Tomase: Rafael Devers quietly becoming a postseason legend for Sox originally appeared on NBC Sports Boston
Extrapolate Rafael Devers’ career postseason numbers out to 162 games, and you’re looking at a player from another era. We’re talking Lou Gehrig, Jimmie Foxx, or maybe the Bambino himself.
Put Devers in the playoffs and he does historic damage. Manager Alex Cora would like to see him recognized as a transcendent superstar, but while contemporaries such as Fernando Tatis Jr., Vladimir Guerrero Jr. and Juan Soto garner headlines as baseball’s next generation of stars, Devers just keeps doing his thing and making teams pay.
“He’s one of the best young players in the big leagues,” Cora said. “The thing is that Rafi, you feel like he has been around for a long time, right, and when you talk about young players, you always — the conversation starts with Tatis, Guerrero, Soto, and they’re really good. They’re great. But this kid, since 2017 when he showed up in Seattle that weekend, he was good. He was really good. He has been good in October, too. Obviously, with time I do believe those kids are going to be part of October, but right now he is the only one out of that group, and he has been very successful.”
Soto played an integral part in Washington’s 2019 title, so it’s not like Devers is the only youngster to excel in October. But what he has done since appearing in his first playoff game four years ago is nothing short of scintillating.
After blasting a grand slam in Saturday’s 9-5 win over the Astros in Game 2 of the American League Championship Series, Devers finds himself in another stratosphere. He is now hitting .311 with six homers and 24 RBIs and a .942 OPS in 22 postseason games. Extend that production over 162 games and Devers would hit .311 with 44 homers and 177 RBIs. That’s Babe Ruth territory.
Those numbers aren’t even misleading. They signal just what kind of a force he has become, even as he deals with a right forearm injury that’s clearly, on big swings, leaving him in some pain — at least when he’s not inflicting it on opposing pitchers.
It’s enough to make Cora step back and wonder what kind of player he might one day be.
“I don’t know what the future holds,” he said. “I know that for us the future is tomorrow, and he will be in the lineup, and he is a presence. He is a force, and yesterday we can talk about the grand slam. We can talk about J.D.’s grand slam, but he went from 0-2 to a walk, and we always talk about his discipline, and them throwing him x-amount of fastballs in a row. He learned a lot that weekend. He learned, and he has put it into practice in this series, and that’s why sometimes we get caught up in struggles, right, like he didn’t catch up with the fastball or they lost to the Yankees three times in a row. It’s baseball. It’s 162, and you are going to have up and down weeks, and you’re going to learn from those experiences, and that’s the most important thing — that he learns. He understands, and now they’re making adjustments, and he is actually forcing them to make adjustments, which is great.”
Devers has worked hard to learn English, and Cora believes he could become as influential a local figure as fellow Dominicans Pedro Martinez and David Ortiz.
When you’re posting numbers like Devers, anything is possible.
“This is a city that has embraced a lot of Dominican players, a lot of Latin players, and if you look at the Celtics with (Al) Horford, and you see David and Pedro, you see what they mean to the community and what they have done off the field because they learned that second language,” Cora said. “If Rafi keeps doing what he is doing, we’re going to be talking about him that way because he is very likable. He is a good kid. He enjoys playing the game. He enjoys this atmosphere, and he is doing everything possible to get to that echelon.”