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Why Xander Bogaerts should stay at shortstop

Posted by Peter Abraham, Globe Staff  February 6, 2013 05:43 PM

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FORT MYERS, Fla. Via email or Twitter, several readers have asked the same question in recent days: Should the Red Sox move Xander Bogaerts to a different position?

It's a good question. Because the 20-year-old Bogaerts is 6-foot-3 and 180 pounds, he looks like he could play third base, first base or even the outfield. He had 60 extra-base hits in 476 at-bats last season, numbers that suggest he would fit the offensive profile of a third baseman.

"Bogaerts has the offensive potential to be an All-Star at any position," wrote Jim Callis in the Baseball America Prospect Handbook.

The Red Sox also have a number of other shortstop prospects. Jose Iglesias could play in the majors right now defensively. Deven Marrero, a first-round pick last June, was a star at Arizona State. He turns 23 in August and figures to make quick progress through the system.

Tzu-Wei Lin was signed out of Taiwan last year for $2.05 million. The Sox also have Jose Vinicio, who made solid strides at Greenvillle last season. He was signed to a $1.95 million bonus in 2009.

Lin is 18 and Vinicio 19; they are not close to ready. But the point is that the Sox could shift Bogaerts to another position knowing they have other players at shortstop. If the idea is to get as many good players on the field as possible, why not try it?

But it would be a mistake to have Bogaerts change positions. Certainly now and maybe ever.

That Bogaerts is a little big for a shortstop should not be an issue. Derek Jeter and Troy Tulowitzki are 6-3. Cal Ripken Jr. did just fine at 6-4. In 262 games for the Red Sox, Bogaerts has shown good range and an above-average arm. He's not a super-quick Jose Reyes type, but he plays the position well.

Red Sox GM Ben Cherington said a few weeks ago that the organization was pleased with the progress Bogaerts has made defensively. The Sox view him as a shortstop. Assistant GM Mike Hazen, farm director Ben Crockett and a number of other team officials have said roughly the same thing.

It's telling that the Sox told the Netherlands not to play Bogaerts in the outfield during the WBC. They don't like the idea.

Bogaerts finished last season with Double-A Portland, playing 23 games. He could start this season in the Eastern League and move his way up to Pawtucket. With Stephen Drew on a one-year contract, it's conceivable Bogaerts could be a candidate to play shortstop for the Red Sox in 2014.

The idea of having a 21-year-old, cost-controlled budding All-Star at shortstop should appeal to any Red Sox fan. Shortstop is a premium position, why waste a talent like Bogaerts somewhere else? Why throw an obstacle in his development path by having him change positions?

To be sure, circumstances could change. Bogaerts could get heavier and perhaps lose a step defensively. Maybe Iglesias will discover the ability to hit this season and force his way into the majors. Perhaps Marrero will blossom into a premier prospect in his first full professional season.

But let those things happen on their own, if they happen at all. Bogaerts is generally regarded as one of the top 10 prospects in the game. Let him decide whether he can play shortstop in the majors and leave it to somebody else to adjust. If he's that good, the Sox will have a foundation player for a decade. It's hard to do better than that.

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