Red Sox

Why Xander Bogaerts is the best offensive shortstop in baseball

Bogaerts leads MLB shortstops in multiple offensive categories and has been a key cog in the Red Sox's strong start.

Xander Bogaerts Red Sox
Xander Bogaerts. Charles Krupa/AP
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COMMENTARY

Does Xander Bogaerts follow what pundits around the league say about him? Most players generally tell you they don’t.

But it’s funny to think of Bogaerts seeing ESPN’s ranking of him as just the ninth-best shortstop in the league before the season and going full-on Michael Jordan “…and I took that personally” mode on Major League Baseball.

Just look at him now.

About a month into the 2021 season, Bogaerts stands alone as the best offensive shortstop in all of baseball.

Aside from home runs and RBI — where he still ranks well compared to other major league shortstops — it’s hard to find a major hitting metric Bogaerts isn’t dominating his peers in.

His batting average (.349), on-base percentage (.384), slugging percentage (.585), and weighted runs-created-plus (169) are all the best — some by a wide margin — among shortstops this year, according to FanGraphs

Even though he’s not exactly scalding the ball off the bat — his average exit velocity sits in just the 13th percentile league-wide according to Statcast — everything he touches seems to find a hole. Again, he leads all shortstops with a .390 average on balls he puts in play, which he does a remarkable amount of for someone who swings as much as he does.

All that puts Bogaert’s offensive WAR at a staggering 9.6 for the season, which puts him well ahead of all shortstops. The second-place offensive WAR producer is the National’s Trea Turner (6.9).

In fact, the Red Sox star’s offensive WAR numbers put him 14th in all of baseball coming into Monday. Wildly enough, that’s not good enough for the team lead on the Red Sox since J.D. Martinez (13.3 offensive WAR) has been on his own mission to destroy major league pitching in 2021.

Of course, it might still be a stretch to call Bogaerts the best overall shortstop in baseball with his struggling defense. His defensive WAR is a less-than-stellar -1.3 on the season, which is, well, not among MLB’s best (more like 22nd out of all shortstops).

But his bat more than makes up for it; Bogaerts ties for first in WAR for shortstops (1.3) with Turner, who is one of the best defensive shortstops in baseball.

Most importantly of all, the man they call “Bogie” has been one of the catalysts for a surprising Red Sox team that’s leading the AL East and has one of the best records in baseball.

If he really plays like this throughout the duration of his prime, maybe that Hall-of-Fame talk won’t sound that far-fetched down the line.

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