FORT MYERS, Fla — Scouts representing some dozen or more teams who have watched Xander Bogaerts and Will Middlebrooks over the past dozen games all agree that the Red Sox have an exciting but scary situation with the left side of their infield.
The universal consensus was Bogaerts is heading to All-Star status and Middlebrooks to middle of the order power hitter. The doubts are more on the defense side.
Here are some comments:
"Bogaerts has tremendous body control for a kid that big. I'd keep him at shortstop until he plays his way off it. He may never play his way out of it. All I know is his work ethic, from what I've seen is phenomenal. He's not (Jose) Iglesias, he's not Drew, but he's a good player at shortstop. I'd just keep developing his confidence and go with him," a National League big-market team scout said.
A National League mid-market team scout said, "For me, he's a third baseman. Will he ever be extraordinary at shortstop? That's the question. I'd say no. Move him to third and take advantage of his real strength – his offense."
A scout from a rival AL East team said, "It's got to be exciting to have two kids and maybe a third (Jackie Bradley Jr.) breaking onto the team at the same time. It's also a little scary. They've lost (Jacoby) Ellsbury and Drew, two guys who were really big for that team winning a World Series championship. Every team goes through changes, but those are big ones. It's hard to repeat, so you'd might as well load up with young guys and hope they can take you to the next championship. They are talented. All of them. They need the experience."
"[Stephen] Drew's ability to calm down a pitching staff, that peace of mind a pitcher has knowing the guy behind him is going to make the play and the throw, can't be measured. (Mike) Napoli always knew he was going to get a good throw from shortstop. That peace of mind isn't there yet. Having said that, any one of us sitting here with our teams would love to have that kid (Bogaerts) to play for us. If he can play consistent shortstop with what he brings to the plate, my goodness. You sacrifice something now for the return you're gonna get down the road," said an American League Central scout.
"Middlebrooks is so intriguing. Righthanded power-hitting third basemen don't grow on trees. He's got that special sound off the bat like (David) Ortiz and (Mike) Napoli. He's got a lot of work to do defensively and he's got some holes in his swing. But when someone makes a mistake, he can hit it a long way," said an American League West scout.
"After winning a World Series championship, go with the young guys. These kids could be pretty special once they break in, take their lumps and then make their adjustments," said a National League East scout.
"You've got to believe in the kids in your farm system, so when it's time to make that decision, you live and die with the guys you've developed and drafted. If you're wrong, I think the thought process is the right one. Bogaerts is a stud. Middlebrooks looks committed to being a good player," said one American League scout.
"No doubt, Drew (expletive) himself out of a chance to be with this team. He's a good player. I know how much his teammates liked him and how comforting it is for a pitching staff to have a guy who made every play. But time to move on. You're going to a kid who's going to be a superstar (Bogaerts)," a National League central scout said.
"The best defensive guy is (Deven) Marrero," said one American League East scout. "He's going to create an even bigger decision because you can't deny his defense. He's almost Iglesias with the ability to steal bases and probably hit .260."
The consensus pretty much was you give something up – the steadiness of Drew – for the long-term payoff of an all-around Bogaerts and a powerful Middlebrooks. It appears at the moment, that's the road the Red Sox are taking as well.