Xander Bogaerts Giving Red Sox Hope in 2015

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.

A Closer Look At RedSox Rookies Xander Bogaerts & Jackie Bradley Jr

It’s safe to say at this point that the Red Sox newfound philosophy of “bringing up the kids” did not go as planned.

Red Sox rookies Xander Bogaerts and Jackie Bradley Jr. looked to be promising contributors going into the season. Bradley earned his starting job in spring training, while Bogaerts proved himself more than deserving of manning shortstop with his 2013 post-season campaign. Each were expected to carry their weight in what, on paper, figured to be one of the better lineups in the American League.

Starting the kids seemed like the right gamble to take this year, after the magical 2013 season. We all expected that there would be some small bumps in the road with the continual development of the youngsters. What we did not expect was a bump that was just about as big as the 2014 season itself.

With a good start to September, Bogaerts’ batting average is now up to .237 to go along with 37 RBIs. Perhaps the worst part has been the dismal .147 batting average with runners in scoring position, and an even uglier .115 batting average with RISP and two outs – a totally different player from last years postseason campaign to say the least. Bradley Jr., while playing an elite center field, owns a .213 batting average of his own, and at times has really struggled to produce at the dish before his demotion in August.

It’s hard to tell whether the blame is put more on the Red Sox organization or the players. Take Bradley Jr. for example. With the recent rumor that Bradley Jr. was deemed “uncoachable” by not being open to the idea of working with the hitting staff to change his swing, it’s unclear the truth behind the matter and who is at fault here. Maybe Bradley Jr. displayed some stubbornness, or maybe the hitting staff unnecessarily toyed around with his swing one too many times, which Bradley Jr. reportedly said a week before his demotion in August.

Similar situation with Bogaerts, and his early season struggles at shortstop. The Sox told the 21 year old to shift over to third base in favor of Stephen Drew. The move was not exactly a vote of confidence for the Rookie, as he hit .135 while playing third base upon Drew’s arrival at the beginning of June. Maybe the move was premature, or maybe he really didn’t have the mental toughness that was called into question.

 

red sox rookies

My opinion is that it is fair to give much of the blame to the Red Sox front office- not so much for what went on during the season, but for the situation. And by that, I mean they were hurried up to the big leagues. They just weren’t ready yet, and it showed. Their weaknesses were exposed. The pressure got to them. They were immature, unprepared and underdeveloped. So much so, that their lack of experience played into how they handled each’s respective struggles. What’s most frustrating is that these guys have the potential to be great players, and we certainly have seen flashes of this season.

We can only hope that if the Red Sox continue to go the route of integrating the kids as part of this organization’s future, they’ll know when they’ll be ready to call them up and for how long. You can’t risk this again with the likes of Marrero, Cecchini, Owens or Barnes, who was called up on Monday. A team with the fourth highest salary can certainly buy both big league caliber player and the time to develop its farm system.

 

Joe Kelly Makes Solid Red Sox Debut, Red Sox Defeat Cardinals 2-1

There was much anticipation before Joe Kelly’s debut with the Red Sox in St. Louis, in that he was facing both his former team and one of his best friends. St. Louis’s starter, Shelby Miller, was Kelly’s best man at his wedding and the two are reportedly very close, adding an interesting wrinkle to the second of three contests between last October’s World Series opponents. Kelly also received several standing ovations from the grateful crowd at Busch Stadium. Brandon Workman will oppose Adam Wainwright in St. Louis tonight to decide the winner of the three game series. Some more notes from last night’s 2-1 Red Sox win:

  • Joe Kelly made a solid start against his former team. Kelly’s final line on the night came out to 7 IP 3 H 1 ER 4 BB 2 K, while throwing 53 of 97 pitches for strikes. Kelly seemed to struggle with his command early on, as evidenced by the four walks, but he seemed to settle in as the game went on. Those command issues could certainly be reasonably explained by some jitters against facing his old team in their ballpark for the first time. The two strikeouts were also a bit low, especially since Kelly shows plus stuff most times, but he is not a pitcher that lives and dies with the strikeout. Kelly has a career K/9 mark of just 5.97, but his career 52.2% groundball rate (56.6% this season) suggests that he can still be effective without missing many bats, as evidenced by his start last night.
  • Xander Bogaerts had himself a pretty good night on both sides of the ball. Bogaerts made a nice diving play to help get Kelly out of a first-and-third jam and end the second inning, showing much greater comfort and skill at shortstop than he had at third base. Since the trade of Stephen Drew to the Yankees, Bogaerts has been much better defensively, which in turn has seemed to give him a much-needed confidence boost. Bogaerts also drove in both of the Red Sox’ runs in the game; the first on a two-out double to score Daniel Nava in the fourth inning, then he lifted a sacrifice fly to score Yoenis Cespedes and give the Red Sox the lead in the top of the ninth. A surge by Bogaerts would be a huge boost to the Red Sox lineup, as well as set him up for a breakout season in 2015.
  • Even though he wasn’t in the starting lineup, David Ortiz still left his mark on the game when he pinch-hit for Nava with runners at second and third and no outs in the top of the ninth. The Cardinals elected to intentionally walk Ortiz (who was promptly pinch-run for by Jackie Bradley Jr.) and pitch to Bogaerts instead. Looks like they learned their lesson last October about pitching to David Ortiz with runners in scoring position.
  • The Red Sox bullpen was excellent in support of Kelly’s strong start. Junichi Tazawa and Koji Uehara combined for two shutout innings in relief, with Uehara recording his 23rd save in the process.