The Xander Bogaerts Comeback Tour is in Full Swing

Since Xander Bogaerts burst onto the scene with his 2013 rookie year playoff performance, his time with the Red Sox has had its fair share of ups and downs. Having only played 18 regular season games in 2013, Bogaerts came alive in Boston’s World Series run. Batting .296 with 2 RBI, giving Red Sox Nation a reason to be excited for this young shortstop.

Xander Bogaerts

His role increased dramatically in 2014 and thereafter; he hasn’t played in less than 140 games since the 2013 season. The shortstop position for the Red Sox has been a carousel since the departure of Nomar Garciaparra in 2004, and Xander Bogaerts looked to be the man to fill the void and finally afford the Red Sox some stability at one of the most important positions on the diamond.

Xander Bogaerts: Red Sox Shortstop

In 2014, Bogaerts’ first season as full-time shortstop, the 21-year-old left Red Sox Nation underwhelmed and wanting more, posting only a .240 batting average with 46 RBI in nearly 600 plate appearances.

Over the next two seasons, Bogaerts finally validated the excitement surrounding his rookie year with two consecutive Silver Slugger Awards. His batting average skyrocketed to .320 in 2015 and his RBI total nearly doubled. He showed even more improvement in 2016, driving in a career-high 89 runs and playing his way onto the American League All-Star Team for the first and only time in his young career.

Then 2017 happened. Bogaerts, battling a hand injury in the second half of the year, swung his way right back into Red Sox Nation’s doghouse, batting only .273 with a meager 62 RBI, despite playing in only 9 fewer games than his All-Star 2016 season.

The Future of Xander Bogaerts

With Boston’s significant grocery list of contractual obligations, Bogaerts’ future with the Red Sox after 2017 was uncertain. But through six games, it looks as if “X” is returning to his All-Star form.

Xander Bogaerts currently leads the team in batting average (.357), hits (10), and doubles (5). He joins Mookie Betts, Hanley Ramirez, and Eduardo Nunez as the team’s home run leaders with one so far.

Statistics aside, the eye-test alone is promising enough. Bogaerts is simply hitting the ball harder than last year, despite the small sample-size. While that may just be a result of his healthy hand, it also suggests that he may have figured out his swing after his first few seasons were plagued with inconsistency.

Will he be the Red Sox shortstop for years to come? Only time will tell, as this team is no stranger to instability at his position. His explosive start to the 2018 campaign is very promising, not only for his future, but for a Red Sox offense trying to find its rhythm and compete with the firepower of the Yankees.

The Sox have their first test against their rivals this Tuesday when the Yankees visit Fenway Park at 7:10pm.

Xander Bogaerts Must Prove His Worth

BOGAERTS

This year, the Red Sox are counting on several core superstars to rebound and carry the team towards contention. In particular, Boston needs greater production from Dustin Pedroia, Mike Napoli, Allen Craig and Shane Victorino if hopes of October baseball are to be realized. Yet, in the case of a few younger players, especially Xander Bogaerts, the Sox aren’t so much hoping for a rebound, but rather a full season that truly reflects who they are and what they can do. Quite frankly, it’s time for the kids to answer some questions and prove their worth.

As he progressed through the system, Bogaerts was hailed as the next great franchise cornerstone; a young, agile, cost-controlled solution to Boston’s chronic shortstop Bogaertsconundrum. In Derek Jeter’s nineteen-year span with the Yankees, the Red Sox used ten different shortstop, from John Valentin and Nomar Garciaparra to Julio Lugo and Stephen Drew. Xander Bogaerts, the Aruban kid who wears number 2 in homage to Jeter, was meant to be the long-term antidote to that problem.

Accordingly, in August 2013, aged 20 and with just 139 games of experience above Advanced-A ball, Bogaerts was promoted to the big leagues. He subsequently came up trumps in the playoffs, hitting .296 and getting on base at a .412 clip as the Sox battled past Tampa Bay, Detroit and St Louis en route to a World Series championship. The baseball world was duly stunned, fast-tracking this poised and powerful youngster into the elite realm inhabited by Giancarlo Stanton and Bryce Harper.

