Red Sox shortstop Xander Bogaerts is only getting better

Boston Red Sox shortstop Xander Bogaerts is having a career-best season. His resurgence has been a key to the team’s success.

Boston Red Sox shortstop Xander Bogaerts doesn’t quite get the credit he deserves. A year or two ago, there was a discussion to be had about the best young shortstops in the American League. The discussion included Francisco Lindor, Carlos Correa, Didi Gregorius and Bogaerts.

After a 2017 season in which Bogaerts slashed just .273/.343/.403, he fell off the radar of many people looking to have this discussion. But this year, with a career-high in OPS, home runs, doubles, and RBI, he has vaulted himself near the top of the conversation.

Bogaerts has been better than Correa and Gregorius and has come close to measuring up to Lindor.

Correa burst onto the scene in 2015 with 22 homers in his rookie year and continued to rise the next two years. But he’s really fallen off this year. He missed over a month due to back soreness, which probably contributed to his production falling off, but he is still posting career-lows in every meaningful offensive stat. And he has only played in one fewer game than he did last season, in which he set career highs in home runs, average, and OPS. Bogaerts’ numbers are better in virtually every category this year.

Gregorius measures up fairly well to Bogaerts. He has more homers and runs scored, and fewer strikeouts. But he recently suffered a wrist injury that the Yankees feared was season-ending. Even though he was just cleared for baseball activities, it will be interesting to see what the Yankees can get out of him the rest of the year. In the battle of AL East shortstops who are often referred to by their first names, Xander pretty easily edges out Didi.

Lindor will probably always be the best player in this discussion, but that doesn’t mean Bogaerts can’t at least try to measure up. He has him beat in average, OBP, OPS, and doubles, but Lindor is your ideal leadoff guy. He hits for power, gets on base and scores and drives in runs. He’s the catalyst in a lineup full of big names. So the fact that Bogaerts is better in a few categories really says something.

This season, Bogaerts’ defense has even been much better than it has been in past seasons. Anyone who has watched the Red Sox regularly could see that.

But what really sets Bogaerts apart from the competition are his numbers in big situations in games. This year, he has a .299 average, a 1.010 OPS and 33 RBI with runners in scoring position. None of his peers come close to any of these numbers. And in situations labeled “high leverage” by Baseball Reference, Bogaerts is batting .358 with a 1.070 OPS, with six homers and 52 RBI.

Last season, Bogaerts started off hot, but an injury derailed his season. This season, the same injury threatened to do the same thing but he came back and had an excellent second half. With his four RBI in the first game of yesterday’s doubleheader against Baltimore, he extended his career-high to 100. By the time the season ends, he will have set career-highs in doubles, home runs and RBI, and will likely have career-best numbers in OBP, slugging and OPS.

The resurgence of Xander Bogaerts has made the Red Sox just that much more formidable. With a lineup that could already have been seen as deep if he had a season like his 2017 campaign, Bogaerts went and exceeded expectations. He is still just 25 (26 on October 1) and is only getting better. After a decade of yearly shortstop turnover, it is great to see that Boston has one who is definitely here to stay.