When Xander Bogaerts came up from the minors, there was a ton of excitement. And for good reason. In the minor leagues, Xander averaged a .296/.373/.489 slash line with 54 home runs and 235 runs batted in across parts of four seasons.
Not only were his numbers great in the minors, but Xander was a wiry, athletic shortstop who would only get stronger and gain more power as he got older. Many were projecting him as a mid 20s-30s home run hitter with major runs batted in production.
The Red Sox had found our next Nomar. At least, that was what Red Sox fans were hoping. In the beginning, the hype was real.
In 2013, Bogaerts was brought up in September and played third base for the World Champion Boston Red Sox. Although he hit only .250/.320/.364 in 18 games, he had some big hits in the playoffs and the World Series. Not only that, but he looked poised and confident for such a young kid.
But in 2014, his true rookie season, Bogarts struggled. He hit just .240/.297/.362 with 12 home runs and 46 RBI’s. He did not play well defensively and people wondered if he could stay at shortstop for the rest of his tenure in Boston.
In 2015, Bogarts came into his own with the Red Sox and had a true breakout year. He hit .320/.355/.421 with seven home runs and 81 runs batted in. He won an AL Silver Slugger at shortstop and he was a consistent hitter for the Red Sox all year. Although the power wasn’t there, he did have 35 doubles.
The fans would take the high batting average and high extra-base hit total. Don’t be greedy, Red Sox fans all thought. The power will come.
But fast forward to the last year and a half and Bogaerts has been a slightly above-average hitter with not much power. Although he hit .294/.356/.446 with 21 home runs and 89 runs batted en route to his second straight AL Silver Slugger award in 2016, he had a mediocre second half of the season.
It shows you how well he hit in the first half because those are good numbers. In the second half of 2016, Bogaerts hit just .253 with 11 home runs and 33 runs batted in. His home run production wasn’t bad but his average dropped a substantial amount. In addition, he hit just .230 in August, September and October.
In 2017, Bogaerts had a subpar year, as he hit .273/.343/.403 with 10 home runs and 62 runs batted in. This was his worst year of his career since his rookie season back in 2014. Just like in 2016, Bogaerts struggled in the second half of the season. After the All-Star break, he hit just .235 with only four home runs and a mere 21 runs batted in
Bogaerts does play a solid shortstop, but he has shown that is not a No. 3 hitter and is nowhere near the likes of Nomar Garciaparra. Now, with Bogaerts becoming a free agent next season, the question looms: What do you do if you are the Red Sox?
If you asked after the 2016 season, I would have told you to pay the man. But after two straight seasons of a total reduction of output after the All-Star break, the tune has changed.
Message to Dombrowski: Don’t re-sign him. He has Scott Boras as an agent, who will try to work you to the breaking point, and he is not worth the money. At this point, he is an average-to-above-average shortstop who is inconsistent offensively, can look terrible at the plate, and has faded off in the second half of the season.
One could argue that his true production was the 2015 season and the first half of 2016 first because he was no longer a rookie and that was when he was actually healthy. Maybe. Maybe not. All I know is that by looking at his numbers alone, this is not a superstar shortstop. This is not Nomar Garciaparra. This is a slightly above-average big league player.
The 25-year-old shortstop was hurt for a good amount of the 2017, as he had a lingering hand injury. He even admitted himself that he shouldn’t have played through it.
“We thought it was going to get better, and it didn’t, and then I played through the pain,” Bogaerts said to the Boston Globe. “I know I made a mistake. I probably shouldn’t have played, but this is who I am.
Some of his at-bats last season looked just plain weak. For instance, look at this at-bat against the Orioles last year:
That is not an at-bat you want to show in a clinic. He is way out on his front foot, waving at the ball with one hand. The down-and-away breaking ball in the dirt has produced a lot of lousy swings for Bogaerts.
Bogaerts always swung with one hand, but he was really swinging with one hand last season. When you compare that swing to his 2013 World Series swing, they are drastically different. Maybe he will be healthy this year and return to his true form.
However, even if he does have a great year, he still is not worth the money just because of his inconsistencies alone. Let him go after the 2018 season.