For “X-Man” Bogaerts, First Base Marks the Spot

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Bogaerts says: “At this point, I can’t imagine [not playing shortstop].”

July 8, 2012; Kansas City, MO, USA; World designated hitter Xander Bogaerts hits a single during the third inning of the 2012 All Star Futures Game at Kauffman Stadium. Mandatory Credit: H. Darr Beiser-USA TODAY Sports via USA TODAY Sports

Sox say: “He’s given us no reason at this point to think he needs to move off of shortstop,” [Red Sox Farm Director Ben Crockett]

Scouts say: Shortstop, maybe 50/50 chance…

Experts say: 3b or corner OF

“Right field is the one spot where Bogaerts fits in, and there’s no better time than now to start converting him.” [Benjamin Klein, Bleacher Report]

But we can–playing the role of outlier [or outright liar]– make the case for…wait for it…

FIRST BASE!

Certainly, if you are sure the “X-man” can hit like Cal Ripken and not hurt you on defense, you give him the Dirt Deed to “the Fenway Park tract between Middlebrooks and Pedroia.”  Lately, former doubters about Bogey’s range and arm are becoming reluctant believers, since he has shown improvement: in 2011 he made 26 errors in 71 games; in 2012, 17 errors in 76 games.  But, his best Fielding percentage, .962 in 2012, would place him last in MLB and, at some point the “runs given back” outweigh the “runs created.”

Then, there is the Mother Nature question:  Won’t  the 19 year-old Bogaerts continue to grow up and out?  When does he outgrow SS?  When does his size and bulk limit his mobility and flexibility and become a defensive liability?

Q:  How many newbie shortstops are able to stick at that position in MLB?

Recall that the Sox current 3b, Middlebrooks, was drafted as a SS.

The Boston franchise has a proud history of star offensive shortstops [Joe Cronin, 1935-45; Vern Stephens, 1948-52; Johnny Pesky, 1942-50; Rico Petrocelli; 1963-76], but none since Nomar Garciaparra, 1996-2004. [SEE: more details below.]

How good is Xander Bogaerts?

In 2012 Bogaerts out-hit consensus #1 Prospect Jurickson Profar:

.307/20 /82, OPS.896

.281/14/ 62, OPS .820

Better than his idol Hanley Ramirez?

“This isn’t an exact science, but using the traditional 20-80 scouting scale, here’s my best estimation of Bogaerts’ and Ramirez’ tools projections for when they each reached Double-A.

PLAYER HIT POWER RUN ARM GLOVE
Bogaerts 60 70 45 60 45
Ramirez 60 55 65 50 65

[http://firebrandal.com/2013/01/07/xander-bogaerts-vs-hanley-ramirez/]

While Bogaerts may yet confound the scouts and “experts” and stay at SS for his entire career, play on All-Star teams,  and maybe even make it to the Hall of Fame, if he needs to switch positions:

“It shouldn’t be seen as a knock against him that the projection points towards him moving off the shortstop position. Bogaerts has defensive ability, but not the premium skills seen in the players that stick up the middle. He is a good enough athlete to slide over to third base and the bat profiles in a corner outfield spot, likely left field in my eyes after filling out if the outfield becomes his defensive destination.” [6/12/12] Chris Mellen is Director of Scouting for SoxProspects.com. Follow him on Twitter @ChrisMellen ]

Here is the case for moving Bogaerts to First base immediately:

  • He will need to continually work on maintaining his skill at SS; playing 1b would be less mentally taxing, take pressure off, and allow him to focus on his hitting potential.
  • Why move Bogaerts to 3b, when you have Middlebrooks, a young player, who is a potential All-Star?
  • Why put Bogaerts in a corner OF slot, where he would run a greater risk of injury?
  • While he may have “footwork issues” at SS, he is considered a very good infielder and would become a defensive plus at 1b.
  • Assuming he adds height and weight, he will outgrow SS and 3b, but his size would not be an issue at 1b. [Red Sox: David Oritz, Mo Vaughn, George Scott , and Andres Galarraga, Frank Howard, Ryan Howard, and Prince Fielder.]
  • Instead of a career of being a great hitter, but just an average defensive SS, why not let him be a greater hitter and a perennial All-Star First basemen?

