MLB Network ranks Xander Bogaerts the 8th best shortstop in baseball
On its “Top 10 Shortstops Right Now” show, MLB Network’s research department placed Xander Bogaerts eighth on their list, based on a combination of offense and defense.
Even though the 2016 season was Bogaerts’ best in a Boston Red Sox uniform, there’s still room for improvement in the 24-year-old’s game. In his third full season in the majors he posted career highs in home runs (21), runs (115), runs batted in (89), wRC+ (113) and fWAR (4.7). His first half performance: 10 home runs, .863 OPS, 131 wRC+ even earned him the starting position at short for the American League in the All-Star game.
His scorching hot start to the year, including a 26 game hitting streak that ended in June, looked like a continuation of his performance at the end of 2015. But then the wheels fell off in the second half of the season as Bogaerts struggled to keep up his All-Star pace throughout the final months of the year. In his final 72 games, he hit just .253 with a .729 OPS after posting respective marks of .329 and .863. If you’re wondering why the American League’s starting shortstop and Silver Slugger is only eighth on this list, look to his second half performance.
The full rankings are as follows:
- Corey Seager
- Francisco Lindor
- Carlos Correa
- Trea Turner
- Brandon Crawford
- Trevor Story
- Aledmys Diaz
- Xander Bogaerts
- Troy Tulowitzki
- Addison Russell
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It should also be noted that MLB Network’s “Shredder” system compiled the rankings. The player performance algorithm does account for both offense and defense, but it’s unclear how it balances the two sides of the game.
As for Bogaerts’ defense, his -10 defensive runs saved ranked 23rd out of 24 eligible shortstops in 2016.
However, none of this should be taken as an indictment of Xander Bogaerts. He’s still one of the game’s better shortstops, and even if he turns out to be a league average hitter, he’ll still provide comparative value at the position. That being said, there are ways that he can climb up this list.
There’s an argument to be made that his career high in games played and plate appearances contributed to his second half slide. The All-Star break isn’t much of a break when you’re actually playing in the game and Bogaerts had acknowledged that his workload started to wear on his performance at times over the season. The biggest detriment to his game right now is inconsistency, something that will only improve as he becomes more comfortable playing upwards of 150 games a season.
Then there’s his defensive performance. He probably suffered from being bounced around between short and third in his first two MLB seasons, before finally sticking at the position full-time in 2015. By all accounts, he worked extremely hard to improve his defensive play in 2015, to become at least an average defender per FanGraphs. His career high 13 errors undid much of that progress, though, bringing his fielding percentage down to .979% compared to .984% from a year ago.
But for all his faults as a player, the raw talent is there in spades. His performance in 2015 and first half numbers in 2016 flash the brilliance that he possesses as a major league hitter. He’s posted the third highest wRC+ among major league shortstops over the last two seasons, showing that he has the capability to join an elite group at his position.
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It’s pretty clear that Corey Seager is in a league of his own as far as major league shortstops go. He’s essentially the same hitter as Mookie Betts, but as a rookie playing one the most demanding position in the game. Asking Bogaerts to reach that peak might be foolish, but there’s a lot to be hopeful for here.