Do the Boston Red Sox need a new shortstop?
Whatever the case, they definitely do not need what happened last season at the position. Stephen Drew‘s return to the team, after holding out for more money (and getting even less), disrupted Xander Bogaerts‘ development and confidence. The impact was so great, the Red Sox could not get rid of Drew fast enough to the New York Yankees for Kelly Johnson, who subsequently was traded to the Baltimore Orioles. In the midst of this turmoil at shortstop and second base, Bogaerts was banished to third base. As the Boston Herald’s John Tomase reported yesterday, “There’s lost and then there’s what Bogaerts was in the months after” the move was made, between June 8th and August 30th (BostonHerald.com).
Bogaerts hit .143 in that 60-game span, and .240 for the 2014 season. He did not light up pitchers during the World Series Championship year the season before, but at least he was getting on base. In 2013, Bogaerts had a .320 on-base percentage and stole a base, which was better than the .297 OBP and two stolen bases last season. Not exactly a huge threat on the base paths, considering he played 126 more games than he did the season before. Bogaerts’ slugging power stayed about the same (.362), when he actually hit the ball, to crank 12 home runs and 46 RBIs; however, he only scored 60 runs, meaning that he was often not in scoring position or nobody behind him could cash him.
The 6’1″, righty shortstop from Aruba is only 22 years old and has shown his talent. His fielding percentage is much higher at shortstop (.975) than at third (.910), which has a lot to do with his ease to turn double plays with Dustin Pedroia. Bogaerts’ quick release and range help him through the turn. With Pablo Sandoval likely taking the controls at third, Bogaerts will resume his duties, but hopefully without the 20 errors he made last season, 10 for each position he played.
Let us keep in mind that the young man did hit .311 in the last 30 days of the season, and hopefully has gotten over the abominable performances he displayed earlier. Bogaerts rookie contract paid him $517K a season, with arbitration eligibility in 2017. He will not even sniff free agency until 2020, making him a steal if he can show the promise he did a season ago. Baseball-Reference.com projects Bogaerts’ talents to be similar to Paul Molitor at his young age. If that were true, manager John Farrell needs to find a different way to replace Pedroia or Sandoval, if they were to get injured. If the Red Sox brass want Bogaerts to last as long as Cal Ripken, Jr. at the position, they will need to leave him alone to gather experience and success.
Bogaerts looks more comfortable at shortstop and any shifting could make the young man lose focus and developmental experience again, causing him to spin out into mediocrity. Some growth can only be done when the right environment can let the roots take hold.