Given Bogaerts determination to remain at SS and the Red Sox preference to have another offensive star at SS, as well as the tacit admission that Iglesias cannot hit MLB pitchers by signing The Other Drew Brother for one year…

…the “X-Man” will most likely be the Red Sox starting SS on Opening Day 2014.

But, given the hole at 1b, currently papered over with a platoon patch of “Uno Ano” Napoli and Lyle “Overlay” Overbay, wouldn’t it make sense to let Bogaerts “own” that position right now, so he could relax and begin immediately to focus on his extraordinary hitting potential and become an All-Star defender at 1b?

And, with the “X-Man” at 1b, imagine this All-Homegrown Red Sox team taking the field at Fenway in 2014:

C  Ryan Lavarnway

1b  Xander Bogaerts

2b  Dustin Pedroia

SS  Deven  Marrero

3b  Will Middlebrooks

LF  Brandon Jacobs

CF Jackie Bradley

RF Juan Carlos Linares

DH  Brad Brentz

 

SP Allen Webster

SP  Matt Barnes

SP Jon Lester

SP Clay Buchholz

SP Drake Britton

CL  Rubby “Dubby” de la Rosa

 

RP Anthony Ranaudo

RP Brian Johnson

RP Miguel Celestino

RP Brandon Workman

 

BENCH

Jered Saltalmacchia [C/DH]

Blake Swihart [C]

So, dear reader…

Leave him at SS and live with any defensive downside?

Move him into the OF before 2014?

Move him to 3b and Middlebrooks to 1b?

What would you do with the “X-Man”–Xander Bogaerts?

CAST YOUR VOTE IN THE POLL IN THE COLUMN TO THE RIGHT >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

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BONUS MATERIAL:

Nomar Garciaparra

Six-time All-Star shortstop Nomar Garciaparra developed into a phenomenal pure hitter and one of the top players of his generation with the Boston Red Sox. In his six full seasons with the Red Sox, Garciaparra posted at least 5.9 wins above replacement per year and totaled 39.6, the eighth highest WAR in team history. He won two batting titles and became the fourth Red Sox player to bat over .370 in a season. In 966 games, he batted .323 with a .370 on-base percentage, .553 slugging percentage, 178 home runs, and 279 doubles. His .923 OPS is the sixth best in Red Sox history.

Joe Cronin:

Hall of Famer Joe Cronin played his last 11 seasons in Boston from 1935 to 1945. Cronin was an outstanding shortstop and a successful manager and general manager for the Red Sox. In 1,134 games with the team, he batted .300, reached base at a .394 clip, and slugged .484 with 119 home runs and 270 doubles. He went to four All-Star Games with the Red Sox and managed them to a .539 winning percentage. He ranks tenth in team history with a .878 OPS.

Johnny Pesky:

One of the most iconic and lasting figures in Red Sox history, Johnny Pesky began his Major League career in 1942, the first of eight great seasons with the Red Sox. Pesky led the American League in hits in each of his first three seasons and he scored over 100 runs six straight times to start his career. He’s one of seven Red Sox to maintain an OBP north of .400 in his career with the team. His overall slash line in Boston was .313/.401/.393 with a 110 OPS+, an incredible 3.07 walk-to-strikeout ratio, and 4.3 WAR per season. His ties to the Red Sox went far beyond his accomplishments on the field and he remained a prominent face in the organization throughout his life.

Rico Petrocelli:

Two-time All-Star shortstop Rico Petrocelli played his entire Major League career in a Red Sox uniform from 1963 to 1976. Petrocelli was a great shortstop with both the bat and the glove. He maintained a 108 OPS+ in his career, peaking in 1969 with career-highs of a .297 average, .403 OBP, and 40 home runs. He ranks in the Red Sox’ all-time top ten in home runs (210), walks (661), and RBI (773).

