As the 2019 season comes to a close, it is time to discuss one of the biggest risers of the 2019 fantasy baseball season. I will be breaking down none other than Rafael Devers.
He is arguably the best draft-day value and has vaulted himself into the top two rounds of these early mock drafts we are seeing taking place. Is he worth it? Was this a fluke or was this just what we expected? Maybe it was just a year later than anticipated. Regardless, let’s dive in and see where how legitimate all this has been.
Rafael Devers Deep Dive
Rafael Devers has been nothing short of amazing. He was a breakout candidate in 2018 and came up short in a big way. The industry as a whole dropped him down ranks coming into the year. Those of you who stuck with your belief in him were rewarded handsomely. Devers was also one of the “best shape of my life” stories coming into the season. I guess there was something to this one.
This season, to this point, Devers has had MVP caliber offensive output. He has amassed 123 runs, 31 home runs 113 RBI and 8 steals. He also has a triple slash of .308/.359/.550. Just astonishing numbers. Likely a league winner for most. How real is this output? Let’s see what the numbers tell us.
|League Average For 2019||8.5%||22.9%||0.37||183||0.299||100|
That K-Rate has really come around nicely this season. It is a career-best 17%. This is the type of growth you like to see in a young player entering or soon to be entering his prime
The decrease in K-rate has been an on and off battle over the years but it seems he put it together for most of 2019. On the flip side, however, the walk rate has taken a bit of a dip.
Rafael Devers has always been a mid to upper seven percent walk rate guy but to dip to 6.9% is a bit concerning. It comes with added aggression at the plate which we will discuss shortly.
The gains in both wRC+ and ISO can’t go unnoticed. It makes sense with the overall production going up. With a lot of the production coming in the power department it only makes sense to see these improve as they have.
The BABIP gains in 2019 compared to 2018 seem pretty legitimate. He has speed in the 54th percentile so it’s slightly above average. With the speed and overall solid hit tool, the BABIP has staying power and, if anything, 2018’s .281 BABIP appears to be the outlier.
I am going to try something new here. Hope it helps with digesting the info. Here goes nothing.
First I want to focus on the changes in the swing rates.
|League Average For 2019||31.6%||68.5%||47.0%|
I said we’d discuss it shortly, well here it is. Rafael Devers has been far more aggressive this season. He has increased his swing rate each season since 2017 and it currently sits at 54.8%. Unfortunately, this has come at the expense of an increase in the chase rate (or O-Swing%).
The chase rate has always been above league average and an issue. With it up to 40.5% in 2019 that is a concern. That’s a 3.2 percent increase from 2018. Not something to just ignore.
|League Average For 2019||62.8%||85.0%||76.3%|
The good news is he seems to be making strides in contact rate to combat chasing so much. It’s not just the increase of overall contact rate to a career best 78.1% that’s worth mentioning, but the increase in the contact on pitches outside the zone that’s has improved tremendously.
His O-Contact has jumped up 8.8 percentage points from 2018 and is currently at 72.2%. That’s easily a career-high and almost 10 percent better than league average. Devers has a solid hit tool. This is what has definitely saved him from himself. If he takes any hit to the O-Contact it’ll be a disaster in my opinion. With that chase rate being as high as it is, if he doesn’t continue hitting those pitches he’s chasing then that batting average could bottom out to what we saw in 2018.
Unfortunately, there hasn’t been any growth in his Z-Contact rate and it’s still below league average. So although Devers has been successful with his newfound aggression, I feel he’s really pushing his luck and if things don’t go his way in the O-Contact department we can see him fall off.
|Season||1st Pitch Swing%||F-Strike%||Zone%||SwStr%|
|League Average For 2019||28.3%||60.9%||41.8%||11.1%|
It’s no surprise that the zone rate and first-pitch strike rates continue to decline. If he’s willing to chase, pitchers are willing to make him earn his pitches, throwing fewer strikes on the first pitch and overall for that matter.
The swinging strike rate improvements make sense with the improved O-Contact rates we previously discussed. But again, it’s a slippery slope and a lot of this feels contingent to him sustaining the growth in O-Contact.
Batted Ball Data
When you take a look at the batted ball data you really notice that there’s been a vast improvement in the line drive rate. It’s a career-best 21.3%. Although the fly balls are down a tick, the ground balls are too.
The improvements in said LD% really lend itself to the increase of batting average we’ve seen on the year. If he were to continue to lower that GB% and were to increase the FB% we’d likely see more pop too. The LD% has also helped in the big drop in IFFB%.
Devers has made an effort to pull the ball more. In 2018, he had a pull rate of 37.2%. He was also hitting more to right-center field.
That’s 2018. Here’s what it looks like in 2019.
You can see with the pull rate up to 42.3%, he has also begun pulling the ball more towards right field.
With the pull rate, LD rate, and hard-hit rate up (which we will discuss shortly) the power numbers being up even with the FB rate dropping isn’t a surprise. Those LD are hit hard enough to clear the fences.
This section will be quick but definitely worth discussing. Rafael Devers was known to really struggle vs lefties. He has taken big stride vs them this season. In 2018 vs lefties Devers had a measly 3 home runs and 21 RBI. This was accompanied by a triple slash of .229/.272/.347.
In 2019 vs lefties, he has made a complete turnaround. He has 7 home runs with 29 RBI and a triple slash of .271/.305/.447. Short, sweet, and to the point but definitely deserved mentioning. Let’s hope he continues this growth into next season.
Obviously, there’s no denying how great Rafael Devers has been. He measures in the 87th percentile or better in every category in red above. Well, with the exception of sprint speed, of course, coming in at the 54th percentile.
While we are discussing speed, there’s a strong chance his steal total may all but disappear next season. He has been successful on just 50% of attempts (8 of 16), and he hasn’t successfully stolen a base since June 15th. His last attempt in general came August 13th. You aren’t drafting Devers for his speed but losing the eight is still a hit to his potential value.
Unfortunately, there are some small regression indicators in other places as well.
|Actual Stat||Expected Stat (x-stat)||Difference|
|BA: 0.308||xBA: 0.292||16|
|SLG%: 0.550||xSLG%: 0.505||45|
|wOBA: 0.380||xwOBA: 0.362||18|
Devers slightly outperformed his metrics. Metrics are rarely spot on and there is typically some deviation. If this deviation was the other way how would we feel about him though? The big difference that stands out is the 45 points of difference in the xSLG and the actual SLG. This would suggest he’s due to regress a bit in the power category. How much is to be determined but it seems likely.
A couple of positive changes are the hard-hit rate and the exit velocity change. They go hand in hand. Take a look at his hard-hit rate from 2018.
Now, look at the 2019 hard-hit rate.
There are obvious improvements. Devers HH% increased to 47.1%. It’s an improvement of 5.4 percentage points from 2018 and the best mark since 2017. The average exit velocity has also taken a step forward as well and is currently 92.0 MPH. It’s within the top 6% of the league.
2020 Outlook for Rafael Devers
All in all, Rafael Devers is going to be a top 30-35 pick for me at this point in time. He has a lot of room to grow but there are enough red flags for me to keep him outside my top two rounds. Not to mention there are rumors of a Betts trade and JD walking. That would definitely affect the counting stats without a doubt.
Maybe whoever they replace them with can help a bit but I’m not as confident as others. He’s going to be a big mover throughout the offseason for me but as of now, I don’t feel comfortable taking him before the third round.
What’s your take on the 2019 version of Rafael Devers? Should we expect more in 2020? Let us know in the comments below!
For more Deep Dives from Mike, check out his full archive!
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