Xander Bogaerts’ World Baseball Classic Participation Will Be Valuable Experience, Helpful to Red Sox

Xander BogaertsThe World Baseball Classic is viewed favorably by some and with skepticism by others, but the Red Sox should look at this year’s event as an interesting opportunity.

Xander Bogaerts — the Red Sox’ top-ranked prospect who also happens to be the 20th-ranked prospect in baseball — figures to be a big part of Boston’s future. The question surrounding the 20-year-old, however, is where exactly he’ll be contributing on the diamond. As of right now, Bogaerts’ natural position is shortstop, but many have speculated that he will eventually grow out of the position and subsequently transition over to third base. While the ideal scenario remains permanently keeping Bogaerts at shortstop, where his value is higher, the WBC will at least give the Sox a chance to see how Bogaerts handles playing a different position.

Jurickson Profar, the No. 1 prospect in baseball, will be manning shortstop for Bogaerts’ Team Netherlands, meaning the Red Sox farmhand will likely slide over to third during the tournament. Boston’s director of player development, Ben Crockett, recently said he’d prefer to see Bogaerts remain at shortstop throughout the WBC, but he also understands that’s probably not possible given Profar’s presence on the roster. It’s understandable for the Red Sox to be somewhat wary of Bogaerts making a temporary position change during the WBC, as he has only played shortstop to date and plugging him in elsewhere carries the inherent risk of stunting his development as shortstop. However, the position switcheroo carries plenty of positives, and it could ultimately prove to be a very valuable experience.

It’s hard to put too much stock into a player’s WBC performance, but just seeing Bogaerts at a position other than shortstop during live competition could help Boston determine if the youngster can be called upon in 2013 if the need suddenly arises. Will Middlebrooks and Dustin Pedroia each had an injury issue last season, so while seeing either player go down would be a crushing blow to the Red Sox, it’s something that’s entirely possible. And if either player is forced to miss time, you can bet there will be plenty of Sox fans clamoring for Bogaerts to get called up. The Red Sox might still pump the brakes on rushing Bogaerts to the majors, but in the wake of the WBC, they’ll at least have something to go off of when determining whether he is a viable big league option at a position other than shortstop.

Until Bogaerts arrives in the majors, the debate will continue about where he fits in. The World Baseball Classic will, if nothing else, show whether it’s even a debate worth having.

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Photo via Facebook/Xander Bogaerts