There may not be a player on this list to have taken a bigger step than Xander Bogaerts did personally last season. While it was a down year for the Boston Red Sox, Bogaerts established himself as the leader of the team and one of baseball’s best. Somehow still just 27 years old, he is now entering his prime years as a player and you can feel it when he plays. In past seasons, he was hindered by a wrist injury that affected his play. In 2019 with nothing to stop him, he exploded to have the best season of his career and best of any Red Sox, including former teammate Mookie Betts.
In a year where he won his third Silver Slugger award for the shortstop, Bogaerts hit a career-high in home runs with 33, 10 better than his previous best. He also drove in the most runs of his career with 117 and managed to smash 52 doubles. 2019 was his first season batting over .300 since 2015, showing he may have finally put it all together as Red Sox fans had hoped. This was all good to give him a fifth-place finish for the MVP award.
With Betts out of the picture, it’s clear whose team it is now. Bogaerts will sit in the middle of the order with what can be presumed as one of the best lineups in baseball again, even without the former MVP in it. Bogaerts settled into the three spot for the better part of the season. Reports came out during spring training that the lineup would look something like Andrew Benintendi at leadoff, Rafael Devers at two, Bogaerts three, and J.D. Martinez filling at cleanup. That remains one of the best top of the lineups in baseball, giving Bogaerts a great chance to explode for another season.
The Red Sox expectations are at a low following the trade of Betts and Chris Sale going down with Tommy John surgery. Understandable in every sense of the word, but Bogaerts’ play and leadership could make the Red Sox one of the surprises of the 60 game season.
Yes, he is only at the eighth spot on this list, but his play has clearly gotten better and by this time next year, he could be in the midst of defending an AL MVP. That’s how good he is. Time for him to show the world once again.