Vern Stephens:

One of the greatest run producers to ever patrol the shortstop position, Vern Stephens played five of his prime years for Boston from 1948 to 1952. Stephens went to four consecutive All-Star Games with the Red Sox and he led the AL in RBI twice during his tenure. In his first three years with the team, he averaged 33 home runs and 147 RBI per season. He maintained a slash line of .283/.364/.492 with a 118 OPS+ in 660 games for Boston.

RELATED RESEARCH

“Slightly above-average arm.  Solid-average range, but losing footspeed as he gets bigger.   Needs to slow the game down defensively and resist the feeling to rush plays. Inconsistent with footwork and staying down on the ball.  Choppy at times with his movements and reactions.  Has been improving with his defensive technique, but does not look likely to stick at shortstop.  Will transition to third base or left field down the line.  Can stick on the infield.”  [4/2/12, SoxProspects, http://www.soxprospects.com/players/bogaerts-xander.htm

“It shouldn’t be seen as a knock against him that the projection points towards him moving off the shortstop position. Bogaerts has defensive ability, but not the premium skills seen in the players that stick up the middle. He is a good enough athlete to slide over to third base and the bat profiles in a corner outfield spot, likely left field in my eyes after filling out if the outfield becomes his defensive destination.” [6/12/12] Chris Mellen is Director of Scouting for SoxProspects.com. Follow him on Twitter @ChrisMellen ]

“Bogaerts realistically needs more time at shortstop if the long term goal is to keep him at the position. The scouting reports I have read point to a player who still has the potential to stay at shortstop, which has improved from previous years. The larger concern seems to be whether he will outgrow the position…” [Jason Hunt, 12/5/12] http://www.faketeams.com/2012/12/5/3729286/coming-soon-to-a-stadium-near-you-xander-bogaerts-ss-boston-red-sox]

“Bogaerts has been playing shortstop in the minors, but the long term expectation is that Bogaerts will have to move either to third base, or potentially to a corner outfield spot.” [http://www.faketeams.com/2012/10/29/3561732/2013-minor-league-keeper-thoughts-boston-red-sox]

Fielding: Can handle SS right now. Good athlete and he moves well at the position. Has solid-average range to both sides and a high level of effort. Good hands and good first-step reactions. Range at SS is likely unsustainable given how body projects. Potential to be solid-average defender at 3B with good glove work and a plus arm. Grade – 30/50…Offensive force with big power and an ultimate move to third base. [7/2012 http://baseballprospectnation.com/2012/07/02/scouting-report-xander-bogaerts-ss/]

“One of the best hitting prospects in the minors, the native of Aruba played the 2012 season at the age of 19 and reached double-A. He has an advanced hitting approach and generates outstanding power despite having a slender frame with tons of projection remaining. His pop comes from above-average bat speed.” [Fangraphs, 11/15/12, http://www.fangraphs.com/blogs/index.php/boston-red-sox-top-15-prospects-2012-13/]

“Whether he has the range to remain at shortstop once his body fills out is an open question; many scouts assume he’ll end up at third base, or perhaps right field if Will Middlebrooks lays permanent claim to the hot corner in Fenway. Bogaerts should have the bat to play at either position.” [9/14/12, John Sickels http://www.minorleagueball.com/2012/9/14/3332552/minor-league-prospect-report-xander-x-eliminator-bogaerts-red-sox]

“A year ago, Bogaerts looked like a high-ceiling bat who’d have to find a new position, most likely third base, but a year of full-season ball at shortstop with continued work on maintaining his conditioning has his odds of remaining in the middle of the field up over even money. And a shortstop who can hit like this is a pretty special commodity.” [2/7/13, Keith Law http://insider.espn.go.com/mlb/story/_/id/8865998/mlb-top-100-prospects-2013-nos-1-25#Bogaerts]

“Bogaerts has fluid actions at shortstop, but he lacks the quick feet for the position and will eventually outgrow it once he fills out. With his plus athleticism, average speed and a strong arm, he’ll be able to transition to third base or right field…

