The future position of Xander Bogaerts has become a hot button issue this season. Baseball Prospectus’ prospect guru Kevin Goldstein cited a potential move down the defensive spectrum, possibly even out of the infield, as a reason the 19-year-old didn’t make his mid-season top 50 prospect list.* Goldstein’s rationale drew the ire of many despite the commonly overlooked fact that Kevin is far more connected and knowledgeable than just about everyone who hurled accusations at him. Why does Boegarts’s future position rile up so many? Rabid Red Sox fans and the fantasy implications.
*To be fair to Kevin, he also cited Bogaerts’s streakiness as a hitter and noted he would have been 51st on his list and that Xander is “wonderful”.
Of course, we all know the implications in leagues that uses the standard 5×5 categories. Third base is more offensively demanding. In the important team-independent fantasy statistics the 2012 league average third baseman is batting .262 with 7 stolen bases and 20 homeruns per 162 games whereas the average shortstop is batting .258 with 15 stolen base and 12 home runs. Wait what? In this extremely rough look at the two positions in 2012 they come out practically even. A similar comparison can be made from the statistics in the two prior years. In 2011 third baseman averaged .253 BA/7 SB/15 HR against shortstops’ .263/16/11 line and 2010 was similar. Those at hot corner hit .263/6/18 verses .262/13/10 for the captain of the infield. Sure, home runs produce more RBI and thus the league’s third baseman have a sizeable lead in that category but there are also far fewer stolen bases annually than homeruns, increasing their value. It’s practically a wash.
When I began writing this piece I assumed my conclusion would be that a move to third would hurt Bogaerts’s fantasy value. And it may, but certainly not as much as we often convince ourselves it would. Of course, a move to the outfield is another story entirely. If Goldstein’s inclination to view Bogaerts as an outfielder is correct, that would be quite the hit to his value. At short and third there is an intuitive trade off between power and speed. Consider why an shortstop moves to third. Less range due in large part to less speed, thus the correlating offensive profile. Statistics show there is no power speed trade off in the outfield. Bogaerts , who doesn’t project to steal bases, would need to be a nightmare with the bat to make up for lack of steals. Even if he does reach his ceiling, a move to the outfield from the infield would be a drastic hit to his fantasy value because of the ability of his peers.
So will he move? Obviously Goldstien anticipates it. My Bullpen Banter colleague Al Skorupa saw him on Tuesday and came away impressed with his current ability at short, noting he made every play whether it be in the hole or charging the ball. His largest concern – which I share from my looks at Xander earlier in the year – is that despite being a great athlete with a”well proportioned” body he could outgrow the position. In his chat yesterday, Keith Law of ESPN said something similar, “I think he ends up at third but there is some sentiment he could stay at short at least a few years; he’s a good athlete and while he’s going to get bigger he’s not huge yet.” Our own Mike Newman told me that Bogaerts has a 35% chance to stick at shortstop. However, because his bat is so dynamic Newman feels the presence of Will Middlebrooks and Jose Iglesias could push him elsewhere on the diamond because their value is heavily tied to their defensive ability. Obviously opinions are split but let’s not concern ourselves with a shift to the outfield until the young Sox plays himself off short or third.
Prospect Video of the Week: While Al was watching Bogaerts I was down in Trenton watching Jameson Taillon. Here is the video I shot of the Pirate right-hander and, if you’re interested, the scouting report too.
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