It’s borderline criminal that Xander Bogaerts wasn’t an All-Star last year, so one would imagine he’ll get more consideration this time around after finishing second in the batting title race in 2015.
Bogaerts dominated the field of AL shortstops in most offensive categories, leading all qualified hitters at the position with a .320 average, .776 OPS and 4.6 WAR. While the home run power hasn’t come around yet, he led the position with 35 doubles and 81 RBI. He also made great strides in the field to turn himself into at least an average defensive player and the potential is there for him to continue to improve that area of his game. Bogaerts is still only 23 years old, so the best is yet to come.
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The challenge for Bogaerts will be the improved competition at his position. Rookie of the Year Carlos Correa is a budding superstar that smashed 22 home runs while posting an .857 OPS and 4.1 WAR despite not getting called up to the big leagues until June. The 21-year old may already be the best at his position in the majors. Cleveland’s Francisco Lindor was another rookie that was called up far too late to be considered last year, but finished with a slash line similar to Bogaerts with an identical 4.6 WAR. If Correa is voted in as the starter, that could leave Bogaerts battling it out with Lindor for the backup spot.
That’s without factoring in Troy Tulowitzki, an All-Star for the NL squad last year who moved to Toronto at the trade deadline. While Tulo’s production took a nose dive after he left Coors Field, we should expect him to rebound in his first full season in a loaded Blue Jays lineup.
Also beware of overzealous Kansas City Royals fans who voted in Alcides Escobar as a starter last year, despite that his .614 OPS and 0.6 WAR put him near the bottom of the league at the position. No sane projection model would see that mistake being replicated, but we can’t rule out Royals fans hijacking the vote again at the expense of a more deserving candidate.
Bogaerts should put up All-Star caliber numbers again this year, but the increased competition at the position keeps him from being a lock to make the team. Perhaps the AL will find room for three shortstops this year, but anything more than that would be a stretch. If there are at least four worthy shortstops to consider and the Red Sox already have multiple other All-Stars then that could leave Bogaerts as the one who gets left out.
Next: Blake Swihart