Xander Bogaerts has been playing spectacular baseball for a full year now. His brilliance is becoming familiar and expected. Stardom is his. The same goes for Mookie Betts, the Red Sox’ other dynamic 23-year-old. Superstardom beckons for both.
To see Bogaerts’s accomplishments put to the confirming music of statistics is to have your mind boggled just a little bit more. Here is his stat line over the past baseball year, from June 2, 2015 right up until tonight’s matchup with the Orioles in which he’ll try to increase his hitting streak to 25 games:
Plate appearances: 712
Hits: 227 (227!)
Home runs: 11
Batting average/On-base percentage/Slugging percentage: .340/.378/.489.
So … still want to trade him for Matt Harvey, anyone? (The entire Mets media contingent just raised their hands in desperate unison.)
Anyone still prefer Jose Iglesias?
Good thing Ben Cherington held on to his prospects too long, right? If only he’d swapped Bogaerts, Betts (who, since I know you want to know, hit 25 homers, 43 doubles, 10 triples, stole 21 bases, drove in 92 runs, and slashed .303/.347/.470 over the same year span) and/or Jackie Bradley Jr. for veteran help when he had the chance. I wonder how many times Cherington had to tell then-Phillies GM Ruben Amaro that he wasn’t getting Bogaerts or Betts for Cliff Lee or Cole Hamels. I wonder if it was ever tempting when Bogaerts and Bradley in particular struggled and Red Sox fell to the pits of the AL East standings.
This is why you wait, people. This, right here, right now. There is no greater progressive satisfaction as a baseball fan than watching touted young players develop into franchise cornerstones. When those players are well-rounded, charismatic, and easy to root for, it’s even better. This is what it must have been like to watch Rice and Lynn in the summer of ’75.
Bogaerts was the most touted of the three. But this season, he’s been somewhat overshadowed, first by Bradley’s torrid start and then his hitting streak, and lately by Betts’s surge that included a three-homer showcase Tuesday night. That’s changing now, with the help of the hitting streak and the realization nationally that he is one of the premier players in the American League at any age or position.
With that realization, hopefully, comes the acknowledgment of how far he has come – and how hard he must have worked to get to this spectacular here and now. Even for a prospect who was rated among of the best in baseball during his rapid rise through the Red Sox’ system – not to mention one who showed a-decade-beyond-his-years poise in moving to a new position and helping the Red Sox win a World Series within two months of his arrival in the majors — it is remarkable how far Bogaerts has come and how quickly he has achieved genuine excellence.
Two years ago – more recently than that, even – we weren’t sure he would be an adequate defensive shortstop; now he is both steady and occasionally spectacular, a good-field, great-hit, all-around player who merits the position for his defense alone. Even last year, when he raised his batting average 80 points (.320) from the previous season (.240), there lingered a legitimate if impatient question regarding whether he would hit for power. He had seven home runs a year ago; this season he has six already, including five during this 24-game hitting streak in which he’s driven in 17 runs, scored 22, and slashed .393/.430/.607.
Bogaerts is a star among young stars. He has a mirror image of A-Rod’s swing and is en route to surpassing young Derek Jeter’s production. He’s having the season Carlos Correa was supposed to have and leads AL All-Star voting at his position. He has exceptional talent and a determination to get the most out of those gifts. With Mookie Betts and Jackie Bradley Jr., Bogaerts is the Red Sox’ future thriving in the present. This, when the moment comes and stardom arrives, is what all the waiting is for.