What Xander Bogaerts’ late-season power surge means for him and Red Sox

BOSTON, MA - MAY 04: Xander Bogaerts #2 of the Boston Red Sox hits a solo home run in the eighth inning of a game against the Los Angeles Angels Fenway Park on May 4, 2022 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Adam Glanzman/Getty Images)
BOSTON, MA - MAY 04: Xander Bogaerts #2 of the Boston Red Sox hits a solo home run in the eighth inning of a game against the Los Angeles Angels Fenway Park on May 4, 2022 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Adam Glanzman/Getty Images) /
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Xander Bogaerts is starting to add some thump to the Red Sox lineup

Xander Bogaerts’ home run production dwindled for much of the 2022 season, but the Boston Red Sox shortstop started to find his power stroke again down the stretch.

In Tuesday’s game against the New York Yankees, a solo shot broke a tie in the bottom of the sixth inning. While Boston’s bullpen predictably let them down again during a soul-crushing 10th inning that led to Jeurys Familia being banished from the roster immediately after the game, the Red Sox wouldn’t have even made it to extra-innings without the home run Bogaerts added earlier that night.

Bogaerts jumped on the first pitch of the at-bat by Gerrit Cole, a 96 mph fastball over the plate that he wrapped around the Pesky Pole in right field. On a night when the ball was flying out of the park for both teams, Xander’s 332-foot homer had the shortest distance among the balls that cleared the fence, as well as the lowest exit velocity at 97.8 mph, per Baseball Savant.

Bogaerts didn’t exactly crush it, but he’ll take it considering home runs have been harder to come by for him this season. His 14th home run puts him on pace for his lowest total in a non-COVID shortened season since 2017.

He’s never been among the elite sluggers in the game, but Bogaerts has provided a steady amount of power over the last decade with the Red Sox. His latest home run also moved him into sole possession of 16th place on the franchise’s all-time list.

While his home run total has dipped this season, Bogaerts is powering up as the season winds down. Five of his 14 home runs have come within his last 19 games, including two in his last four games before Wednesday’s series finale against the Yankees. His seven home runs in 171 at-bats since the All-Star break already matches the total from his 329 at-bats in the first half of the season.

It was also encouraging to see Bogaerts hit one out to right field. He’s more than capable of spraying line drives to all fields, but his home-run power is predominately to the pull side. His latest home run was only the second that he has hit to the opposite field this season.

The lack of power hasn’t taken the shine off a stellar season for the All-Star shortstop. Bogaerts is firmly in contention for his first career batting title; he entered Wednesday’s game with a .318 average that trailed only Minnesota’s Luis Arraez, and by a mere percentage point. Bogaerts is still racking up plenty of doubles, ranking fourth in the American League with 37, more than he hit by last season’s end. He’s also poised to set a career-high in on-base percentage.

Even with a strong finish, Bogaerts is almost certain to fall short of the 20+ home runs fans have come to expect from him, but part of that can be attributed to him playing hurt for a significant portion of the season. Nonetheless, he’s getting on base and collecting a healthy amount of extra-base hits. His .858 OPS is similar to what he’s produced in recent years; he leads all shortstops in the metric and ranks 8th among AL position players.

The uptick in power has come a bit too late for a Red Sox team that has fallen out of the playoff hunt, though that’s far from his fault. And the boosted production towards the end of the season will serve him well when he inevitably opts out of his contract this fall.

Bogaerts is arguably the best hitter at his position in the majors, and he’s made impressive strides defensively. If there was any reason for potential suitors to shy away from offering the soon-to-be-30-year-old a massive contract this winter, it was the troubling decline in power production. Those concerns are quickly fading away with this late-season surge.

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