Red Sox Manager Alex Cora has marveled at how someone can have such gigantic plate coverage at just 21 years old.

Teammates who have seen the kid play since he first arrived last summer are astonished at his maturity and growth in such a short period of time.

David Ortiz has called him an “MVP-caliber” player who put up terrific numbers without being “into the mechanical side of the game yet.”

There’s no shortage of hype for Rafael Devers’ second season.

“But all you’ve got to think of is when a kid like that a couple years from now learns about the game and figures things out and he’s only going to be 22,” Ortiz said.

But there are still a few questions.


Perhaps the most interesting one coming into this season is this: With Cora preaching aggressiveness to a team that was among the least aggressive at the plate last year, how will that affect Devers?

Since he arrived from Double-A Portland last July through the end of the season, Devers swung at about 50 percent of the pitches he saw, which put him in the top 15 among major leaguers. And he didn’t always swing at the right pitches.

Devers hacked at 38.5 percent of the pitches he saw that were balls, according to FanGraphs. Had he taken enough at-bats to qualify last year, he would’ve ranked 14th in the big leagues in that category.

But what is Cora supposed to do? He’s explained a few times that he wants Devers to stay aggressive, because that’s his style. He famously took a high-and-outside 102-mph fastball from Aroldis Chapman and hit it out of the park at Yankee Stadium to tie the game in the ninth inning of a mid-August contest. And this spring, he’s been doing more of the same.

Take a glimpse at his two-hit game against the Orioles last week. The first time up against righty Gabriel Ynoa, Devers hacked at the first two pitches and sent the second one into the right-field gap for a double.

The next time up, he finally looked at a couple pitches, both balls. He saw two strikes in the at-bat and swung at both of them. The second one was high but hittable and Devers turned on it so fast it zipped over the right-field fence for a line-drive home run.


The third time up he saw three strikes, and again swung at all three, finally flying out to left-center.

He swung the bat seven times on the day. He saw seven strikes. Two of his swings resulted in extra-base hits.

“I like to do that,” he said. “A lot of the time the pitchers throw their fastball right there, you just have to hack. I’m aggressive early and I got my pitch. No matter if it’s a fastball or breaking ball I’m aggressive and I hit it.”

Too aggressive? Hardly. The Red Sox are planning on hitting him fifth or sixth in the order.

“Yeah, that’s an interesting one, because he’s aggressive and I don’t want to take his aggressiveness out of the equation,” Cora said last week. “With him it’s going to be controlling the at-bats. I don’t want to take away his aggressiveness. Like (against the Orioles), that first-pitch breaking ball in the third at-bat, I think it was well, you never know with him, he might hit it hard. But most of us don’t hit that ball hard. You take that pitch down in the zone. It’s on the edge. So we have to keep preaching him on that we want to do damage in the strike zone but at the same time we can’t forget he’s 21 and he’s still developing at the best level in baseball.”

Catcher Christian Vazquez predicts Devers is “going to be a stud.”


“He’s still young, still learning,” Vazquez said. “But he has great skills. He needs to make a couple adjustments but when he feels comfortable and in a good place he plays good.”

Said Hanley Ramirez: “The thing for him is, you’ve just got to let him play and relax. He’s a young guy. His mind is still a little immature. You’ve just got to let him play and don’t try to put too much pressure on him.”

Shortstop Xander Bogaerts said he’s going to try to help Devers with his defense at third base, the other question mark coming into the season.

He was considered an unsteady glove without much range for a 237-pounder who stands 6 feet tall.

But he impressed last year after his call-up. He’s been a mixed bag early in camp.

Joey Cora, Alex’s brother and the third base coach for the Pirates, was surprised to see Devers getting to balls close to the line in a game earlier this spring.

“The other day Joey called me after we played that game in Bradenton and he made some nice plays and Joey said, ‘I don’t know what people are talking about – he’s a good defender,'” Alex Cora said. “He just has to keep working. Sometimes you’re strong to your left instead of your right. Well, we’ll see how that works, but he’s getting repetitions which is very important.”

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