It’s Time to Shoot Xander Bogaerts into Space

As I approach the wrong side of thirty, I find myself shifting preferences when it comes to video games. While my earlier days were filled with shooters or the latest Madden game, I now play more low-key offerings. I’ll still throw in a Bioshock ever now and again, but my game playing time is for more serene these days. Less quick-twitch shooting, more strategy. I play a lot of Civilization V. I play a lot of Out of the Park Baseball. And lately, I’ve been playing a LOT of Kerbal Space Program.

Kerbal Space Program is a sort-of simulator in which you control an alien race that is trying to explore space. You build rockets, achieve goals, and push to discover as much as possible. It’s insanely fun. In fact, as I typed those last few sentences I had to fight a strong urge to save what I was writing and fire the game up again. You start off with small goals — break the planet’s atmosphere, achieve gravitational orbit, land on one of the planet’s moons, etc. But after all that is done, it’s time for interplanetary travel. This is where things get tricky. Not only do you need to design rockets that toe the fine line between needed fuel and mass, you need to check and double check every stage of your rocket to make sure things execute as desired. You don’t want to leave one of your adorable cosmonauts floating around in space with no fuel to get home. There’s a ton of planning and designing to do and when you’re confident you have what you need … you wait.

See, when you’re ready to go to another planet, you can’t shoot out of the atmosphere willy nilly and go. You have to be in proper alignment. If your destination is behind the sun relative to your location, you can’t point and shoot. The stupid sun is in the way. Also, there are gravitational forces at work. In order to conserve fuel, you need to have gravity work for you. Therefor, your destination must align perfectly with your point of origin in order to assure proper trajectory. In Kerbal Space Program, this means waiting. This also means the takeoff windows are fairly small. When the planets align, you have to be ready. This, of course, is a terrible and terribly long analogy for baseball and player development. I could go longer, but I won’t. Instead, I want to talk about Xander Bogaerts.

The planets have aligned for Bogaerts, both metaphorically and analogically. Stephen Drew is gone, and, at least at this point, doesn’t seem to be coming back. Even if he did, it would be likely Bogaerts would take over at third, pushing out Will Middlebrooks. This leaves the reigning World Series champions with an infielder who possesses very little big league experience. This is no ordinary shortstop prospect, however. Bogaerts ranks near the very top of every significant prospect list around. He had a good showing in the 2013 playoffs. Leaving him at AAA, even to start the season, wouldn’t be beneficial to the team or the player. Ready or not, Bogaerts is getting shot into space. But what is to be expected of a 21-year-old shortstop? Can Bogaerts play well enough to make Boston look smart to pass on re-signing Drew?

One way we can guess is by looking at projections. Steamer projects him to be worth about two and half wins above replacement in 2014. Most of this value comes from his glove. Bogaerts had a .374 wOBA in his last season at AAA, and hit well in the 2013 postseason, but Steamer sees his batting to be just about league average in his first full season in the bigs. This is not a bad thing, as his defense can certainly make up for that. ZiPS projects him to be worth about the same amount of wins, with a little more offensive production and a little less defensive value. His number one comparison, according to ZiPS, is Troy Tulowitzki. This is a good thing, and we’ll circle back to that in a little bit. But for the sake of argument, let’s say Bogaerts will be an average-ish hitter with a better-than-average-ish glove. As it happens, this lines up fairly well with two other young shortstops that got thrown in the mix early within recent years.

One that got a trial by fire was Elvis Andrus. Andrus was never ranked as high of a prospect as Bogaerts, but did crack Baseball America’s Top 20 in 2007. Andrus also hit the bigs a year earlier that Bogaerts, as a 20-year-old. But the bigs was about all he hit that year, putting up an 81 wRC+ and a pedestrian on-base percentage. Andrus was an asset in the field, however, worth 13.3 UZR/150. He also provided a few runs of value on the base paths. All in all, he was worth about three wins, certainly a respectable number for a 20-year-old. While Andrus’ value in the field has remained fairly constant, his hitting has never sneaked a peek above league-average. He hovered around that line for a couple years, but has seen a drop off again in 2013. Given Bogaert’s early successes and his penchant for being a highly-ranked prospect, I imagine many would see his career path as a bit of a disappointment if it followed that of Andrus’.

Of course we can’t talk about inconsistent young shortstops if we didn’t mention Starlin Castro. Castro was ranked as the 16th best prospect by Baseball America in 2009, and got his call fairly early into the 2010 season, also as a 20-year-old. He had a similar start to Andrus, providing minimal impact with his bat and counteracting that with his glove. He was a slightly better hitter, but a slightly worse fielder than Andrus, and ended his rookie campaign worth two wins. It’s been a roller coaster since. He started hitting better, then that died down while his defense improved. In 2013, the wheels fell off at the plate, and he ended the season worth -0.1 WAR. Castro has been reported to have some work ethic issues, so that could be part of it, and Steamer sees a bounce-back year in 2014. Still, this would also be a suboptimal result for Bogaerts.

