Coming into a season as an alleged “super prospect” does not always work well for a major league ballplayer. Xander Bogaerts would know all about it, as he has been either at or near the top of prospect lists for the past few seasons. His performance in the 2013 postseason reinforced his star prospect status, and much was expected of him in 2014. There could be a fair argument that too much was expected of a 21-year-old shortstop with only about a month and a half’s worth of major league experience, and needless to say Bogaerts has performed well below expectation in 2014. Until now. Since the beginning of September, Bogaerts has been a complete house on fire, and is (again) giving both the Red Sox and their fans reason to hope for big things in 2015.
Bogaerts has had an uneven season, to say the least. Before the completely unnecessary Stephen Drew signing in mid-May, Bogaerts was having a solid season. From the beginning of the season up until Drew’s signing on May 20, Bogaerts put together a respectable .270/.372/.378 line, with a .341 wOBA and 115 wRC+. Now this obviously does not come in a huge sample size (172 plate appearances), but a season’s worth of production at that level would at least have a player in the conversation for the Rookie of the Year Award. But as Red Sox fans are well aware, the subsequent move to third base (again unnecessary) seemed to unravel Bogaerts entirely. From that point until the end of August, he struggled to a .201/.252/.313 line, exhibiting shaky (at best) shortstop defense. But perhaps the midseason dump of Drew to the Yankees (who better) was the motivation needed for Bogaerts to find his stroke. There is something to be said for job security, and moving back to a more natural defensive position could have been the spark to Bogaerts’ recent revival.
The revival in question much resembles last October, when Red Sox Nation sat in awe of the young shortstop. Since the beginning of the month, Bogaerts has been a completely different player entirely, as if there was an imposter in his place up to that point. While coming in another admittedly small sample size (just 61 PA), Bogaerts’ line in September currently sits at .368/.383/.649, with an incredible .444 wOBA and 186 wRC+. Whether there have been changes in Bogaerts’ stance, swing, or approach are tough to judge in such a small sample, but whatever he is currently doing is working.
After such a miserable season for Bogaerts, both at the plate and in the field, it is vital that he end the season on a good note. The Red Sox need Bogaerts to prove that he is in fact the shortstop of the future, and that the shortstop job should unquestionably be his going into Spring Training. A stretch like this is exactly what he needs to regain his confidence going into next year, and to help transform him into the superstar that was on display last fall.