Roster Recap: A Tale of Two Halves for Xander Bogaerts

Welcome to BP Boston’s second annual Roster Recap series. Over the next few months, we’ll be analyzing every player on Boston’s 40-man roster and many of their top prospects in order to provide a comprehensive overview of the Red Sox roster’s strengths and weaknesses, as well as what we can expect moving forward. From MVP-candidate right fielders to reserve relievers, we want to give you a look at every Red Sox who might matter in 2017. View the complete list of Roster Recaps here. Enjoy! 

Would you rather have Xander Bogaerts or Mookie Be … ehh, ok, I guess we can’t play that game anymore. After Betts decided to go all Mike Trout on the league and Bogaerts started his offseason in August, the question that was all the rage a season ago is no longer relevant. Yes, Mookie > Xander, but just saying that really sells Xander short, don’t you think?

I think. I really do.

What Went Right in 2016

April through July. In those months, Bogaerts hit .329/.385/.486 with 14 homers and 13 steals. That’s down-ballot MVP stuff from a shortstop, and it’s what made Bogaerts an All-Star for the first time in his career. Bogaerts struck out just 71 times in 468 PA, hit the ball hard and often and settled comfortably into a spot in the top third of the potent Red Sox offense. That’s basically his 90th percent projection from his prospect days. He was incredible. 

He also showed an insane ability to pull pitches way, way inside as he grew into the power scouts have long expected him to show case. Seriously, look where he hit this pitch:

That wasn’t the only time he crushed a pitch that nearly hit him, either. You can still get Bogaerts to chase breaking balls away, but you can’t sneak something by him inside. Like counting stats? Bogaerts reached career highs in homers, runs, RBIs, steals and walks en route to his second Silver Slugger. Not bad for a 23-year-old. 

What Went Wrong in 2016

August and September. After playing like a true superstar for the season’s first four months, Bogaerts bottomed out as the season neared its end. He hit just .230/.303/.372 with seven homers and no steals in 251 PA. He struck out at a much higher rate, hit more balls on the ground and looked occasionally befuddled by breaking stuff from right-handers. 

Defensively, Bogaerts received mixed reviews. FRAA sort of hated him, putting him at -11.4. UZR thinks he was closer to average, giving him -2.9. DRS said he allowed 10 more runs than the average shortstop. BCET (Ben Carsley Eye Test) had Xander as a league average shortstop who’s a bit stretched going to his left but who can make all the routine plays and the occasional spectacular one. It also says Bogaerts is very handsome.

Basically, Bogaerts will never be a Gold Glove candidate, but he doesn’t need to move off the position. When you hit like he does, that’s pretty, pretty good.

What to Expect in 2017

Unfortunately, we’ve seen long slumps from Bogaerts before; as good as he is when he’s on, he has trouble righting the ship. That ability (or lack thereof) to make adjustments more quickly will likely define whether Bogaerts is a true franchise cornerstone or just a really good player moving forward. It’s pretty nice when your “floor” is a role-6 guy, though.

For all intents and purposes, Bogaerts has become a better hitter each year he’s been in the Majors. Yes, his average dipped from 2015 to 2016, but he reached base more and hit for more power, and his .372 BABIP from 2015 probably set his average expectations too high. Entering his age-24 season, Bogaerts is poised to improve modestly once again, especially if he learns to make adjustments with more alacrity than he’s shown in the past.

Let’s call Bogaerts’ 2017 triple-slash something like .310/.360/.460, and let’s give him 23 homers and 16 steals. Assuming his defense stays about or slightly below league average at short, that’d make him a borderline MVP candidate, and someone who can challenge Mookie Betts for that coveted “Best Player On The Team” label. While he’ll start the season batting in the lower-middle of the order, the guess is he’ll be back batting second or fourth by May or June, using his contact-oriented approach and budding power to help make up for some of the loss of David Ortiz.

As beautiful as he is, it can be frustrating to watch Bogaerts sometimes because you’re always left with the feeling that he could be something more. But let’s be thankful for what we have here; a prospect who panned out, a consistently great player, The Prince Who Was Promised and a man who finally put an end to the carousel that was shortstop in Fenway. He might not be as good as Mookie, but if Bogaerts is your second-best player, your roster is in awfully good shape.

Photo by Mike Dinovo/USA Today Sports Images


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