Then, there’s Mr. ZiPS Comp himself, Troy Tulowitzki. Tulo exploded onto the scene in 2007, his first full season. As a 22-year-old, he provided outstanding defense and held his own with the bat, amassing 5.2 WAR when it was all said and done. He narrowly missed the Rookie of the Year award, losing to Ryan Braun by two votes (though Tulo was worth more wins, due mostly to his defense). The main issue with Tulowitzki is his struggles to stay on the field. He seems to flip-flop healthy years and hurt years, though he’s always managed to be productive when healthy. He’s been a very solid defender and has shown a solid mix of hitting and power abilities. His baserunning abilities have dropped, but that’s to be expected from a 28-year-old injury risk playing a premium position. If Bogaerts can follow a similar trajectory as a young (hopefully healthy) Tulowitzki, that would bode well for Boston and their chances at staying at the top of the American League.

Xander Bogaerts is coming, whether you, I, Bogaerts, or John Farrell like it or not. He’s got his work cut out for him, and a lot of different ways his season can go. He could be a no-hit, all-glove shortstop, or one with enough pop in his bat to push him to the upper echelon of the league. His path to glory is littered with a few carcasses of the fallen, but he certainly has a chance. If he succeeds, he’ll be a very important cog in a defending championship team. If he fails, we’ll chalk up another young infield prospect on the list of could-have-beens. Then, we’ll wait for Carlos Correa.



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David G. Temple is the Managing Editor of TechGraphs and a contributor to FanGraphs, NotGraphs and The Hardball Times. He hosts the award-eligible podcast Stealing Home. Dayn Perry once called him a "Bible Made of Lasers." Follow him on Twitter @davidgtemple.


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cass
Guest
cass
2 years 5 months ago

This is like a really weird FanGraphs/NotGraphs hybrid post. I’m kinda disappointed not to see a badly photoshopped gif of Bogaerts being shot into space.

The Ancient Mariner
Guest
The Ancient Mariner
2 years 5 months ago

If Jeff Sullivan had written it, you would have.

The Narrative Strikes Again
Guest
2 years 5 months ago

Was hoping for Xander is a space suit, myself.

joser
Guest
joser
2 years 5 months ago

I have to say I would not even have clicked on it if not for the headline. But I didn’t know what to expect, so I wasn’t really disappointed. However, a badly-Photoshopped gif would have been the surprise icing on the cake.

Gus
Guest
Gus
2 years 5 months ago

I honestly thought it said:

“It’s Time to Shoot Xander Bogaerts in the Face.”

Was momentarily concerned that these guys were nihilists.

Word
Guest
Word
2 years 4 months ago

When I read the headline, I assumed this was written by Jeff Sullivan or Carson.

tz
Guest
tz
2 years 5 months ago

Bottom line:

– Should be about league average all around in 2014, same as Stephen Drew but much cheaper.

– Has the potential, given his size, skills, and minor league record, to grow into being another Tulo.

The “trajectory” could of course take many forms.

NS
Guest
NS
2 years 5 months ago

I don’t think he has the potential to ever be Tulo defensively.

The Narrative Strikes Again
Guest
2 years 5 months ago

Just thinking about him playing in Fenway 81 games per year is just mouth-watering. The runs scored, the RBIz, the OPS, my God…

Fredchuckdave
Guest
2 years 5 months ago

Less Kerbal, more Paradox strategy games.

dicenslice
Guest
dicenslice
2 years 5 months ago

Crusader Kings 2 has ruined my social life.

CM52
Member
CM52
2 years 5 months ago

“He could be a no-hit, all-glove shortstop”

I have to wonder if you’ve ever watched him play. If he ever becomes no-hit, he’s not a major league player.

NS
Guest
NS
2 years 5 months ago

Have to think that was miswritten. All-hit, no-glove is a possibility.

CM52
Member
CM52
2 years 5 months ago

Based on the context of the quote, I’m pretty sure he meant what he wrote. Not to mention, he’ll never be a no-glove shortstop, because he’d just move somewhere else if that’s the case.

Cool Lester Smooth
Guest
Cool Lester Smooth
2 years 5 months ago

…or he won’t. See Jeter, Derek.

potcircle
Guest
potcircle
2 years 5 months ago

jeter used to be good… my guess is bogaerts would already be at 3b if the sox had a ss as good as middlebrooks is at 3b…

utley4ever
Member
utley4ever
2 years 5 months ago

when was jeter good? Even if you don’t like total zone rating, and think jeter really is better than those numbers make him out to be, it is a stretch to say he actually was good at defense

Cool Lester Smooth
Guest
Cool Lester Smooth
2 years 5 months ago

Yeah, he may have been adequate at the start, he was never good.

Jose Iglesias
Guest
Jose Iglesias
2 years 5 months ago

I laugh in your face.

