BRIAN MacPHERSON Providence Journal
Journal Sports Writer
Published: 22 September 2012 07:22 PM
BOSTON — In some circles, it’s viewed almost as a foregone conclusion that Xander Bogaerts eventually will have to move off shortstop, be it to third base or to the outfield. The 19-year-old already has begun to grow into his 6-foot-3 frame, and it wasn’t hard to see a little Hanley Ramirez or Alex Rodriguez in his physique as he stood on the field at Fenway Park on Saturday afternoon, honored as the Offensive Player of the Year in the Red Sox minor-league system.
That’s not the way Bogaerts looks at it.
“Right now, I think I’m pretty good at shortstop,” he said. “I work pretty hard to stick at the position. I work on my weight a lot to not get overweight. I really like my body, so I try to stay in shape. Hopefully it won’t be difficult for me to stay the way I am.”
“Xander did a great job at shortstop this year,” Red Sox farm director Ben Crockett said. “He shows really good athleticism. He shows plenty of arm strength. He moves around well. He’s continuing to refine the mechanics of it as a 19-year-old kid playing at the upper levels. He’s showing the ability to make all the different plays. It’s pretty impressive.”
As a 19-year-old who slugged close to .600 in his first exposure to Double-A pitching, Bogaerts unquestionably has the highest ceiling of any prospect in the Red Sox system. Jackie Bradley Jr. could make a few All-Star teams as a speedy center fielder, and Matt Barnes isn’t the only pitcher in the system with the ability to stick in a major-league starting rotation. But Bogaerts has the tools to grow into a Ramirez-type talent, a power hitter with an advanced plate approach who makes annual trips to the All-Star Game.
Bogaerts hit .302 with a .378 on-base percentage and .505 slugging percentage in more than 400 plate appearances at High-A Salem, and he hit .326 with a .351 on-base percentage and .598 slugging percentage in almost 100 plate appearances after a late-season promotion to Double-A Portland.
Numbers like that would have been impressive for a player three or four years his senior, but they were close to jaw-dropping for a player as young as Bogaerts is.
“I don’t know where this power comes from,” he said. “Last year in Greenville, I hit 16 home runs, and, from then on, I realized I had power. It’s not about trying to hit home runs. I’m just putting a good swing on the ball and letting it go wherever it’s going to go.”
Should Bogaerts continue to progress as expected, he’ll grow into a valuable major-league hitter no matter where on the field he plays. But if he can stick at shortstop, a position where the average major-leaguer is hitting .257 with a .309 on-base percentage this season, his value could be enormous.
Errors aren’t everything, but Bogaerts made 26 errors in 71 games played for Greenville a year ago and made just 21 errors in 119 games for Salem and Portland this year.
“I really worked hard in the offseason on my defense, so I’ve been happy with the way it’s gone,” he said. “That’s the biggest part I have to work on in the offseason, but I’ve made a lot of progress and I’m happy about the way it’s been.”
As Bogaerts keeps filling out his frame, Crockett said, he’ll have to keep working on “maintaining agility, maintaining the ability to do things fundamentally and continuing to improve the mechanics of the way he’s doing things to be more efficient as he gets bigger and stronger.”
“It’s just reps, reps, and getting a lot of ground balls every day,” Bogaerts said. “That’s what makes you better.”