This week, Scott Rolen became just the 18th third baseman in MLB history to get the call to the Hall.
It took six ballots, in which he climbed from 10.2% in his first year, to 76.3% (just above the requisite 75%) this week. That first-year percentage is now the lowest of any candidate elected to the Hall of Fame.
Of all the third basemen who’ve debuted in the last 40 years, he’ll join Chipper Jones as the only two with brass plaques in Cooperstown. The position has yielded fewer Hall of Famers than any other.
How about Rafael Devers? Will his cherubic smile and already-impressive career one day be immortalized in gleaming metal?
Let’s take a look at his career thus far:
Through his first six years in the majors, Devers already has a World Series ring, Silver Slugger award, and two All-Star Games under his belt. He’s received MVP votes three times in the last four years, and should’ve won his first Silver Slugger in 2019, when he hit 32 home runs, led the American League with 54 doubles, and led all of MLB with 359 total bases.
In franchise history, he’s already one of 25 players in franchise history with 130 or more home runs while playing for the Sox. His 333 career extra-base hits are the most by a Sox player before turning 26, he’s fourth in RBI and total bases, and his 139 home runs rank second behind the legendary, tragic Tony Conigliaro.
Between his age 20-25 seasons, Devers has accumulated 19.4 offensive WAR, but -2.5 defensive WAR. He’s hit 187 doubles and 139 home runs in 689 regular-season games, and has more extra-base hits over the last four seasons than anyone else. In 2022, he recorded 100 hits faster than any other American Leaguer. The 300 home run club is all but inevitable, and joining David Ortiz in the 500 Club is a definite possibility. Ortiz spent his age 21-26 seasons with the Minnesota Twins and only hit 58 home runs in 455 games.
Just 20 years old in his rookie season, Devers made history as the youngest player to hit an inside-the-park home run in a postseason game. At 21 years old the following October, he helped the Sox win a franchise-record 108 regular-season games and the World Series. At 24 during the unexpected ’21 postseason run, he hit five home runs between the ALDS and ALCS, tying David Ortiz’s record for home runs in a single postseason.
Here are just a few of the records he’s tied or broken so far in his career, according to Red Sox media relations:
October 18, 2021: Most postseason RBI before turning 25 years old (Ahead of Carlos Correa, Albert Pujols, and Andruw Jones)
October 20, 2021: 8th career postseason HR ties Mickey Mantle, Pujols, and Correa for most before turning 25.
June 11, 2022: Devers becomes the fifth player in franchise history to record 400 RBI before turning 26 (Bobby Doerr, Ted Williams, Tony Conigliaro, Jim Rice)
August 17, 2022: Most extra-base hits by a Red Sox hitter before turning 26 (Ahead of Mookie Betts and Williams)
Defense will hurt Devers’ case. He’s made 110 errors in 670 games at third, and has a career -14 Outs Above Average, though he showed serious improvement in 2022. He could become the designated hitter down the road, but there aren’t many of those in the Hall, either. Phillies legend Mike Schmidt, one of, if not the greatest third baseman of all time, famously said Rolen was better than him.
Speaking of Schmidt, he and Devers were eerily similar through their first 633 career games: 134 home runs apiece. Devers had a .866 OPS and Schmidt’s was .867.
It’s virtually impossible to predict how how anyone’s career will turn out. When the Twins released Ortiz, they had no idea they were giving up the man who would soon become the greatest postseason hitter in Red Sox history. Acquiring Nathan Eovaldi at the ’18 trade deadline turned out to be one of the smartest decisions a Sox executive ever made. On the flip side, who could’ve foreseen that Dustin Pedroia’s knees would betray him, ending his career far too soon? Or that the last few years have been so deleterious for Chris Sale?
Anything can happen in baseball. For better, and for worse. At the very least, Devers is already Red Sox Hall of Fame-worthy for how he dominates the Yankees. He’s hit more home runs (19) against them than any other team, including six off fellow $300 million dollar man Gerrit Cole; he’s never homered more than three times against any other pitcher. His nine home runs at Yankee Stadium tie Ted Williams for second-most by a Sox player before turning 26 (Babe Ruth hit 10).
Over 22,000 players have played in the majors. 269, or about one percent, have been elected to the Hall of Fame.
The odds are against Devers, but that’s never stopped him before.