However, in 2014, Bogaerts epitomized the Red Sox’s struggles and failures; the heralded wunderkind, so full of potential and promise, ultimately struggling to perform and, at times, becoming truly painful to watch.

In his first full season of big league ball, Xander hit .240 with 12 home runs and 46 RBI; got on base at a disappointing .297 clip; and struck out 23.2 percent of the time. Occasionally, he showed glimpses of competent Major League ability, but those periods where usually offset by prolonged slumps. For instance, Bogaerts hit just .135 in June, .228 in July, and .159 in August, while showing fairly limited defensive skills in the field.

Playing on such a lackluster team didn’t help, and the changes back and forth between shortstop and third base, coupled with the lack of a regular slot in the batting order, surely caused disruption, but Sox fans couldn’t hide their disappointment with Bogaerts’ output.

Perhaps we all just expected far too much far too soon. After all, Xander doesn’t even turn 23 until October. The guy still has an abundance of talent and a bright future ahead. This spring, for instance, he has gotten off to a hot start, hitting two round-trippers and driving in six runs in his first thirteen plate appearances. However, in order to become truly valuable to the Red Sox, beyond the financial flexibility and long-term optimism his precocious, homegrown talent allows, Bogaerts must master at least one facet of the game.

Over the next year or two, he must become a distinguished hitter, fielder or baserunner, or risk becoming expendable in Beantown, especially with Hanley Ramirez, a three-time All-Star shortstop, on the roster, and Ben Cherington, an ambitious General Manager, counting his trade chips in pursuit of an ace.

Why Boston Red Sox Prospect Reed Gragnani Is Legit

gragnaniIn the 27th round of the 2009 MLB draft, the Boston Red Sox selected Reed Gragnani, a shortstop out of Mills E. Goodwin High School in Richmond, Virginia. The young shortstop declined Boston’s offer and headed for the University of Virginia to play for the Cavaliers. After four years of posting impressive numbers in college, including a summer in the Cape Cod League, Boston drafted Gragnani again— this time in the 21st round of the MLB draft. Gragnani accepted and headed for Lowell to start his professional career.
nike air jordan xiv
In Lowell, Gragnani quickly proved that he needed more of a challenge. After 14 games in short-season A ball, Gragnani was hitting .333 with a .411 OBP. In Greenville, Gragnani hit a respectable .259 with a .337 OBP in 38 games. On defense, Gragnani played primarily second base while mixing in some outfield and third base. After a solid showing in Greenville, Boston decided Gragnani would start the 2014 in high-A Salem.

So far this season, Gragnani has taken the Carolina League by surprise hitting .337 in 50 games totaling 184 at-bats while boasting a .433 OBP walking 32 times and striking out just 24 times. Better yet, against right-handed pitching, Gragnani is hitting .371 with a .455 OBP.
nike air jordan 11
Although he has yet to hit a home run, the second baseman seems like he already proved the Carolina League is too easy for him as well. Perhaps a promotion to AA would suit him well. Unfortunately for Gragnani, he has only been playing second base this year, making it harder for him to get a promotion. Luckily for him, Gragnani has plenty of experience all around the field so he could play a few more to add to his all around value. Also, with Mookie Betts being promoted and Sean Coyle moving away from the position, the second base job appears to be open in Portland and is calling Gragnani’s name.
nike air max uptempo
As far as his future goes, Gragnani appears to have a bright one. Although he is not a high ceiling guy so to speak, Gragnani is inching his way to the big leagues and could play a role as a valuable utility guy if all goes well. The two most important things that will play into his success are his plate discipline and his versatility. Gragnani is not the flashiest guy on the field hitting bombs or swiping bases, but he certainly gets the job done and does it well.

