Why ESPN’s Keith Law Believes Xander Bogaerts Could Break Out In 2018

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Boston Red Sox shortstop Xander Bogaerts

Photo via Butch Dill/USA TODAY Sports Images

Is Xander Bogaerts primed for a big season? ESPN’s Keith Law believes so.

Law, a senior writer at ESPN, each March identifies several breakout candidates for the upcoming Major League Baseball season, and he can’t help but feel good about the Boston Red Sox shortstop’s chances of bouncing back in 2018 after a lackluster 2017 campaign.

Here’s what Law wrote about Bogaerts in his piece published Thursday:

Although power across the game went up last season, Bogaerts’ disappeared, as he dropped from 21 homers in 2016 to just 10 last year. His exit velocity also plummeted; in 12 fewer plate appearances last season, he had 32 percent fewer balls in play with exit velocities of at least 100 mph compared to the previous season. He dealt with a hand injury for half of the season after he was hit by a pitch in early July and tried to play through pain rather than taking time off for it to heal. Bogaerts always projected to hit for 20-plus homers, showing easy power as a teenager in A-ball, and I fully expect him to bounce back to his 2016 power levels and probably even exceed them.

Bogaerts hit .294 with 21 home runs, 89 RBIs and an .802 OPS in 2016 after hitting .320 with seven home runs, 81 RBIs and a .776 OPS in 2015. He earned a Silver Slugger both years — along with his first All-Star nod in 2016 — and looked ready to become a superstar.

But Bogaerts endured some struggles in 2017, hitting just .273 with 10 homers, 62 RBIs and a .746 OPS when the dust settled. He posted a 3.2 WAR, according to FanGraphs, after finishing with marks of 4.4 and 4.9 in 2015 and 2016, respectively.

All told, Bogaerts is just 25 years old, suggesting there’s still room for growth as he enters his fifth major league season. He also dealt with a hand injury in 2017, as Law notes, so last season’s setback ultimately might represent a minor hiccup in an otherwise very productive career.

Law’s list of breakout candidates for 2018 includes nine players, all between the ages of 22 and 25. Bogaerts’ track record of success makes his inclusion a relatively safe bet, but the Red Sox sure would benefit from an uptick in production from their shortstop, especially in the power department.

Click for Law’s full breakout candidates list >>

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