A breakout season for Boston Red Sox shortstop Xander Bogaerts has seen the emergence of power that was long predicted to be part of his game.
Raise your hand if you expected Xander Bogaerts to be the top run producer for the Boston Red Sox. It’s safe to say this is somewhat unexpected. Yet here we are, more than halfway through the season, and Bogaerts leads the team with 20 home runs and 71 RBI.
Bogaerts homered in each game of the weekend series against the Los Angeles Dodgers, marking the first time in his career that he’s hit a home run in three consecutive games. He’s also driven in at least one run in each of his last six games, the longest RBI streak of his career.
While his bat profiled as having decent pop for a shortstop when he was a young prospect coming out of Aruba, this power surge is quite a leap for Bogaerts. He set a career high with 23 home runs last season, a total he could eclipse by the end of July.
Bogaerts is developing a habit of hitting those home runs in clutch situations. Seven of his home runs have come in the eighth inning or later, tied for the league lead. That includes his most recent homer when he went back-to-back with J.D. Martinez to tie the game in the eighth inning.
13 of his 20 home runs have come with the score tied of the Red Sox trailing. Even when a rally ultimately falls short, Bogaerts has been the key to igniting it.
Most would have pegged Martinez as the top power threat on this team. He’s coming off consecutive 40+ homer seasons and led the league in RBI last year. Reigning MVP Mookie Betts would have been a solid alternative. Neither has quite lived up to expectations but that takes nothing away from the emergence of Bogaerts. He’s not only the best hitter on his team, but Bogaerts is also among the best in the league.
After reaching the 100 RBI plateau for the first time in his career last season, Bogaerts is now contending for the league lead, trailing only Mike Trout (75) in that category. Bogaerts and Trout are the only AL players hitting .300+ with 20+ home runs. Based on the FanGraphs version of WAR, Bogaerts (4.1) is second behind Trout (6.5) among AL position players.
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Bogaerts is rapidly rising up the leaderboards in most offensive categories. He’s second in the league with a .559 SLG, third with a .948 OPS and .393 wOBA, and fourth with 144 wRC+ this season.
He’s seen slight upticks in Launch Angle (13.0), Exit Velocity (91.1), and Barrel Percentage (10.2%) but not enough to suggest a significantly different approach at the plate. A career-high 12.7 BB% shows Bogaerts has been more selective, swinging at fewer bad pitches and thereby making the lowest percentage of weak contact in his career.
As long as the Red Sox remain in the playoff hunt, Bogaerts is a legitimate MVP candidate. Boston currently sits 2.5 games outside of a Wild Card spot, although that’s closer than Trout’s Angels. We’ve seen voters hold his team’s shortcomings against Trout before and the same could hinder Bogaerts if the Red Sox don’t qualify for the postseason.
There’s no doubt that Bogaerts belongs in the conversation though. He’s shown flashes of power and he’s proven capable of hitting for a high average. This season, he’s putting it all together. Bogaerts has become the most dangerous power threat in Boston’s lineup and worthy of recognition as one of the league’s best overall hitters.