When Xander Bogaerts was included on the Red Sox post-season roster, it raised a few eyebrows. The kid who started the 2012 in Single A and 2013 with the AA Portland Sea Dogs continued his rapid ascent and was called up on August 19th at the age of 20. By all accounts, Bogaerts, the 2013 USA Today Minor League Player of the Year is a star in the making. At 6’ 3” and 185 pounds, he has yet to grow into his athletic body, but has tremendous skills both defensively and offensively. But even this early in his young career, two of his strongest and most noticeable attributes are his poise and his plate discipline. Personally, the last young player that I can recall that showed such strong plate discipline was Wade Boggs and we all know where the “Chicken Man” ended up; Cooperstown!
Still, the kid had just 44 Major League at bats under his belt, hitting a respectable (for a 20 year old) .250 with a home run and 5 RBI, which left some wonder why John Farrell would include him on the playoff roster. Surely a veteran like John McDonald would offer the Red Sox a top-notch defensive infielder for those late inning situations, but Farrell bucked that conventional wisdom and went with Bogaerts instead. Yet through three games of the ALDS against Tampa, Bogaerts only appearance was as a 9th inning pinch runner for Will Middlebrooks leaving many to wonder why he was on the playoff roster and what was his expected role? Defense? Not yet. Offense? Not yet. Pinch Runner? Yes, but he’s not known as a base stealer. This left us to ponder, ‘why call the kid up and put him on the roster if he’s not going to serve a playoff role?’
Then in Game 4, Xander got his chance when Farrell called upon the Rookie to give the Red Sox a late inning spark. Trailing 1-0, Bogaerts showcased his keen awareness of the strike zone, working a one-out walk and eventually came around to score the tying run. The, in the top of the 9th, still tied at 1, Bogaerts chalked up another quality at bat, working another one-out walk that helped key the deciding 2-run rally that secured the game and a trip to the ALCS for the Red Sox. Bogaerts line for the ALDS, 0 AB’s, 2 BB’s, 3 Runs Scored! Win!
What we saw in Game 4 was a small sliver of what has made so many scouts and baseball experts salivate over this kid’s potential. He didn’t have to hit one out of the park or make a spectacular diving play on a hot shot to make his presence felt and get the attention of even casual baseball fans. His incredible poise in the face of playoff pressure, and his uncanny plate discipline for a player of his age and experience were enough to open the eyes of even those who wondered what the “Bogie Buzz” was all about. Poise and plate awareness well beyond his years! If I could grant any young ballplayer two natural attributes, poise and plate discipline would be at the top of the list. All the talent in the world can go for naught, especially for a young player, without the ability to slow the game down and play with a controlled, focused tenacity. And many minor league offensive juggernauts have wilted and never reached their perceived potential due to their lack of plate discipline and their inability to temper their flailing ways!
Poise and plate discipline; Those alone are not enough to make Bogaerts or any player a future superstar, but they surely give the kid a tremendous foundation for success in the Major Leagues. When you combine that foundation with Xander’s raw, natural athletic ability, smooth swing, soft hands, strong arm along with the fact that he is still filling out his 6’ 3” frame and what you have is Xander Bogaerts, recipe for an emerging Red Sox star! And these are some of the obvious attributes that caught the eye of scouts and experts dating back to when Bogaerts was a young teen and finally, that we have begun to see for ourselves during his brief MLB experience. “X” just turned 21 in early October! Can you say “huge upside!”
As we are on the cusp of Game 6 of the ALCS, Bogaerts has quietly made his presence known. He has 2 hit sin 5 at bats and scored 2 runs on a Red Sox Team that is barely hitting .200 as a team and scored 14 total runs so far in the series. Bogaerts isn’t necessarily expected to be a critical, “X” factor in these playoffs, but simply by ‘doing his job” with that same poise and maturity that he’s shown when he’s been called upon, is a bonus for the Red Sox and for Bogaerts growth going forward. Xander has calmly answered the questions himself through his play in the playoffs as to why he is on the roster and why he is projected to be a special player.
At 20, I was concerned with things like, can I beat Mega Man, drunk?
Derek Jeter had that same kind of poise and plate discipline when he came into the majors, as did Nomar Garciaparra and Wade Boggs and I see a quite a bit of those players in Xander Bogaerts. For many young players, heaping such praise, comparisons and lofty expectations on them creates an overwhelming pressure for them to live up to those standards that they regress under that pressure. To this point, Bogaerts has proven that he is un-phased by such high expectations or by the pressure of playoff baseball. Similar to how refreshing it was when such talented, poised rookies like Jeter, Garciaparra & Boggs came into the league as humble, respectful players, so to is it refreshing to see a kid like Xander Bogaerts step into the spotlight without a selfish drive to “BE the spotlight!” Xander Bogaerts belongs on this playoff roster and has quietly done his job and done it well. There is not much more you can ask of a ‘barely 21 year old’ with less than 50 MLB at bats on his resume who projects to be a true impact player…possibly as soon as his 2014 rookie season! Yes, the Red Sox have a gem on their hands and the Bogaerts bandwagon is growing daily! There’s plenty of room, come on aboard, “X” marks the spot!