Red Sox need a big season from Xander Bogaerts in 2020

ANAHEIM, CALIFORNIA - AUGUST 31: Xander Bogaerts #2 of the Boston Red Sox at bat during a game against the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim at Angel Stadium of Anaheim on August 31, 2019 in Anaheim, California. (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)
ANAHEIM, CALIFORNIA - AUGUST 31: Xander Bogaerts #2 of the Boston Red Sox at bat during a game against the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim at Angel Stadium of Anaheim on August 31, 2019 in Anaheim, California. (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images) /

Xander Bogaerts emerged as one of the best Red Sox players over the last few seasons. If they want to contend, they’ll need him to have another big year.

In the wake of Mookie Betts‘ departure in a blockbuster trade last month, the clear-cut best player, leader, and face of the Boston Red Sox is now Xander Bogaerts.

Since coming up as a rookie in 2013, Bogaerts has steadily improved to quietly become one of the core homegrown Red Sox players during their recent run of success. A cornerstone of the team that won the AL East three straight seasons from 2016-2018, Bogaerts keeps getting better each year.

After a 2018 season in which he hit career highs in home runs and RBI while greatly improving his defense, Bogaerts outdid himself in 2019. As one of the only bright spots in an otherwise dismal season, Xander set career highs in home runs, RBI, doubles, became an excellent defensive shortstop, and made the All Star team for the second time in his career (the first coming in 2016). Look at these numbers…that’s a great career progression:

2013: .250 BA, 1 HR, 5 RBI, .320 OBP, 7 R, .684 OPS (18 games before postseason)
2014: .240 BA, 12 HR, 46 RBI, 60 R, .297 OBP, .660 OPS (144 games)
2015: .320 BA, 7 HR, 81 RBI, 84 R, .355 OBP, .776 OPS (156 games)
2016: .294 BA, 21 HR, 89 RBI, 115 R, .356 OBP, .802 OPS (157 games)
2017: .273 BA, 10 HR, 62 RBI, 94 R, .343 OBP, .746 OPS (148 games)
2018: .288 BA, 23 HR, 103 RBI, 72 R, .360 OBP, .883 OPS (136 games)
2019: .309 BA, 33 HR, 117 RBI, 110 R, .384 OBP, .939 OPS (155 games)

There were some hiccups in 2014 and 2015 when the Red Sox unsuccessfully tried to convert him into a third baseman and his numbers were down in 2017 (as were the entire team’s) due to it being the first season after David Ortiz retired. Otherwise, that’s an excellent progression from highly touted young prospect to veteran leader of the Red Sox and one of the top shortstops in the entire American League.

Perhaps even more importantly, Bogaerts has emerged as a leader throughout his career, culminating in 2019 when he was one of the players most in front of cameras answering questions and holding himself and his teammates accountable during the disappointing and frustrating follow-up to their 2018 World Series victory. While Betts was a quiet leader who kept things loose and led by example, Bogaerts was more comfortable answering the fans and media.

Additionally, Bogaerts is multilingual and serves as a valuable and comforting bridge between the English-speaking players and the Spanish-speaking players who aren’t comfortable conversing in English. Falling into the latter category, in particular, is Rafael Devers, whom Bogaerts took under his wing in 2019 as Devers enjoyed his own breakout season at the plate while greatly improving in the field.

The sudden absence of Betts right before spring training began left a huge vacuum not only on the field but in the clubhouse. Bogaerts seems poised to step in and assume the undisputed leadership role as the new face of the franchise. Indeed, he’s been one of, it not the only player who has directly addressed Betts departure and what comes next without being asked about it first.

"“I mean, I remember when he came up and made his debut in Yankee Stadium. It’s crazy to think how time flew that quick,” Bogaerts said. “Obviously, I wish him nothing but the best. He’s one of the best teammates I’ve had. [Betts is] one of the best young players we had to wear this Red Sox uniform. He’s someone that we’re going to miss a lot and it’s not easy to replace someone like that, on and off the field.”“If you ask me, I think no one would pretty much bet on us to win it, obviously with the two [guys, including David Price] we traded there at the end,” Bogaerts said. “But I think our team is pretty much the same and, like I said, we have so many opportunities now for these young guys to come up and show what they have. We have a lot of veterans still on the team. I’m definitely confident in the team that we have, so it’s just up to us now to go out there and perform.”"

In addition to his leadership, the Red Sox will need Xander to continue to be one of the premier shortstops in the league and perform at the same high level that he has for the last few seasons. If anyone can fill the void, it’s Xander, who has not only quietly become one of the best Red Sox players in recent years but has shown his commitment to both winning and the team by signing a six-year extension last April.

Next. Sale's sore elbow creates panic. dark

The 2020 Boston Red Sox have a whole host of problems as they get ready for the season. The pitching is a mess (and even more so now that Chris Sale has been sidelined with an elbow issue) and it will most likely be the team’s undoing. The offense, though, will be fine and should score a lot of runs. That will be in no small part to Xander Bogaerts hitting (most likely) in the third spot in the order. If the Red Sox are to have even a remote chance at contending for the American League Wild Card, they’ll need him to be at his best and have another big year on the field.