Red Sox Debate: Should Xander Bogaerts switch positions?

BOSTON, MA - SEPTEMBER 28: Xander Bogarts #2 of the Boston Red Sox reacts after hitting a two-run home run in the first inning against the Baltimore Orioles at Fenway Park on September 28, 2019 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Kathryn Riley/Getty Images)
BOSTON, MA - SEPTEMBER 28: Xander Bogarts #2 of the Boston Red Sox reacts after hitting a two-run home run in the first inning against the Baltimore Orioles at Fenway Park on September 28, 2019 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Kathryn Riley/Getty Images) /

While Xander Bogaerts was the best offensive player for the Red Sox in 2019, his defense hurt his own numbers while also costing the team precious wins.

Xander Bogaerts started the year hitting fifth in the Boston Red Sox order. He eventually got bumped up in the lineup due to the steep decline of Andrew Benintendi. At seasons end, Bogaerts had MVP caliber offensive numbers, but he was passed in the MVP voting by AL West shortstop, Marcus Semien.

By no means am I suggesting the Athletics shortstop was undeserving of garnering MVP votes, as he had a great season. However, if we strictly view their numbers from an offensive standpoint, Bogaerts (140 OPS+, .939 OPS, 33 HR’s) had a slightly better season than Semien (138 OPS+, .892 OPS, 33 HR’s).

So if Bogey had superior offensive numbers, then why did he finish fifth in the voting compared to Semien finishing fourth? His defense is the reason why. Semien was outstanding with the glove, flashing 1.5 dWAR (Wins above replacement for defense). He made 12 errors, but his defensive numbers show that he more than made up for those errors.

On the other hand, Xander did not have a pretty season with the leather. He had -21 Defensive Runs Saved in 2019. Many, myself included, don’t think he was that bad because that is extreme. However, every year since being called up to the majors, he has been negative. His dWAR was -1 in 2019.

As you can see, Bogaerts suffered immensely from way below-average defense. He deflated his own statistics, MVP voting, and most importantly, the Red Sox wins – and boy could they have used some extra ones this past season.

The X-Man has cemented himself as an infielder on this Red Sox team and he can’t be the designated hitter since J.D. Martinez currently assumes that role. There are two scenarios that could occur going into the 2020 season.

Move Bogaerts to third base

Rafael Devers currently plays third base for Boston and he was also below average (-9 Defensive Runs Saved) in 2019. There has always been talk of moving him across the diamond and Xander’s ineffectiveness at shortstop could finally make the transition tangible.

Bogaerts has played third base before and he wasn’t terrible at it. In 2014, he split time between third and short. At third base, he had a -7 Defensive Runs Saved compared to -9 at shortstop. He only played 44 games at the hot corner that season and with more playing time, his defensive performance could improve.

In this scenario, Bogaerts becomes the everyday third baseman with Raffy taking over on the other corner. The main problem in this plan would be that the Red Sox no longer have a shortstop. It could also block Bobby Dalbec from reaching the majors as his only path to the Red Sox right now is the vacancy at first base.

If this were to happen, Chaim Bloom would have to reel in a player such as Jonathan Villar or re-sign Brock Holt. A cheap middle-infielder would have to fill the hole, but prospects such as Dalbec or Tristan Casas would be stuck in the minor leagues.

Overall, this doesn’t seem too likely. Bogaerts’ offensive numbers dipped in 2014 and that could have been due to playing a new position. Devers is no guarantee to be a solid defender at first base and he has seemingly made strides to better himself defensively. This would also force the Red Sox to bring in another player which means more money and there is not enough financial wiggle room to bring in another quality, everyday baseball player.

Stick with Bogaerts at shortstop

This option seems more likely than the last option which would involve changing two player’s positions. This plan would keep the defensive alignment the same and hope the two young stars on the left side of the infield can grow defensively.

Bogey never proved to be a consistent powerful bat until the end of this past season. Now, with a 2018 season (135 OPS+) and a 2019 season (140 OPS+) under his belt, he may be able to focus more on defense this offseason. Instead of focusing on how to create more pop, or raise the batting average, he can focus on making routine defensive plays.

He definitely has the ability to grow as shown from his incremental offensive improvements over the past five years. Now instead of bettering his offensive numbers, he has to lower his errors (13 in 2019).


As it currently sits, Bogaerts has no business being the everyday shortstop for the Red Sox. However, if his offensive growth over his career has shown anything, it is that with proper guidance, coaching, and focus, he can excel and eventually thrive.

Next. Vote for All-MLB team. dark

While Xander will be the starting shortstop on Opening Day in 2020 (barring injury), if he doesn’t display that he can at the bare minimum transform into an average fielder, he may have to change positions or become a DH at some point down the line.