The general consensus is that Xander Bogaerts is a future superstar. Opinions are split, however, on where he’ll eventually land on the diamond.
Bogaerts played shortstop while climbing the ranks of the Red Sox system, but there’s long been a belief that the 6-for-3 prospect will someday shift to third base on a full-time basis. The belief gained legs during the Red Sox’ 2013 World Series run, as the 21-year-old received the bulk of his playing time at the hot corner.
Red Sox third base coach Brian Butterfield doesn’t think that a position change is an inevitability, though. Butterfield made it clear recently that he thinks Boston’s top prospect will ultimately stick to his natural shortstop position.
“I’m convinced he’s going to be a shortstop until the day he retires,” Butterfield told The Boston Globe at Saturday’s Christmas at Fenway event. “I really feel strongly that he can be an outstanding shortstop in the big leagues.”
Bogaerts got his first taste of third base this past season. He appeared in 10 games at the position at the Triple-A level before getting his first major league call-up in August, at which point he appeared in nine games at third base and eight games at shortstop with Boston down the stretch. Bogaerts then appeared in 12 of the Red Sox’ 16 postseason games, becoming the club’s full-time third baseman by the end of its championship run.
If Stephen Drew doesn’t return in 2014, Bogaerts figures to be the Red Sox’ starting shortstop, with Will Middlebrooks, who struggled for most of 2013, slotted in as the everyday third baseman. Yet still, even with third base prospect Garin Cecchini making waves in the minors, there’s a common assumption that Bogaerts will simply outgrow the shortstop position, thus facilitating a shift. Butterfield isn’t buying it.
“I love him as a shortstop,” Butterfield reportedly said of Bogaerts. “Even though he’s a bigger body, he’s athletic. He’s very compact. He moves his feet like a smaller guy playing shortstop. He has great body control. He has a good imagination. He can get the ball in the air quickly when he needs to.
“He’s continuing to learn, and I think the most important thing for him, and the thing that he did so well, was the more reps he got at the big league level the more comfortable he got.”
Bogaerts’ ability to play both shortstop and third base is certainly an asset for the Red Sox, who experienced a fluid situation on the left side of their infield last season. But the versatility might be a bonus rather than a sign of any foregone conclusions.
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