“I’d like to think that Boston would keep him at his natural position, but there are other factors that come into play. Boston has a bunch of talented shortstops in the system who could be just as effective on defense, if not better. Moving Bogaerts could help his career. But, again, for now, he’s a shortstop.” [2/10/13, Benjamin Klein http://bleacherreport.com/articles/1523242-boston-red-sox-non-roster-spring-training-invitees-to-keep-an-eye-on]

“Second evaluator: “Bogaerts might get here as a shortstop. I think he moves somewhere else eventually, but he can get to the majors as a shortstop. He’s [expletive] good. He’s 19. I saw him hit two balls out to right field [in a series], you just don’t see that. Sure, he misses breaking stuff, but he’s [expletive] 19. The kid can hit. He’s not quick, he’s not fast, but he’s really good. He can play defense like [John Valentin] did. He has enough arm. If this kid can keep his weight down, the balls hit to him, he gets. Could you play him there? Yeah. Do I think Hanley [Ramirez] was a better shortstop at that age? Yeah. But I wouldn’t rule it out for this kid. He’s kind of like Machado. He might put on 30 pounds in the next four years, which would be natural, and then you’d have to [think about a different position]. But he might bat third [in the Red Sox lineup].” [10/31/2012, Alex Speier, http://www.weei.com/sports/boston/baseball/red-sox/alex-speier/2012/10/31/xander-bogaerts-red-sox-shortstop-future-and-w]

“Though scouts look at Bogaerts’ 6-foot-3 frame and wonder if he’ll outgrow shortstop, he has good actions at the position and could stay there longer than expected. His plus arm isn’t a question and he played more under control on defense in 2012. He made just 21 errors in 119 games, after making 26 in 72 games the year before, boosting his fielding percentage from .924 to .959. He’s an average runner who’s not quite as quick as a typical shortstop, but he still exhibits solid range. He’s athletic and has good body control for his size. If Bogaerts has to move, he’d profile best at third base or right field. Along with his considerable tools, he draws praise for his intelligence and work ethic.” [1/22/13, Roger Dorn https://sites.google.com/site/rogerdornbaseballleague/best-players-available-for-reserve-draft/7-ssxanderbogaerts-bostonredsox]

Both considered excellent pure hitters, Bogaerts has the advantage in power and arm strength, while Hanley had the advantage in speed and defense. In addition to the raw tools, we should consider two other important pieces of their prospect profiles. Bogaerts is widely heralded as having plus makeup while Ramirez was infamous for his immaturity. Conversely, Bogaerts has a higher propensity towards strikeouts and more questions about his ability to hit off-speed pitches, while Ramirez was lauded for his pitch recognition.” [http://firebrandal.com/2013/01/07/xander-bogaerts-vs-hanley-ramirez/]

““Bogaerts has the ability to become a .275/.285 hitter with 30-HR potential, if not more,” he said. “At third base, those numbers would equal elite production in today’s game. In the outfield, it’s not quite as dominant, but still enough to garner All-Star appearances. His staying at shortstop would be ideal, but his value is less-tied to position than prospects like Jurickson Profar and Francisco Lindor. Bogaerts is an offense first guy at whatever position he plays.” [Mike Newman of Fangraphs]

“At one point, most believed Bogaerts would outgrow shortstop. He has the bat to profile at third base or right field, but he’s been proving that he might have the tools to stick at shortstop for the long term.” [Jonathan Mayo of MLB.com]

 

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Tags: Shortstop Xander Bogaerts

  • John Fahrer

    The big reason many are thinking they shift Middlebrooks over and moving to Bogaerts to third is based on who’s more athletic.

    Though he has potential to have the offensive numbers similar to a MLB first baseman, they really are hyping up Bogaerts’ athleticism. Having him play first seems like it’d be a waste of his ability.

    A lot can happen between now and whenever Bogaerts becomes a regular. There are things he can control (sharpen his defensive tools, improve his speed, stay productive with the bat) and things out of his control (the improvement of Iglesias and other SS prospects, the emergence a new 1B or 3B prospect, trades) that will impact what the club ultimately decides to do with him.