Red Sox fans are a spoiled bunch in 2016. Not only is their team in first place, but they get to watch one of the greatest starting pitchers of his generation (David Price) and one of the best closers ever (Craig Kimbrel), not to mention the greatest designated hitter and clutch hitter of all-time (David Ortiz). They’re also likely seeing the best second baseman their franchise has ever had (Dustin Pedroia), as well as someone with the potential to be the best shortstop in team history (Xander Bogaerts). It wasn’t too long ago, however, that Nomar Garciaparra was making his case as one of the best shortstops to ever wear a Sox jersey. Which begs the question: is Bogaerts the next Nomar?
Is Bogaerts the Next Nomar?
From 1996-2004, Boston was blessed with one of the most talented shortstops to ever play the game . A two-batting champion, Garciaparra also owned 30-homer power, 20-steal speed and Gold Glove-caliber defense to boot. Garciaparra could do it all, playing at a Hall of Fame level for nearly a decade before injuries derailed his career.
Now, 20 years after Garciaparra’s debut, the Red Sox have another shortstop with similar physical gifts. Bogaerts currently leads the American League in average at .351, is on pace to go 20-20 and has emerged as one of the better defensive shortstops in the game. He’s only 23, the same age Garciaparra was when he made his Major League debut two decades ago.
Is Bogaerts the next Nomar? It’s certainly possible. They’re alike in so many ways, starting with their elite contact skills. Both are exceptional at getting the bat on the ball and, when they do, hitting it hard. Garciaparra was the rare batting champion with power, topping 70 extra-base hits in both years he won the crown. If Bogaerts keeps his average up and continues his current 20-homer, 50-double pace, so will he.
They also have wheels to go with their impressive power. Garciaparra stole 22 bases in 1997, the same number that Bogaerts is on track to swipe this year. The speed that helped Garciaparra get doubles on wall-balls and triples into the gaps is also evident in Bogaerts, who had a better base running score than Mike Trout last year according to FanGraphs.
Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, they’re both great defenders, making them complete ballplayers. Garciaparra never won a Gold Glove, but he had great range and was widely regarded as a good defensive shortstop before injuring his Achilles. Bogaerts, most Red Sox observers agree, has dramatically improved his defense since arriving in the Major Leagues three years ago, to the point where he’s now a clear positive at the position.
Much of the attention focused on the Red Sox lately has been centered around Jackie Bradley Jr.’s 29-game hit streak, which came to an end last Thursday. With his pursuit of history over (for now), it’s time to start paying attention to Bogaerts, who’s riding a 22-game hit streak of his own. The last Sox shortstop to have such a hitting streak? Nomar Garciaparra, who ran off a 30-gamer in 1997.
Is Bogaerts the next Nomar? Only time will tell.