Heading into the 2015 season the Red Sox needed someone to step up and solidify the SS position. While Xander Bogaerts was certainly always billed as the next to fill in and take over for years to come, he struggled in 2014 and some concerns started to arise. But after the Red Sox fully committed to him at SS in 2015, he turned it around and had mini breakout.
He would go one to post a, .320/7 HR/81 RBI/10 SB/84 R line, which turned out to be a solid find for those owners who took a flier on him at the draft. Now with those kind of numbers, one would think that Bogaerts season should be classified as a full breakout season, but there is still room for fantasy growth.Bogaerts became one of the top SS options last season thanks largely to a new approach at the plate and by making more solid contact. He altered his approach and swing by getting deeper into counts when he could, but also becoming more aggressive at swinging at pitches in the zone.
This led to a 2% uptick in his LD rate and an increase in his Med%, or medium contact rate, by nearly 5% last season. This goes to show owners that last season cannot be merely chalked up to luck at the plate which his .372 BABIP may allude to. While his BABIP will surely drop, it should not completely fall off after his fundamental changes at the plate. His increased contact rates also drove up his RBI output as he was able to consistently get hits and put balls in play when those opportunities came about.
One other positive element of Bogaerts season, was that his was able to go to all fields as his splits were nearly identical either pulling the ball, going to center field, or going the opposite way. (In 2015 his splits were, 33.8% Pulled, 34.2% Center, 32% Oppo%, compared to in 2014, where he posted 47% Pull, 33.7% Center, and 19.3% Oppo.)
All signs point to him being able to maintain production and continue to be a solid all-around hitter at the plate heading forward.
But, the biggest bugaboo fantasy owners could have with Bogaerts, was the lack of power production. While I think he could steal more bases, he never has shown that ability throughout the minors nor in the MLB so owner’s shouldn’t seek him out for that. However, there appears to be a power upside in Bogaerts and it seems as though it’s more of a matter of “when” not “if” it will come. He has had both a 15 HR and 20 HR campaign in the minors, so the power seems to exist and he was able to hit 12 HR in the majors in 2014 so one would think he can flirt with the 15 HR mark in the future.
With the SS position being so weak, Bogaerts could regress even slightly and still be a top 10 option. But, with his change in approach and solid contact rates increasing, it has to lead some to believe that he can keep developing and more of his doubles should ultimately turn into HR.
Outside of Carlos Correa and Troy Tulowitzki, I think that Bogaerts certainly deserves to be ranked next in line and be just about the third SS selected next season. His stats point to an even bigger breakout possibly on the horizon and his baseline stats offer owners with some comfortability, which is the best of both worlds for owners.His environment in encouraging and the Red Sox lineup should even rebound some in 2016, so his counting stats should remain solid.
For those that want to lock up a fantasy SS, Bogaerts belongs right near the top of the list next season and owners should feel no qualms in leaving the draft with him in the spring. 2016 Early Projections: .290 AVG/15 HR/75 RBI/10 SB/85 R