Xander Bogaerts was the difference in yesterday’s 6-3 win against the Mets, clubbing a three-run shot to left field to ensure a Red Sox win. That was Bogaerts’ second home run of the spring, as he also crushed a two-run homer to dead center in Boston’s first spring training game against the Twins, as Bogaerts is showing early dividends from his vigorous offseason workout.
Ranked by many to be the second best prospect in all of baseball before last season, few would consider Bogaerts’ first full season with the Red Sox to be a success. After racing through the minor leagues with a career slash line of .296/.373/.489, his numbers dipped to only .240/.297/.362 over 144 games last year, as he bounced between shortstop and third base.
At only 22 years old, though, Bogaerts still has his huge potential and now appears even more motivated and ready to succeed in 2015. And there’s not really any reason to believe that he can’t do just that.
Some of Bogaerts’ struggles last season can be attributed to the signing of Stephen Drew, which moved Bogaerts over to third base, where he was clearly uncomfortable. While Bogaerts was making strides at shortstop at the time of the Drew signing in May, the signing disrupted his routine and in the half-season stretch from June-August, his season totally tanked (though he did have a resurgence, hitting .313/.317/.490 in September).
This year, the Red Sox signed Pablo Sandoval to play third base in the offseason and, with no starting-caliber alternatives at shortstop, Bogaerts’ position appears to be set in stone. With all of the progress that Bogaerts has apparently made defensively this offseason, he should have no problem sticking there defensively (and he was already rounding into form at the time of the Drew signing) and the issue will solely be with the bat.
However, Bogaerts has never struggled at the plate throughout his minor league career and his slump last season can be primarily attributed to the Drew signing, which knocked him out of position and made him uncomfortable in the field, and unfamiliarity with major league pitching. One year later, though, neither of those factors will be prevalent and Bogaerts will be able to focus solely on putting the bat on the ball, and crushing it as he has done throughout his career.
When judging Bogaerts, though, it is important to note that he is still just 22 years old. A breakout season may not be a huge year by normal standards, but more along the lines of a above-average slash line with solid defense at shortstop. That alone would make Bogaerts a very solid shortstop, though, and there’s always the chance that he could be much more than that. Whatever happens, though, Bogaerts seems positioned to have a breakout year for the Red Sox in 2015.