2014 Fantasy Baseball: The Xander Bogaerts’ Era
We’re obsessed with up the middle the talent. Having bonafide top tier fantasy up the middle is the dream. It’s the holy grail. Mike Trout is fantastic, but if you could guarantee owners that Troy Tulowitzki would play 140+ games, he might be drafted ahead of Trout or Miguel Cabrera by a few people. Or they would at least have a case for doing so. Unfortunately, Tulowitzki has trouble staying on the field. Shortstop doesn’t stop with Tulowitzki, though. It falls off a great deal, but it doesn’t cease to exist. [am4show have=’p3;p4;p7;p11;’ guest_error=’Front Office’ user_error=’Front Office’ ]
Shortstop probably breaks down like this: Hanley Ramirez is good, but seldom healthy; Ben Zobrist is still good, but only getting older; Jean Segura might be fantastic, good, or maybe just ok; Ian Desmond has contact issues that limit his ceiling and might already be causing a decline; Andrelton Simmons is showing more power than expected, and is probably more valuable than most assume going forward; Jonathan Villar has an interesting combination of power and speed, but has stunted value in the runs and RBI categories; Starlin Castro might be weighed down by his approach, or perhaps he’s finding a nice middle ground; Alexei Ramirez and Elvis Andrus have value, but they’re not winning your league; then there’s a hodge podge of players that are helpful, but you’re not thrilled with ending up with them on draft day. It’s not an awe inspiring group, but there’s help already in the majors and more on the way. Javier Baez will be up eventually. As will Addison Russell and Carlos Correa, but the next fantasy stud as shortstop is already in the majors. His name is Xander Bogaerts.
As of this writing, Xander Bogaerts has been the 23rd best shortstop according to ESPN’s player rater. He should skyrocket up the list in short order, though, due to the maturity of his game. Bogaerts’ offensive abilities haven’t yet materialized into a ton of rotisserie production. He’s only crossed the plate 13 times; 16th most among shortstops. He’s only hit 1 home run (a blast off of Chris Sale). And he’s only driven in 5 runs; 21 most among his peers. But he stands out in many other areas.
Bogaerts’ patience has been phenomenal. So far this season, only 15 players have swung less frequently at pitches out of the strike zone than Bogaerts. And only 26 players have swung the bat less frequently overall. This type of approach doesn’t work for everyone – Starlin Castro, for example – but it works wonders for others – Jayson Werth, Joe Mauer, & Joey Votto come to mind. By no means am I comparing Bogaerts to the hitters above; he might never reach their level of production, but their plate discipline similarities are by design.
Hitting is difficult. Hitting with two strikes is even more difficult. The three men above don’t mind hitting with two strikes. Their bat-to-ball talent allows them to wait pitchers out and wait on their pitch. Bogaerts is doing his best to wait on his pitch.
As stated above, Bogaerts’ approach hasn’t shown through yet, except in his walk rate (12.9%; third best at SS) and on-base percentage (.379; also third best at SS). He’s still learning to tap into his power, but it’s fairly clear he’s going to have power in bunches in relative short order. His batted ball profile is also fairly balanced: 23.4% LD, 38.8% GB, and 37.5% FB. His distribution is balanced, but so is his approach. Bogaerts, unlike a lot of young players, has shown the willingness to hit the ball the other way throughout his short major league career.
Defensive shifts are prominent in the game today, but Bogaerts appears as if he’s going to be tough to shift on, which will only help him going forward.
Troy Tulowitzki doesn’t appear to be leaving his throne anytime soon, but Xander Bogaerts is giving us something to look forward to when that time comes. Despite his slow start in a few categories, I still view Bogaerts as a top 10 shortstop option going forward. Steamer projects him to hit the fifth most home runs among shortstops going forward with 12. His spot in the batting order is also very important. Boston’s offense should only get better going forward, and considering Bogaerts is usually slotted fifth or sixth in the order, RBI opportunities should be plentiful.
In short, if you’re discouraged, don’t be. Bogaerts should be fine going forward. We often forget that all rookies don’t light up the scoreboard right off the bat. Now that Bogaerts has had some time to get acclimated in Boston and big league pitching, he should be closer to taking off. His approach and game are too polished for him not to be good.