Xander Bogaerts is the best shortstop in the league and is overlooked by many. He came up in the Sox system and people marked him as a guy who had a 30 homer bat. The power hasn’t been there up to this stage in his career but even if he doesn’t develop into a power hitter, Bogaerts is as good as it gets in the batters box in baseball. While teammate Jackie Bradley Jr. has a 27 game hitting streak, some may not know that Bogaerts has the second longest hitting streak in baseball at 16 games.
Bogaerts has recorded a hit in 28 of his last 30 games and leads the American League in batting average at .346. During his hit streak he is hitting .403 with five doubles, three homers and four RBI’s. The most impressive part of the streak is the three homers. While Bogaerts was tabbed as a guy who had power potential down on the farm, that power has never shown at the big league level.
Is Bogaerts the Best Shortstop?
Many said Bogaerts could eventually develop into a 30 homer bat at a shortstop position where that type of power is very hard to come by. To put it in perspective, the last time a shortstop hit 30 homers in a season was in 2011, done so by Troy Tulowitzki and J.J Hardy. If Bogaerts ends up hitting 30 homers in multiple seasons, he may end up being one of the best offensive shortstops ever to play the game. Still 23 years old, Bogaerts could end up hitting in the 20-25 homer range at best. I do not see that happening until at least 25 years old though as he continues to evolve as a major league hitter. If the power doesn’t develop, what is Bogaerts potential?
Sox fans may remember a guy named Derek Jeter. When watching Bogaerts hit all I can think of is Jeter. They both spray the ball all over the field and are extremely tough to get out. The most homers Jeter hit in a season was 24, done so in 1999, his fifth season in the big leagues. Bogaerts is in his fourth season this year and will likely finish around 15-20 homers. Jeter got off to a faster start in his major league career than Bogaerts but Bogaerts figured it out last season having a better third season than Jeter had.
The comparison to Jeter may come off as far fetched but having the luxury of watching both of them play has been awesome and they are both very similar hitters offensively. Bogaerts still has a lot of time to cement his own legacy in the game and his great season last year followed by his torrid start this season should have Sox fans excited as we may have the new Jeter wearing number two in a Sox uniform.
Boston Red Sox bench player, Josh Rutledge, has been a bright spot for the team this season as a reliable option off the bench. With the Sox struggling to hit left handed pitchers this season, Rutledge’s ability to do so is invaluable to this team.
The Sox as a team this season have struggled mightily against left handed pitchers, hitting just .226 as a team with a meager three home runs in 186 at bats. Rutledge has provided the team with a reliable bat against lefties this season, hitting .625 thus far, albeit in a small sample size, just eight at bats. He has shown improvement against left handers throughout his young career. In his first two seasons, he hit just .247 as a rookie and then .196 against them in his second year. The last two years have provided a different story as Josh Rutledge has come around picking up pitches from lefties, hitting .321 in 2014 followed by .318 last season and now off to the strong start this year. Coming off the bench primarily, Rutledge is the preferred option when a left handed specialist comes into the game.
In Friday night’s game, Josh Rutledge was called upon to pinch hit for catcher Christian Vazquez against New York Yankees left handed relief pitcher, Andrew Miller. Miller is one of the best all around relievers in the business and Rutledge furthered the notion that he has figured out lefties by ripping a single up the middle off of Miler to start the ninth inning. If Rutledge continues hitting like this, he might find himself starting at third base when the team is facing a southpaw. Sox starting third baseman Travis Shaw is hitting just .083 against lefties and is a big part of the team’s struggles against them. John Farrell should consider inserting Rutledge in the starting lineup at third base for Shaw against left handers. However, until Farrell realizes that this is the right move, Rutledge will continue to provide the team with offense off of the bench as a pinch hitter.
For a guy making only $15 K more than the major-league minimum, and who wasn’t even guaranteed a roster spot during Spring Training, Daniel Nava is making quite an impact. After smashing rousing, go-ahead home runs in the home opener and in the Sox’ first game home after the Marathon tragedy, he’s continued to collect big hits all season with a professional approach that’s exemplary of this team’s no-BS style.
Through the Sox’ game on July 11th, in which Nava hit the game-winning single in the top of the 10th, the left fielder was hitting .293 and ranked 3rd and 4th on the club with 10 long balls and 52 RBIs, respectively. Up until a recent cold streak dropped his average below .300, his name was beginning to surface in All-Star talk, at least on local sports radio; Tigers manager Jim Leyland, this year’s AL All-Star manager, said Nava was still one of the toughest omissions from this year’s squad.
Nava’s emergence from that slump solidified his production this year as legit rather than lucky. It was hard for some to believe what they saw from him as he hit well over .300 for the season’s first two months; his pedigree, a player who didn’t even make his college team initially, certainly didn’t scream “MLB slugger.” But after battling back from a wicked skid that dropped his average almost 30 points; Nava has proven that he can hang with the big boys. His batting eye is impeccable, helping him post a .380 OBP. His at-bat during the Sox’ 10-inning win over Seattle was the epitome of his game: 0-5 and facing Todd Wilhemsen’s overpowering fastball, Nava hung tough and stayed within himself. He wasn’t enough of a natural hitter to turn on one of Wilhelmsen’s 98 MPH heaters, so he hung back on a breaking ball and grounded it sharply up the middle to score the eventual winning run. That same diligence has helped his defense improve from a liability to a considerable skill.
Having his first standout season at age 30, Nava is something of a late bloomer. But that he bloomed at all is a testament to his dedication, his attitude, and his love for the game. Hitting major-league pitching is almost genetic; it’s something many great players seem born to do. Nava isn’t among them, but he’s willed his way to the top. Better late than Nava.