Don’t you guys start in on me about Xander Bogaerts.
You have perspective and patience, right? You know better than to make sweeping proclamations on his progress and career prognosis now.
He’s 22, still extremely young for a big leaguer, and he has bettered himself with hard work. He’s improved his defense at shortstop in the offseason beyond any expectation. Hey, he even homered Wednesday night.
Perhaps his offensive struggles have delayed his certain ascent to stardom to the point that it doesn’t seem so certain anymore. But he still looks like a talent fully capable of rewarding our patience many times over.
Agreed? Agreed. We’re all good here, right? Good. Let’s move on to a real problem with the Red …
Aw, dammit, you guys are starting in on me about Bogaerts:
— Robert Nolan (@ilumatechllc) May 20, 2015
Fanboi? Sheesh, not even Shaughnessy spells it that way.
All right, if that’s how it’s gonna be, I have no choice but to roll up my sleeves, clench my jaw, and counter with … ah, I’ve got nothing, other than the desire to whack the skeptics upside the head with a rolled-up copy of Baseball America.
Given how polished and prepared he looked in October 2013, I suppose the first year-plus of the Xander Bogaerts experience has been a little disappointing, even to those of us who recognize 1) he’s tremendously talented and 2) it takes even the tremendously talented time, even years, to find their bearings and fulfill their potential at the highest level of baseball in the world.
The exception to that is Mike Trout, whose unprecedented Willie Mays imitation from his first full season onward has warped expectations of what a top prospect should be. He made superstardom look easy in an instant, which unfairly increased expectations that elite prospects who followed him would do the same.
And please, spare me the caterwauled nonsense of the Red Sox overrating their own kids. That’s the ignorant howl of those who lump all prospects — the fringe guys like Ryan Lavarnway and the consensus gems like Blake Swihart — into one group rather than discerning their various levels of promise and expectations. Half of the sports radio hosts in this city can’t identify the Red Sox’ best young players until their faces are on the videoboard at Fenway. Do not parrot the ignorance. Ignore it. That is a plea and a demand. Thank you.
Bogaerts was a consensus top-five prospect in baseball. He starred in the postseason — he was arguably the Red Sox’ second-best offensive player in the World Series — with 50 plate-appearances to his credit, at just beyond his 21st birthday. The hype — make that the confidence that he would fulfill projections of stardom sooner rather than later — was entirely justified, and there was no reason for skepticism even through last May last year, when his OPS approached .900 at month’s end.
We know what happened. His move to third base coincided with a summer-long slump that dropped his numbers to Jackie Gutierrez levels. He rallied in September with an .806 OPS and four homers, but that couldn’t salvage the final results: a .240/.297/.362 slash line with 12 homers and 46 RBIs in 594 plate appearances.
He’s still having some of the same issues this year that plagued him as a Red Sox freshman. He struggles with either recognition of or reaction to breaking balls away. He hasn’t made as much hard contact as he should (he’s slugging .382, up 20 points from a year ago but far below expectation).
The confirmation that he can handle shortstop defensively is great news, in part because the offensive expectations aren’t as high there as they would be at third base or in a corner outfield spot. But that’s not to say the expectations should be lowered, let alone that we should start pining again for this guy …
Jose Iglesias career batting line: .289/.342/.375
Xander Bogaerts career batting line: .245/.302/.363
— Alex Reimer (@AlexReimer1) May 16, 2015
… the modern king of BABIP who at 22 — again, Bogaerts’s current age — slashed .118/.200 /.191 for the Red Sox and .266/.318/306 at Pawtucket.
Iglesias’s recent success tells us one of two things: 1) It’s better to be lucky than good, or, 2) Even the worst young hitters can improve to a significant degree as they head into their mid-20s.
Bogaerts could use some of that luck. The improvement is a matter of his own doing, and considering his progress on defense, one has to figure the work will pay off as a hitter sooner or later.
Yes, this fanboi still believes he’ll be a Red Sox cornerstone, probably even a superstar. Even if I’m slightly less certain than I was in October 2013.