In the age of prospect rankings and (thankfully) an increased coverage of the minor leagues, fantasy owners tend to covet the top prospects in baseball. They don’t want to miss out on the next Mike Trout, Bryce Harper or Yasiel Puig — and that fear of whiffing on these young phenoms obviously becomes amplified in dynasty leagues.
So this morning, when media outlets reported Xander Bogaerts had been promoted to Boston for the final month and a half of the season, owners immediately flocked to their respective waiver wires to see if Bogaerts was still available. If you’re just hearing the news and need help at shortstop, you would be wise to do the same.
That’s not to say Bogaerts is guaranteed to be a stud throughout the remainder of the season, though. In fact, it’s slightly unclear as to what his ultimate role with the Red Sox will be.
He is a shortstop by trade, but he’s also seen some time at third base. Coincidentally, the Red Sox could use an upgrade at both positions. Stephen Drew is hitting .195/.248/.345 with a putrid .259 wOBA against left-handed pitching this season. Bogaerts would certainly provide increased production at the plate against southpaws, so it seems reasonable to project the young shortstop to garner some at-bats in those situations.
However, Drew is a solid defender and has handled right-handed pitching with aplomb. It doesn’t make sense for the Red Sox to bench him with a righty on the mound when he has compiled a .361 wOBA against them this season. By that logic, Bogaerts appears to be a platoon option at shortstop.
Over at third base, though, Will Middlebrooks has been a disappointment. He’s hitting .223/.268/.424 with 10 home runs on the season, and at one point, he was even demoted to Triple-A Pawtucket. The young man has handled left-handed pitching, though. He owns a .337 wOBA against lefties, so he’s not screaming for a replacement against southpaws.
It’s another story against right-handed pitching. His .283 wOBA is well below the league average at third base, and although he’s been victimized by a .240 BABIP, the platoon split was also present last year. It just wasn’t as dramatic.
Bogaerts, on the other hand, has not shown any platoon split in the minors this year. He has an .870 OPS against righties and an .874 OPS against lefties. His ability to handle both at the plate could convince the Red Sox to start him at third base against righties and at shortstop against lefties. I’m sure the organization doesn’t want to bounce him around too much defensively, but their shortcomings at shortstop and third base seem to fit perfectly for such a scenario.
At the very least, the Red Sox didn’t promote Bogaerts to sit on the bench. His bat has the potential to be special. Between Double-A and Triple-A this year, he hit .297/.388/.477 with 23 doubles, six triples and 15 home runs. He has a mature approach at the plate, which can be seen by his 10.7% walk rate in Triple-A as a 20-year-old. He also stole seven bases, though that’s never been a significant part of his game.
Right now, he’s only eligible at shortstop, but for owners desperately looking for help up the middle, Bogaerts could be a key catalyst for the stretch run in fantasy leagues. He projects to hit for average and power, and he’ll be joining one of the best offenses in the league — so his run and RBI totals have a chance to be solid. There’s also an outside chance his stolen base numbers could improve, as manager John Farrell is a fan of being aggressive on the base paths. His team has the third-most stolen bases in the league. Owners may benefit from Bogaerts joining a club with such an aggressive mentality.
Keep in mind, baseball fans have been spoiled in the last few years. Guys like Mike Trout, Bryce Harper and Manny Machado are not the norm. Players shouldn’t be expected to become superstars before they even reach the legal drinking age. There is almost always an adjustment period. Look at Jurickson Profar and his .290 wOBA — many owners are already jumping off that bandwagon, when he’s just 20 years old!
Bogaerts certainly possesses the skills and the potential to be special. While it’s perhaps unfair to immediately expect him to produce at a high level, I’ve already claimed him in leagues where I needed an upgrade at shortstop or middle infield. The Red Sox presumably didn’t promote him to relegate him to the bench, and I’m not about to take the chance that he mashes throughout the remainder of the season without him being on my roster.
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