Red Sox Mirror Image: Xander Bogaerts to John Valentin
By Rick McNair
A seventh installment mirroring Boston Red Sox players of the present with one from my memories of the past. This is the shortstops – Xander Bogaerts to John Valentin.
Boston Red Sox shortstop Xander Bogaerts had a remarkable 2018 season slashing .288/23/103 and that closely matches John Valentin‘s 1995 slash of .298/27/102. However, in the metrics battle, Valentin had an 8.2 fWAR and Bogaerts a 4.9 fWAR.
Valentin finished ninth in MVP voting that season and Bogaerts finished 13th in the MVP race in 2018 for his solid season. The big difference is age as the right-handed hitting Valentin was 28-years-old after arriving in Boston as a 25-year-old. Bogaerts is now 26-years-old and is considered a veteran.
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Valentine was a fifth-round draft selection for the Red Sox (1988) from Seton Hall and worked his way through the system as a shortstop, finally arriving in 1992 for 58 games. Valentin – like Bogaerts – was not a great defensive shortstop, but a very methodical one – good positioning and an accurate arm. Still – in Total Zone (TZ) – Valentine was third in 1994, first in 1995, and second in 1996. Nothing flashy for the highlight reels except on one particular day.
Against Seattle, on 7/8/1994 Val completed a rare baseball feat – an unassisted triple play. Watching the game I thought it was a double play, but Valentine caught a liner, stepped on second, and tagged another runner. But Val also had his moments on offense by hitting for the cycle in 1996 and leading the American League in doubles (47) in 1997.
When Bogaerts first arrived in Boston in 2013 it was as a third baseman and shortstop and for Valentin, it would be third base full-time in 1997 as Nomar Garciaparra took over at short. In 1998 Valentine’s average dipped to a career low of .247, but power remained with 23 home runs and 44 doubles.
The next three seasons marked the end in Boston for Valentin as he appeared in only 143 games with a series of injuries and just a performance slide. Val signed with the Mets as a free agent and did little hitting .240 in 114 games.
As a comparison, I see both as virtually equals – if you discount Valentin’s last few years in Boston. Valentin played 991 games in Boston to Bogaerts’s 759, but take away those previously mentioned 143 games and with the bat, you have some equality, but then there are rings. Bogaerts has a pair and Valentine has none. Defensively I would also give the slight nod to Valentin. Offense a slight edge to Bogaerts.
Valentin once stole 20 bases, but I never considered him a base stealing threat since he never reached double figures again. Bogaerts is an underrated or undervalued baserunner – not to diminish Valentin, but Bogaerts is far more fluid.
The one aspect that impacts any comparison is injury. Valentine’s productivity was essentially finished when he was just 31-years-old. If Val had pieced together several more seasons like his 1995-99 core years this could be a far different comparison. Still – in those 991 games – Valentin hit .281 with 124 home runs and 558 RBI. Bogaerts is on track to match that – if he stays.
Since leaving baseball as a player Valentin has managed and coached in the minor leagues for the Los Angeles Dodgers. Valentin is also a member of the Boston Red Sox Hall of Fame.