respectively. The 29-year-old second baseman seems entrenched in the Diamondbacks lineup for now, even though the club is going through a bit of a youth movement at some other positions (particularly in the outfield). While the overall numbers aren’t eye-popping, he is sporting a barrel rate of 9.4%, and he hasn’t drawn a single walk this year, which is atypical to his 8.1% career walk rate. The stock is starting to rise for Marte, and he could be due for a hot streak soon after a slow start.
Patrick Wisdom (CHC): 2-4, HR, 2 R, RBI.
Wisdom is a confounding hitter for fantasy managers. The barrel rate is legit, as he has produced rates of 16.2%, 14.2%, and 14.3% in 2021, 2022, and 2023, respectively. He also continues to be a power threat, as he has already hit three home runs this year in only 25 plate appearances. However, he sports a career strikeout rate of 36.8%, and his career average of .220 isn’t exactly encouraging for traditional five-category play either. This season, Wisdom has seen his K rate decline to 23.8%, and he is hitting .348 as well. Is this a new Wisdom or is he simply riding a hot streak to begin the year? He’s an excellent waiver-wire fill-in for now, but his long-term outlook should be approached with caution.
Salvador Perez (KC): 1-3, HR, R, 3 RBI.
Named the Royals’ first “official” captain since Mike Sweeney, Perez showed on Saturday why he has earned the “C” on his jersey for the 2023 season. Down two runs in the top of the 8th inning against the San Francisco Giants, Perez golfed a home run on a pitch from Camilo Doval that was only 0.91 feet off the ground, according to Sarah Langs. Salvy is hitting .267 this year with a .846 OPS and has two home runs and four RBI in 32 plate appearances to begin 2023. Even as he gets older, Salvy’s production, even with the low walk rates, still remains impressive.
Stone Garrett (WSH): 4-5, 2 2B, HR, 2 R, 5 RBI.
To say it’s been a wild four months for the 27-year-old outfielder may be putting it lightly. After making his MLB debut with the Diamondbacks last year, he was designated for assignment by Arizona last year and signed with the Nationals in the offseason. However, he didn’t have a great spring, as he hit only .235 in Spring Training, and was optioned at the end of the year to Rochester to begin the season. On April 2nd, not even a week after he was optioned, Corey Dickerson was put on the 10-day IL due to a calf strain, and Garrett was called up to replace him. In two appearances with the Nationals since being called up, Garrett has got off to a scorching start, as he has collected five hits, five RBI, and a home run in nine plate appearances. He also has demonstrated a good eye at the plate, as he has two walks to only one strikeout as well. Last year, Washington struck gold with Joey Meneses, who came out of nowhere to become a force in the Nationals lineup. It is possible that Garrett could be that sort of breakout in 2023, though a bigger sample will be needed to know for sure.
Photo by Joe Robbins/Icon Sportswire | Adapted by Justin Paradis (@JustParaDesigns on Twitter)