BOSTON — In just his second full MLB season, a strong case could be made for Xander Bogaerts as the best shortstop in the American League.
Statistics help fortify the argument.
Bogaerts went 2-for-4 with two RBIs and a run scored in the Boston Red Sox’s 7-5 win over the Philadelphia Phillies on Friday night. He has 10 hits in his last five games, which has raised his batting average to .321 on the season. That’s the third-best mark in the AL, behind Michael Brantley of the Cleveland Indians and future Hall of Famer Miguel Cabrera of the Detroit Tigers.
Not only does Bogaerts lead all AL shortstops in batting, he ranks first in hits (161), second in runs scored (61), first in doubles (26), first in RBIs (65), first in OBP (.350), first in slugging percentage (.414), first in OPS (.764) and first in WAR (3.7) among all qualifying players at the position.
In fact, the only shortstop in all of baseball with a higher WAR than Bogaerts is the San Francisco Giants’ Brandon Crawford.
That’s pretty impressive.
Bogaerts’ offensive production certainly has been one of the bright spots of a disappointing season overall for the Sox, but it’s his defensive improvement that is most encouraging.
His range is better, he’s making more accurate throws and his ability to quickly turn double plays is improving. Bogaerts’ defensive rating from FanGraphs is 8.4, compared to minus-4.8 last season. His 8.4 rating in 2015 ranks ninth among all shortstops and fifth among AL shortstops.
The 22-year-old is becoming a well-rounded player for the Sox at a position where they haven’t had a long-term solution or franchise player at since Nomar Garciaparra. At this pace, it’s not unrealistic to expect Bogaerts to be the best shortstop in baseball at some point in the next few years, maybe as soon as 2016.
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