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Red Sox prospect Rafael Devers showing off a bright future

Rafael Devers is the youngest member of the Red Sox organization to be selected for an All-Star Futures Game.Getty Images/File 2015

When Greenville manager Darren Fenster informed Rafael Devers that he'd been named to the All-Star Futures Game — an event to spotlight the top minor league talent — the piece of good news inspired an ear-to-ear smile and a blinding glint.

"All I saw," said Fenster, "was a mouthful of braces."

With some players, it is easy to forget how young they are. That is not the case for Devers, an 18-year-old third baseman whose prodigious talent is showing up in atypically early fashion.

He became the youngest Red Sox ever to be named to the Futures Game, and was the second-youngest participant in this year's contest in Cincinnati. His place there meant something.


After all, potential stardom is typically defined by a player's ability to get in front of typical aging curves and deliver standout performances at young ages. For now, what Devers is doing in Greenville at 18 compares to only one other player who has been with the Drive at that age in recent years, Xander Bogaerts.

Unlike Bogaerts, who opened his age-18 season in extended spring training, Devers has spent the entirety of his first full year in the States with a full-season affiliate in Greenville. He's shown the ability to hit for average (.293) with flashes of present power (7 homers, 27 extra-base hits in 73 games) that captures both the eyes and imaginations of evaluators who can daydream about a player who clears fences with ease in a few years.

"This is a special player," said Fenster, who compares the whip in Devers's swing to that of Robinson Cano. "The work that he does is as good as anyone we have because he loves to work . . . There's a focus in him that comes from a genuine desire to get better, because he genuinely loves the game. His season has really spoken for itself."


Devers's defense and base running have impressed scouts this year, particularly given that, at a listed size of 6 feet, 195 pounds, he's a bit heavy for his age. Yet it is his offensive potential that has always been Devers's hallmark.

"Talking to his dad, when we were doing the makeup process, his dad told me that he knew his son was around somewhere when he saw a bunch of bent cans because someone was hitting them with a stick," laughed Manny Nanita, the Red Sox' Dominican area scout. "He always carried that stick with him. Anything he'd find on the floor, he'd lift it and swing at it."

Over time, bent cans turned into baseballs that dented and then cleared walls. As he scouted Devers as a 16-year-old leading up to the 2013 international amateur signing period, Nanita saw offensive ability that he hadn't previously encountered.

"During our [scouting] process, I saw him hit a home run over the left-field wall [in a simulated game at the Sox' Dominican Academy]. I'd never seen a lefthanded hitter do that," said Nanita. "It was an above-average fastball. He was able to react to it."

To Devers, none of this seems remarkable. He's simply continuing to play at the same level with which he's long familiar, shrugging pleasantly that his ability to handle older opposing pitchers and to drive the ball is not a shock.

"I've always done that. I've always been like that, ever since Little League," he said of his ability to backspin balls with an easy swing and watch them fly off his bat to center and left fields. "I've always worked to be a good player."


In his two years in the Red Sox farm system — first in the Dominican Summer League and Gulf Coast League last year, and in Greenville this season — Devers has continued to show offensive abilities that are rare for his age and experience level. To this point, he's done nothing to diminish the notion that his potential as a hitter may exceed that of any Red Sox position player in years.

"It's very interesting how focused and how determined he is to become a better hitter and definitely very impressive to watch what he does. I hope he keeps progressing," Nanita said after seeing Devers (along with two additional players he signed, Manuel Margot and Frankie Montas) at the Futures Game. "I'm overwhelmed. He's exceeded my expectations as a scout. I didn't expect him to move so far."

Cecchini on upswing

There are signs that Garin Cecchini is emerging from his yearlong struggle. The 24-year-old, who was hitting .187 with a .262 OBP and .280 slugging mark through July 6, had four straight multihit games, going 11 for 19, to boost his line to .213/.282/.310 entering the Triple A All-Star break. Though less than spectacular, the run — which elevated his average to its highest point since April 15 — may have provided him with a foothold for the season going forward. "He's working through the things he needs to do to help himself get better. There's a lot of talent in there," said PawSox hitting coach Rich Gedman. "He's swinging the bat much better."


Brian Johnson defies the power-arm prototype that's taking over the game, but that doesn't mean there isn't some level of familiarity in his ability to locate and change speeds while incorporating a very effective curveball to unbalance hitters. Without having caught Johnson, Gedman suggested that the way Johnson pitches and his stuff have some resemblance to that of his former Red Sox teammate, Bruce Hurst. "They're similar, but [pitchers are] all different, if that makes any sense," said Gedman. "They all have the uniqueness of who they are."

Moncada mashing

Yoan Moncada hit homers in three straight games this week, including an opposite-field homer while batting lefthanded on Tuesday and an inside-the-parker on a rocket hit off the wall in Greenville's center-field triangle while batting righthanded on Wednesday. The 20-year-old is hitting .361 with a .440 OBP and .597 slugging mark through 18 second-half games . . . Shortstop Marco Hernandez carried a 13-game hitting streak into the Double A Eastern League All-Star Game, where he won MVP honors after going 2 for 2 with a homer.

Montas’s memories

No one lit up the radar gun at the Futures Game like White Sox prospect Montas. The 22-year-old touched 101 miles per hour in Cincinnati. Armed with a 2.73 ERA in Double A, he'll reportedly join the White Sox Friday for his first big league callup. The Red Sox dealt Montas to Chicago as part of the three-team deal that brought Jake Peavy to Boston in 2013.


"It was hard," Montas said of the trade. "I have a lot of friends in Boston. Leaving all my friends and then going to a new team, you feel shy.

"I have good memories [with the Red Sox]. I really had a good time there, a lot of fun. Now that I'm with the White Sox, I love it," he added. "The White Sox are focused on moving guys fast. I feel good that they're counting on me. Now that I've been here and they've moved me fast, I feel great about it."

Alex Speier can be reached at alex.speier@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @alexspeier.