Xander Bogaerts putting slow start behind him


It was hard to overlook how much Xander Bogaerts was struggling at the plate as the season got underway for the Boston Red Sox. There is danger in reading too much into small sample sizes, yet after only two games we were starting to wonder if we should be concerned. A few days later, Bogaerts has started to put those concerns to rest.

The Red Sox shortstop opened the season in a 1-for-7 slump that included a pair of strikeouts. It’s a minuscule sample size that wouldn’t even register if it had happened in the middle of the season. Yet these samples get magnified in the early part of the season when there are no other samples to compare them to.

Bogaerts was bumped down to 8th in the lineup for the second game of the season. Manager John Farrell cited the quality of Ryan Hanigan‘s at-bats as the reason, but it was clear that Bogaerts’ struggles played a significant role in the decision.

"“I’ll be honest, hitters kind of tell you where they hit in the lineup. It’s not based on anything other than how guys are going at the time,” Farrell told The Boston Globe prior to that game in Philadelphia. “Profiling to certain slots in the order is one thing but guys are going to tell you where they’re going to hit in the lineup.”"

It wasn’t just the lack of production from Bogaerts that had us concerned. Anyone can go through a rough patch like that over a two game period. What was troubling was that his struggles were a continuation of the issues that were noticed near the end of spring training, with Farrell describing him at the time as jumpy.

"“He’s still working on things we were addressing in spring training,” Farrell said after the second game of the season. “We’ve got to stay patient and continue to give that opportunity to take hold in game.”"

Fortunately, we did not have to remain patient for too long. Bogaerts quieted his critics with a 3-hit performance to wrap up the series in Philadelphia, then followed that up by collecting 5 hits over the first two games in New York. Heading into Sunday night’s game, Bogaerts is hitting a scorching .391, which is the highest average on the team among hitters with more than 10 at-bats.

More from BoSox Injection

Small sample sizes. This early in the season a player can turn a poor start into the start of a great year all in one game. During Friday night’s 19-inning marathon, Bogaerts had seen his average dip to .267 by the end of the 9th inning. He went 4-for-4 after that, becoming the first player in franchise history to collect 4 extra-innings hits in the same game, to raise his average to .421.

After the first couple games of the season, scouts were saying that Bogaerts looked lost at the plate. Now he’s suddenly on fire. Which version is real and which is the mirage? That’s the danger of small sample sizes. It’s too soon to tell based on what we have seen so far.

More from Red Sox News

What we do know is that Bogaerts has the pedigree of being one of baseball’s top prospects before he broke into the major leagues. We tend to forget, given that he debuted at the end of the 2013 season and played a key role in Boston’s World Series run, but Bogaerts is still only 22-years old. He was he fifth youngest player in the majors to be in an Opening Day lineup this year. Players that age are bound to hit rough patches as they adjust to the steep learning curve of hitting in the big leagues. Most evaluators still believe that Bogaerts will be a special player and he’s shown glimpses of that upside over the past few days.

Was it too soon to be worried about Bogaerts after two games? Of course it was. Just as it’s too soon to proclaim that he’s figured it all out after the last few games. Bogaerts has bounced back from a rough start to string together a few solid outings. Whether or not he can keep it going to produce the breakout season we all expect will eventually come will require patience in waiting for a larger sample size.