Xander Bogaerts was named the USA TODAY Sports’ Minor League Player of the Year today, joining 2012 winner Wil Myers and 2011 honoree Paul Goldschmidt.
Now the only remaining mystery is: CAN HE STAY AT SHORT?
“There’s some questions about his future position, but his physical tools are undeniable.” [USA TODAY’s Jorge L. Ortiz]*
Bogaert’s future DP partner—“Dirt Dog”– thinks he can stick at SS:
“He’s a great athlete. He moves well. He’s quick. He’s got a ton of ability,” Pedroia says of Bogaerts. “I didn’t know there was a height and weight requirement. I didn’t know it was like a Disney ride: ‘You have to be this tall to play this position.’
“Troy Tulowitzki is 6-5 (actually 6-3) and he’s the best defensive shortstop in the big leagues. It doesn’t matter.”
“Bogey” likes his chances:
“If you saw the way I started compared to now, I would probably give myself a few Gold Gloves (by comparison),” Bogaerts says, laughing. “I was really bad. So if I can get from there to here and make so much improvement, imagine from now to a few years down the road.”
Bogaerts was thrilled when told he had won the award and wondered how things might have been, if he had been more focused on baseball in his childhood:
“I wonder if I would have been better if I played every day like in the U.S.,” Bogaerts says. “And the quality is not the same. We never had a guy who threw 90 (mph). Then I went to the Dominican Summer League and everybody was throwing hard, so I had to adjust really quick.”
“As a youngster in Aruba, he was happy for the chance to play baseball on a barren field Saturdays and Sundays. He had school and other sports — basketball, soccer and volleyball — to keep him busy, plus baseball practice on weekdays. It wasn’t until he was sent to the Dominican league that he got to play on a daily basis.” [USA TODAY’s Jorge L. Ortiz]*
“In Aruba we don’t have stadiums with grass,” said Bogaerts, who was used to playing on rocky fields. “A few years back they made one of artificial turf. That’s the only one we have.”*
Nonetheless, the preternatural prospect is just glad to be on the 40-man roster and that he has the confidence of Red Sox Director of Player Development, Ben Crockett, who believes that the “X-man” can play shortstop and that it’s just a matter of polishing his fielding skills through repetition and experience.
“The fast climb to the majors, his standout season and obvious tools made Bogaerts’ the logical choice…” explained USA TODAY’s Jorge L. Ortiz.
Bogaerts also is Boston’s first position player age 20 or younger since outfielder Dwight Evans in 1972.
His meteoric rise through the minors landed him on the Red Sox roster in the middle of a roiling pennant race; the Sox were confident that the timing was right:
“Knowing the talent and the ability he was showing in Triple-A and knowing the makeup, we felt pretty good about it,” Red Sox director of player development Ben Crockett says of calling up the highly touted prospect to play a backup role as Boston tries to hold on to the American League East lead.
“He brings a maturity beyond his years that allows him to operate in these environments where he’s the youngest player or one of the youngest.”
“Bogaerts handled the challenge of being surrounded by older players with a quiet confidence and remarkable poise, registering an on-base-plus-slugging percentage (OPS) of at least .815 at every level.”
Bogaerts batted a combined .297 with 15 home runs, 67 RBI and a .865 OPS between Class AA and AAA, made his major league debut Aug. 20 and got his first big-league hit four days later.
Just 20, Bogaerts is the third-youngest player in the majors, 15 days older than the Washington Nationals‘ Bryce Harper and about five months older than, odd-on favorite for AL ROY, the Texas Rangers‘ Jurickson Profar.
Recall that the Dutch team in the World Baseball Classic in March had five shortstops; manager Hensley Meulens picked the Atlanta Braves‘ Andrelton Simmons as his starting SS and shifted Bogaerts to third base—where he had never played.
“He was very quick to adjust and pick it up,” Meulens says. “It only took him a couple of days to get comfortable over there. You could see the athleticism was the reason why.”
Although some scouts question whether Bogaerts’ long-term future will be at shortstop, they fretted about other large-frame shortstops: Cal Ripken Jr., Troy Tulowitzki and Hanley Ramirez, Bogaerts’ favorite player and the last young, 5-tool, Red Sox SS prospect.
A hitting SS who can handle the position defensively is about as good as it gets with a prospect. If he can stick at short, Xander Bogaerts has the potential to be better—than his idol, Hanley Ramirez, and any shortstop currently playing; he has the potential to someday even be compared to Ripken or others already in Cooperstown.
1988: Right-hander Mike Harkey
1989: Infielder Todd Zeile
1990: First baseman Tino Martinez
1991: Right-hander Mark Wohlers
1992: First baseman Carlos Delgado
1993: Outfielder Cliff Floyd
1994: Outfielder Billy Ashley
1995: Outfielder Andruw Jones
1996: Outfielder Andruw Jones
1997: Outfielder Ben Grieve
1998: Outfielder Gabe Kapler
1999: Left-hander Rick Ankiel
2000: Outfielder Josh Hamilton
2001: Right-hander Josh Beckett
2002: Shortstop Jose Reyes
2003: First baseman Prince Fielder
2004: Left-hander Jeff Francis
2005: Left-hander Francisco Liriano
2006: Right-hander Matt Garza
2007: Outfielder Justin Upton
2008: Left-hander David Price
2009: Outfielder Jason Heyward
2010: Right-hander Jeremy Hellickson
2011: First baseman Paul Goldschmidt
2012: Outfielder Wil Myers