The Argument AGAINST Rafael Devers Batting 3rd

As we approach the regular season (!!), there have been some changes made to the lineup. A big one was removing Mookie Betts from the leadoff spot and switching him with Andrew Benintendi. That makes a lot of sense because Betts led the team last year in OBP, SLG, and OPS with runners in scoring position. So, it doesn’t give the team much of an advantage to guarantee him at least one plate appearance with the bases empty. But, a move that I disagree with is putting Rafael Devers third in the order. I believe that Mitch Moreland is the better option for multiple reasons.

The website’s newest member, Julian, wrote about why Devers should be in the three-hole. He mentioned that with J.D. Martinez behind him, Devers can get a lot more strikes and be a free swinger. But, when you look at the numbers, you see that Moreland is more reliable to make contact, and also hit for power with runners on. In 2018, Devers had a higher swing-and-miss rate at balls in the strike zone (13.7%) than Moreland (11.9%). Then you may think, “Well, Devers is more of a power hitter, so he is more apt to swing and miss.” Yet, in 2018, with runners on, like in the scenario described in the article, Moreland had a much higher slugging percentage (.471) than Devers (.332). And, the facts are that Moreland outdid Devers overall with runners in scoring position.

2018 Stats With Runners In Scoring Position
Plate Appearances AVG OBP SLG OPS
Mitch Moreland 148 .273 .338 .469 .807
Rafael Devers 134 .211 .313 .342 .656

It is extremely important for the man in the three-hole to produce with RISP, as the three-hole had the most plate appearances with RISP for the Red Sox last year out of any position in the order.

Another argument you could throw out is that Moreland faded off in the last three months of the season, while Devers stayed more consistent. Overall, that was true, but with RISP, Devers was still trailing Moreland by a wide margin in most categories.

2018 Stats with Runners In Scoring Position From July through September
Plate Appearances AVG OBP SLG OPS
Mitch Moreland 69 .254 .304 .475 .779
Rafael Devers 44 .147 .341 .176 .517

At Moreland’s worst, he was still able to produce at a better rate when given the opportunity to drive runners in.

I love Rafael Devers, and we can all agree that he has a higher ceiling than Mitch Moreland. But, I think that the Red Sox need to let him mature a little more before putting him between Betts and Martinez. Moreland is a consistent producer with runners in scoring position, and I think that the Red Sox should let Devers become that guy more towards the bottom of the order.

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