The Red Sox love their young third baseman, but will his struggles lead to a change of the guard?

It’s crazy what can change in a year.

It was a little over a year ago when Rafael Devers was taking the Red Sox clubhouse by storm. The smile of a young, chubby third baseman was coupled by a sweet swing and clutch antics. He was hitting homeruns to all fields and turning on 102 mph fastballs en route to earning a starting job for the Sox in the ALDS.

One year later, the young third baseman has endured struggles. He leads the majors in errors with 21 – despite playing nearly 40 games less than the second place holder. Despite the defensive struggles, Devers has flashed promise throughout the season while crushing 16 homeruns and driving in 55 runs.

The reality is that the Red Sox need to be able to count on every member of their postseason roster. The American League is better than it has been in recent memory with the battle for supremacy in the AL East, coupled by the reigning World Series champion Astros and surging Oakland Athletics. Oh, and don’t forget the Terry Francona managed Cleveland Indians that never fail to impress when it matters most.

Devers has a -.03 WAR this season, a .929 fielding percentage, and a -12 defensive runs saved metric. The defensive liability is a real issue when the postseason rolls around. Every out matters, every routine play needs to be made, and the above-average plays need to be made. At this point, Devers does not provide the Red Sox with the above qualifications.

Manager, Alex Cora, highlighted the importance of improvement before Devers’ return to the active roster.

“One thing for sure, (Devers) needs to play better. We knew that. The whole season offensively he’s been up and down. Defensively he’s made his errors. He needs to be better and that’s the bottom line. We need to win ballgames and whoever is playing best is going to play.”via Dakota Randall / NESN

As of now, Eduardo Nunez has done a stellar job at third base. He’s not a sexy option, but he’s a defensive upgrade and a potentially dangerous hitter. Nunez doesn’t provide the same offensive potential, but pairing him with Brock Holt, or even Brandon Phillips, may allow for the Red Sox to justify leaving Devers off the postseason roster.

To clarify, this isn’t a knock on Devers, as there’s plenty of potential in the Red Sox clubhouse. As Cora has done, there’s a need to highlight areas of weakness and challenge improvement – the Sox need to see improvement.

If the postseason roster had to be decided today, it’s possible that Devers makes the cut, but September is a critical month for the young third baseman. He must produce. He must improve. At this point, he’d be nothing other than a pinch hitter on the ALDS roster.

Red Sox Nation Tee!