The Boston Red Sox agonized fans by waiting until late August to call up highly touted prospect Xander Bogaerts.
The 6′ 3”, 185 lb. shortstop from Aruba, who will turn 21 at the beginning of next month, has seen limited playing time thus far, just 30 at-bats in 12 games. But it’s been enough to show off some of the talent that scouts were buzzing about.
His at-bats have been few and far between. Now, that has more to do with the consistency of Stephen Drew’s bat and glove, and less to do with Bogaert’s ability, but you can see the Red Sox want to ease the young kid into the next level. His role appears to be pretty straight forward as the utility man when Drew or Middlebrooks need a day off, and I see nothing wrong with that plan. There’s no urgency to put him out there everyday. If this team was in a different situation, such as fighting for a Wild Card spot, as opposed to sitting quite comfortably a top their division, then a guy like Bogaerts might be needed to supply a spark plug. Not the case here, these Sox have plenty of fire power.
Offensively, his swing is a spectacle to look at. It’s easy to see the power potential so many people referred to when talking about Bogaerts. He’s got this massive frame that towers over the batters box, and the best part is, he’s not even fully developed, yet. Imagine what he’ll look like once he puts on some weight and fills out his body (Example: Hanley Ramirez).
His sole home run on the year was an absolute shot to deep left field in a game against the Yankees. Going back and looking at it, the swing he put on that ball appeared effortless and he left it a long ways away from home plate, much to the amusement of his teammates.
In the same sense, he’s also shown the lack of knowledge most rookies have for a MLB strike zone. It takes time to understand how to make the proper adjustments at the plate. A pitcher may attack someone a certain way one time up, then a completely different way the next, so making adjustments is crucial to sustaining success. Bogaerts has struck out seven times to this point, chasing some really bad pitches in the process. No worries, though, it’s all part of the learning curve for rookies.
Defensively, Bogaerts is nowhere near the caliber player that Jose Iglesias was. I guess you would consider him a work-in-progress. Surprisingly, he’s yet to make an error in 32 total chances at both 3B, and SS. Dare I say, he’s even looked good in the field. He made an impressive barehanded play at SS against New York last week, and has handled third base adequately despite having little experience at the hot corner in his short career.
Due to his size, many have speculated a position change for Bogaerts to either third, or a corner outfield spot. He got minimal work in at third in his time with Pawtucket, and I don’t believe he even owns an outfielder’s glove, so that remains to be seen. The shortstop position has been wide open since Nomar left, and Red Sox fans have been patiently waiting for someone to take the reigns. If Bogaerts can steadily improve his defense, he could be the answer.
Bogaerts has reportedly been working with Red Sox third base coach, Brian Butterfield, very closely, taking “50-60 ground balls” before batting practice. In an article by Scott Lauber of the Boston Herald, he points out that Butterfield once worked with a similar talent 20 years ago, named Derek Jeter. “ The biggest thing with Derek when he was young is, you could see the running speed and you could see some quickness, but he didn’t know where to put his feet, he didn’t know where to put his glove,” said Butterfield.
He continued, “Right now, Bogey hasn’t played a lot of baseball. He may experience some of that stuff while he’s up here, but I’m fine with that. All signs point to me that he can be a big league shortstop and be that for a long time.”
Encouraging stuff to hear from someone inside the Red Sox organization.
Bogaerts impact may not be fully felt until next year, but these last few weeks provide precious experience for the youngster to build on moving forward.