The emergence of Xander Bogaerts was the top takeaway from the Red Sox dismal 2015 season. The 23-year-old shortstop had a legitimate breakout season, batting.320 — trailing only four-time league batting champion Miguel Cabrera — and appears to be on the verge of stardom.
In 156 games, Bogaerts compiled a .776 OPS, tops among American League shortstops. His 45 extra base hits 81 RBI — not to mention significantly improved defense — made Bogaerts the best all-around shortstop to wear a Red Sox uniform since Nomar Garciaparra’s prime years of 1998 – 2000.
A work in progress, Bogaerts sacrificed power for batting average last season. After hitting 13 home runs in his first 582 major league at bats, Bogaerts hit just 7 homers last season. Spraying the ball to all fields, while also finding the gaps, Bogaerts exploited defensive shifts by hitting to the open areas. The result was a higher batting average and increased production — more hits with runners on base while batting third in the batting order for much of the season.
Recently, Bogaerts has been working with hitting coach Chili Davis on harnessing his natural power. Davis is encouraging Bogaerts to still use the entire field, but to also take advantage of the game’s circumstances — turning on pitches on favorable counts and pulling the ball in the right situations.
Manager John Farrell has experimented with batting Bogaerts clean up, hoping to maximize the rising star’s production. Hitting behind Mookie Betts, Dustin Pedroia and David Ortiz will give Bogaerts more RBI opportunities, possibly enhanced with additional power. With his baseball IQ on par with his on-the-field proficiency, Bogaerts could be the anchor of the Red Sox lineup for many years to come.
Bogaerts is already entering his seventh season with the Red Sox. Impressed by his athletic ability and live bat, the Red Sox signed Bogaerts at the age of 17 out of his native Aruba for $410,000. As a teenager, Bogaerts impressed off the field at the World Baseball Classic, displaying people skills and speaking fluently to reporters in four different languages (English, Spanish, Dutch and Papiamento). One of his most limited baseball cards is the 2013 Topps Tribute World Baseball Classic Game Worn Jersey, which is limited to a production run of 67.
Bogaerts’ 2012 Bowman Chrome “First Card”, generally regarded as a rookie, is readily available, while the “Refractor Autograph” version is limited and highly coveted.