CM52
Member
CM52
2 years 5 months ago

The point
.
.
.
.
Your head

My thoughts exactly...
Guest
My thoughts exactly...
2 years 5 months ago

Temple just described Bizarro Bogaerts. If anything, he’ll be offensive guy who can hardly field his position, not the other way around.

Fardbart
Guest
Fardbart
2 years 5 months ago

As others have said, XanderB projects as a mediocre (at best) defender with an elite bat. If he doesn’t hit he’s a bust

RC
Guest
RC
2 years 5 months ago

“As others have said, XanderB projects as a mediocre (at best) defender”

I keep hearing stuff like this, and it just seems silly to me.

There’s talk that long term, he’ll get too big to stay at SS, but there’s absolutely no question right now that he’s not only a SS, but a pretty good one right now.

Tulo is a very good comp. There were questions on whether or not he could stick at SS because of his size.

JasonBVT
Guest
JasonBVT
2 years 5 months ago

Early on in his career, he was a very poor defensive SS. In addition to concerns of “growing out of SS” he also couldn’t defend it. Since then he’s worked very hard to become an average SS: that’s it. None of his defensive tools are anything more than average, but an average SS is still a valuable asset especially when he can hit as well as Bogaerts should.

Cool Lester Smooth
Guest
Cool Lester Smooth
2 years 5 months ago

This.

RC
Guest
RC
2 years 5 months ago

” None of his defensive tools are anything more than average, ”

Except the scouts say that the only one of his tools that isn’t above average is his arm.

Pretty much every negative defensive opinion of him is based on the fact that hes 6’3″, and that hes probably going to be a lot bigger than 185 in a couple years.

Atreyu Jones
Guest
Atreyu Jones
2 years 5 months ago

If you “keep hearing it” maybe your assertion that there is “no question” that he’s a pretty good SS right now is not accurate.

RC
Guest
RC
2 years 5 months ago

I “keep hearing it” from ignorant people on this website.

Scouts keep saying hes better than average and is a natural SS.

“He could be Troy Tulowitzki with a little less arm, and that’s an MVP-caliber player.” -Keith Law on Bogaerts

RC
Guest
RC
2 years 5 months ago

BP on Bogaerts and Javier Baez

“Bogaerts got a bad rap, and I’m not sure why. There were many who immediately wrote him off as a shortstop, but there was always a crew that defended its possibility. Baez doesn’t have quite that same support, but he has the hands to stay there. Projections are tricky however, especially when it comes to projecting how a young man’s body will develop. In fact, sometimes its borderline creepy.”

Pretty much all the reports of him being a below average SS are from when he was 18.

Atreyu Jones
Guest
Atreyu Jones
2 years 5 months ago

OK, I see what you mean.

Dr. Who
Guest
Dr. Who
2 years 5 months ago

Bogaerts doesn’t need a rocket. He can take my TARDIS any time.

But seriously. This article reminded me of Scott Boras’ astronaut analogy with the NY Mets. That made it even more enjoyable.

The Narrative Strikes Again
Guest
2 years 5 months ago

TARDIS comments are always welcome here.

joser
Guest
joser
2 years 5 months ago

Like a lot of sites, this one is always bigger on the inside.

Frank
Guest
2 years 5 months ago

I don’t know if I like the idea of something else good happening for the Red Sox. Or even worse, explaining it to my children.

MrKnowNothing
Guest
MrKnowNothing
2 years 5 months ago

I enjoy flowing, semi-stream of conscience writing. But, man, THREE PARAGRAPHS???!?!? before really starting the piece?

George
Guest
George
2 years 5 months ago

This sounds like it was written by someone who doesn’t really know much about Bogaerts other than what it says on his fangraphs page.

Newcomer
Member
Newcomer
2 years 5 months ago

I might’ve gone with “Xander’s Game.” Or “Xander’s Game: Shooting Bogaerts into Space.”

Bill Andrews
Guest
Bill Andrews
2 years 5 months ago

I’m not sure what the point of this whole article is, or even if there is one. But I’m pretty sure Farrell is damn happy to have him.

Nick
Guest
Nick
2 years 5 months ago

I don’t think anyone thinks Bogaerts glove is going to carry him in any sense. How much weight do we really give defensive projections for a guy with like 15 games under his belt? Any?

Cybo
Guest
Cybo
2 years 5 months ago

You definitely sold me on giving Kerbal Space Program a try. That game sounds fun.

Satoshi Furukawa
Guest
2 years 5 months ago

More outer space, please!

BostonPerson
Guest
BostonPerson
2 years 4 months ago

How soon is too soon to draft this guy in a keeper league? It’s a keep-5, no money, so the first round is basically the 6th round.

Jack
Guest
Jack
2 years 4 months ago

If their aren’t prices linked to the player the 5th or 6th seems fair, if he goes earlier then a guy like Baez would be a fine replacement, without forcing an overpay.

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