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20-Year-Old Phenom Rafael Devers' Light-Tower Power Can Save Red Sox from Yanks

Danny KnoblerMLB Lead WriterJuly 27, 2017

SEATTLE, WA - JULY 26: Rafael Devers #11 of the Boston Red Sox is mobbed by teammates, including Deven Marrero #17 as they celebrate his first career hit, a home run to center field off of Andrew Moore #48 of the Seattle Mariners in the third inning at Safeco Field on July 26, 2017 in Seattle, Washington. (Photo by Lindsey Wasson/Getty Images)
Lindsey Wasson/Getty Images

The kid on the mound Wednesday afternoon for the New York Yankees was just 23 years old, but by the end of the day, Luis Severino was being touted as the new ace.

The kid batting second for the Yankees was even younger, but it was 22-year-old Clint Frazier who drove home the first two runs in a win over the Cincinnati Reds that could have put the Yankees in first place for the first time this month.

It didn't, in part because the Boston Red Sox showed off a star kid of their own.

This is the American League East, the 2017 version, and even now, when everyone is thinking about trades, the key may well be the kids. The Yankees kids, yes, but now it's a Red Sox kid, too.

Rafael Devers: Remember the name. And if you have any influence with Red Sox management, make sure the 20-year-old third baseman stays on the roster and in the lineup unless, or until, he proves he doesn't yet belong.

The early evidence is he might. Devers has already raced through Double-A and Triple-A this season, and in his major league debut Tuesday in Seattle, he had a key walk against Felix Hernandez. In his second big league game Wednesday, his two hits included a long home run to center field in a 4-0 win that saved the Red Sox's place atop the AL East for now.

No surprise there.

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"Serious, easy light-tower power," a National League scout who has followed Devers' career said Wednesday. "The ball explodes off his bat. His bat will play. Devers will be a superstar."

MLB Stat of the Day @MLBStatoftheDay

At 20 years and 275 days, top @RedSox prospect @Rafael_Devers is youngest player in @MLB – and his first big league hit is a home run. https://t.co/uS7AvXdWez

There will be questions about his defense and questions about his youth, but Red Sox president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski has never been afraid to push talented kids. Sometimes it works, and sometimes it doesn't—Andrew Benintendi proved ready last year, while Yoan Moncada did not—but Dombrowski will try.

Dombrowski is never shy on the trade market, either, and just this week he engineered a deal for Eduardo Nunez, theoretically to fill the Sox's Pablo Sandoval-size hole at third base.

Fortunately for Boston, Nunez can play anywhere and everywhere, because even if Dombrowski and manager John Farrell haven't been willing to say it yet, Devers has to play third base until he shows he can't.

As Evan Drellich wrote for CSNNE.com, "Nunez is not what the Sox need most: a bopper."

In their first season after David Ortiz, the Red Sox rank 27th in the major leagues in home runs. They have never finished 27th in the majors in home runs.

Nunez has 38 home runs in eight years in the big leagues. Devers has 21 home runs this year. Yes, 20 of them were in the minor leagues, but give the kid a break. He won't be old enough to drink until Oct. 24which also happens to be the date for Game 1 of the World Series.

The Red Sox have a chance to get there, in part because Chris Sale has been everything Dombrowski could have wanted when he gave up Moncada and others in a December trade with the Chicago White Sox.

After seven shutout innings Wednesday against the Mariners, Sale is 13-4 with a 2.37 ERA that easily leads the league.

Eduardo Nunez should help the Red Sox, but he doesn't have Devers' power.
Eduardo Nunez should help the Red Sox, but he doesn't have Devers' power.Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

The Sox are good, despite their lack of home runs, but they're in a close race in the AL East. The Yankees are good, too, mostly because their kids have been so good. Aaron Judge was the best player in the league in the first half, Severino is pitching like an ace, Jordan Montgomery has been a solid starter, and now Frazier is contributing, too.

Frazier has been so impressive in his first 18 major league games that there's no reason to take him out of the lineup. He plays every day in the outfield, and Jacoby Ellsbury, making $21.1 million this season, does not.

Manager Joe Girardi faced questions Wednesday about whether the Yankees could send Frazier to the minors when Aaron Hicks comes back from the disabled list, as general manager Brian Cashman had said was the plan. Girardi dodged the question by saying it doesn't have to be answered now, because Hicks isn't ready.

The Red Sox can't put off their Devers decision, because Nunez is due in town when they begin a Fenway Park series against the Kansas City Royals on Friday night. But they can keep both players, and use Nunez's versatility to make sure both get at-bats.

They can't wait until rosters expand in another month, because the division race is so close that every win matters. Each of the 10 remaining head-to-head meetings with the Yankees will matter, and the first seven of those will be in August, before the roster limit goes up from 25 to 40.

By then, perhaps Devers has proved he's not yet ready to impact a big league pennant race. Or maybe he's become the reason the Red Sox are putting that race away.

It's time to find out, time to see if he can build on what he did Wednesday in Seattle. The light-tower power and explosive bat could be just what the Red Sox need to counter the Yankees kids.

                

Danny Knobler covers Major League Baseball as a national columnist for Bleacher Report.

Follow Danny on Twitter and talk baseball.

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