Overall, Reed Gragnani deserves more credit than he is given. He has really flown under the radar in Boston’s organization but has quietly been building quite an impressive resume.

Stephen Drew Not The Answer For The Red Sox

Stephen Drew

Jon Heyman of CBS Sports has reported that the Boston Red Sox have signed shortstop Stephen Drew for the rest of the 2014 season. Heyman is reporting that the deal is for around $10 million. It is the same deal as the $14.1 million qualifying offer Drew declined last offseason pro-rated for the remaining games this season.

Stephen Drew returns to the Red Sox, the team he won a World Series with last season. He hit .253 with 13 home runs and 67 RBIs in 2013. Drew also provided excellent defense, something that the Red Sox have not had in 2014.

Drew finished with the second-best fielding percentage among shortstops in the American League last year at .984. This year’s starting shortstop Xander Bogaerts currently ranks fifth in the league with a .974 fielding percentage. Bogaerts also leads the Red Sox in errors with four.

Not only will Stephen Drew help the Red Sox defensively, he could also help offensively as well. Last season, he hit .284 with nine home runs and 48 RBI against right-handed pitching. In 2014, the Red Sox are only hitting .240 against righties. 

Despite everything I wrote above, I’m not a big fan of this signing for many reasons. The first of which is that it doesn’t solve any of the team’s long-term issues at third base and shortstop

Boston signed Drew for rest of the 2014 season. So once the season is over, the Red Sox will be in the same situation as it was last offseason.

I know third baseman Will Middlebrooks, (who’s currently on the disabled list) has struggled at the plate so far this season and the Sox needed to make a move. I just don’t believe this move makes much sense for the future.

It is widely believed that the Red Sox are going to move Bogaerts to third base. When I attended Spring Training, players and coaches were all saying Bogaerts was their guy and they didn’t have any intentions on re-signing Drew. Despite their public confidence in Bogaerts, the Red Sox have given up on him playing shortstop, almost two months into the season.

I don’t know what fans and coaches expected. This is Bogaerts first full season in the majors, so of course he’s going to make mistakes. Signing Stephen Drew doesn’t help Bogaerts develop at shortstop in the long-term. At some point, you have to let Bogaerts play and then evaluate if he’s your long-term solution at shortstop.

If I thought the Stephen Drew signing was the move that would help the Red Sox regain their magic from 2013, then I would be thrilled. Yes he will improve the team defensively, but the Red Sox have a lot of other issues.

The Red Sox starting pitching has a 4.20 ERA, ranking them 11th in the American League. David Ortiz is the only real power-hitter in the lineup. Boston is only hitting .240 with runners in scoring position.

Drew is a nice signing, but he is not going to make a huge impact on this team. At 20-23, the Red Sox can still win the AL East, but this team has a lot of work to do if they want to repeat as World Series Champions. 

Pop Quiz: Red Sox Shortstop

Red Sox shortstop

John Farrell mulls the answers to my pop quiz

Let me first say that I love John Farrell and his no-BS, team-first style. That said it seems to me that he would have done exceptionally poorly on the following pop quiz. See how your answers stack up:

1. Which is a better batting average, .223 or .449?

2. Is it better to strike out 58 times in 184 at-bats, or 13 times in 71 at-bats?

3. You have a choice between a good defender and an amazing defender. Who do you pick?

4. Should the money on a guy’s contract affect whether you play him or not, or should you put your best team on the field every day?

5. If you have a prospect that’s finally showing the skills you’ve been asking for, is it better to give him consistent playing time on a daily basis, or to defer to an aging veteran with a knack for striking out in the clutch?

