Red Sox infield rookie phenom Xander Bogaerts has been named the top shortstop prospect in the game by MLB.com.
Bogaerts, who became the youngest Red Sox position player in 41 years when he made his Major League debut in August, takes over the No. 1 spot on the top-prospect list from Jurickson Profar, who has since made the leap to the bigs with Texas and who played alongside Bogaerts on the Dutch team in the 2013 World Baseball Classic.
Bogaerts, who was signed by the Red Sox as an amateur free agent in 2009, is a rare find — he has a clean swing and can hit for average and power, has plenty of range in the field and a strong arm and already has a World Series championship to his credit.
And he hasn’t even played a full season in the major leagues.
At present, Bogaerts is the de facto Boston shortstop, but if incumbent SS Stephen Drew re-signs with the team, it could either relegate Bogaerts to a backup role at the position or mean the talented youngster could shift over and take the reins of the hot corner from Will Middlebrooks.
That’s exactly what happened in the 2013 postseason. When Middlebrooks struggled at the plate against Detroit in the American League Championship Series, batting .100, Bogaerts stepped in and laced three doubles while drawing three walks in just nine plate appearances, earning himself a starting role in the World Series against St. Louis. He ended up batting .296 with an OBP of .412 in his 34 postseason plate appearances and became the youngest player ever to suit up for the Red Sox in a playoff game.
Sox manager John Farrell gives full credit to the youngster for quickly adapting to third base on the fly and while on the biggest stage.
“As we got deeper into the postseason, I felt like he got himself in better position on certain angles to ground balls, and that’s a credit to (infield instructor) Brian Butterfield with the assistance of (veteran infielder) John McDonald, with the work they were putting in each day early,” said Farrell. “Before coming here, I think (Bogaerts) had about a half-dozen games at third base. To ask him to continue to learn it and perform at the most critical time of year, he handled it great. It just opens up more flexibility for us as we build the team.”
While the Drew quandary has yet to resolve itself, Sox fans can take heart in knowing that they head into spring training boasting a versatile, top-ranked talent on the left side of the infield in Bogaerts — no matter which position he ultimately ends up playing.
If Bogaerts’ momentum continues unabated in 2014, he has a good shot at becoming the first Red Sox Rookie of the Year since Dustin Pedroia, who won the award in 2007, and then went on to capture the AL MVP award in his sophomore season.
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