Sep 21, 2015; Boston, MA, USA; Boston Red Sox shortstop Xander Bogaerts (2) celebrates his grand slam against the Tampa Bay Rays with center fielder Mookie Betts (50), second baseman Dustin Pedroia (15) and right fielder Jackie Bradley Jr. (R) during the eighth inning at Fenway Park. Mandatory Credit: Mark L. Baer-USA TODAY Sports
The youngsters not yet come of age
This year, perhaps one of the biggest highlights has been watching the Red Sox prospects blossom into top Major League talent. In 2014, watching the Red Sox prospects was basically the exact opposite.
Will Middlebrooks received a call from Mendoza looking for his line back, as he fell to an unsightly .185/.254/.262 line hitting, perhaps by total chance, a mere 2 home runs. Xander Bogaerts, you guys wouldn’t believe this, but Xander Bogaerts ended up with .240/.303/.371 and was defensively inept. Xander Bogaerts! And of course how could we forget about poor Jackie Bradley Jr., who while working on a promising career in fly swatting also managed to accrue a .207/.277/.278 slash line with one wild homer in 406 painful at bats.
Middlebrooks would move on to San Diego and bring his momentum ending bat with him, but Xander and Jackie were back for 2015 and aren’t we thankful?
You see, 2014 wasn’t their time. Arguably the start of 2015 was difficult for Boston’s up-and-comers also, as they struggled to settle in amid the slumping veterans. But settle in they did, as Mookie Betts, Travis Shaw, Blake Swihart, Eduardo Rodriguez and Rusney Castillo joined them in transforming a team and its fans consigned to another year of sporting pain and misery, to a tangible excitement for a genuinely entertaining side that has all the look of contention waiting to happen.
With Bogaerts and Betts in particular, the Red Sox have two of the most desirable young talent in the game that have anchored the side offensively and defensively. Bogaerts was the team’s leading hitter and the second best hitter in the American League with a statistically beasting .320/.355/.421. Not only that but, his glove flashed gold and he gave all the impression of an All Star shortstop. Betts ended up below Bogaerts on the hitting, but still managed an impressive .291/.341/.479 line, 18 dingers and a monster +6.0 WAR, enough to make him the 6th best player in the league at the tender age of 23.
OK stop, wipe away the drool and remember we have control of both for many years to come (Betts is under team control to 2020, Bogaerts to 2019) and they can only get better. Now you may resume drooling.
The reality is that with so many gaps in the Boston lineup, through injuries or under-performances, the young players needed to step up and fill them and they accomplished just that more than anyone could have anticipated. What 2016 holds is yet to be seen, but the Red Sox actually has a stable, young and hungry foundation to build off of and isn’t that exactly the kind of bridge that is needed to reach contention again?
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