6. Who should be the Red Sox shortstop: Stephen “Stephanie” Drew, or Jose Iglesias?

Every game that Stephen Drew takes the field instead of Jose Iglesias is a game the Sox are not trying their best to win. It’s abundantly clear at this point that Jose Iglesias is the better of the two players, both defensively and offensively. Even if Drew picks it up at the plate and Iglesias cools off (both are probably inevitable), you’re going to have a hard time convincing me that Drew (.190 against lefties) is the better hitter; most of his home runs have come late in blowouts with nothing on the line. Even if Drew does prove to be a marginally better hitter, which I doubt, Iglesias’s defensive contributions more than outweigh that.

I don’t hate Stephen Drew; he’s a passable shortstop. But Jose Iglesias is more than a passable shortstop; Farrell owes it to the team to play him every day, and the team owes it to Iglesias to give him the playing time he’s earned. Right now, the only thing keeping Drew on the field is his $9.5 mil contract, and last I checked, a contract doesn’t help your batting average too much. The Sox should trade Drew for a utility guy so that he doesn’t complain in the clubhouse about playing time, because if the Sox (best record in the AL, second-best in the bigs) are serious about playing for October, it’s clear who should be Dustin Pedroia’s double play partner.

Jose Iglesias: Nothing More to Prove

Jose Iglesias

All glove, no bat; it’s a common, but often career-threatening classification for a middle infielder. With some basic athleticism, you can learn to field; with practice, you will inevitably improve, and many do. But practice alone isn’t enough to help you hit major league pitching; there’s something about hitting that you either have or you don’t. The result is a bunch of guys who are all glove, no bat.

That’s what we all thought of Jose Iglesias, and for a while, he didn’t do too much to prove us wrong. But Iglesias’s glove, the fielding ability that earned him the nickname “Silk Hands” (Best nickname ever? Maybe), was so spectacular that the Red Sox were forced to be optimistic about his development at the plate. They never claimed he’d be a good hitter; they just assured us that he’d be a passable hitter. When that’s all the ever-sanguine front office can muster, it’s pretty clear that a prospect doesn’t have too much of a future at the plate. Iglesias did little to disprove this when he hit a miserable .118 in 68 at-bats with the Sox last year. He looked overmatched by major-league fastballs, wasn’t disciplined, and had no pop. All glove, no bat and that wasn’t going to fly. The Sox wanted Iglesias at short, but he had to hit.

So he did. I’m not sure what switch he flicked, but Jose Iglesias has become a hitter. It’s not steroids – steroids help guys who can already hit the ball hit it harder. Iglesias went from looking lost at the plate to being a mature major league hitter. The .118 batting average? He’s at .446 with a 13 – game hit streak. Overmatched and without discipline? Iglesias has struck out twice in his last 10 games while walking five times and roping 17 hits. No pop? He has a homer (off Hiroki Kuroda, no less) and seven doubles in 6 more at-bats than it took him to hit a homer and two doubles last season. Ok, a career .257 minor-league hitter probably isn’t going to hit .450 for the rest of his time in the bigs. But even if Iglesias has to come back to earth, he’s not going to fall back to where he was. The one-time all glove, no bat shortstop is demonstrating abilities at the plate that he just didn’t have before. His swing has become a pretty, compact stroke that helps him catch up to inside pitches instead of popping them up; he’s hitting .536 off lefties. He approaches each at bat with grit, fouling off tough pitches and refusing to chase. Iglesias is going to cool off, but when he does, with his newfound tools, he’s going to be a much better than before – dare I say it, maybe even a good hitter.

And yet he’s not our starting shortstop. He has amassed this amazing stretch while playing third (and playing it brilliantly), but when Will Middlebrooks returns from the disabled list, Jose won’t have a spot in the starting lineup. John Farrell will get him some at-bats, bless his heart, but if the Sox are serious about making a run at their first playoff appearance in 4 years, shortstop should be Silk Hands’ to lose. Play Stephanie Drew at utility, trade him, whatever – Iglesias needs to play every day, because now, not only can he do this

Jose Iglesias

…but also this.

Jose Iglesias

 It would be a shame to miss out on both, because he’s got nothing more to prove.