Discount Hall of Famer: Xander Bogaerts
Xander Bogaerts is just 23 years old and yeah, I am saying he has a great shot to be in the hall of fame. 2016 will be his second straight season producing an fWAR of over 4.0 and has him on pace for a career of well over 40 fWAR should he play just until he is in his early 30’s. At 23, we can also assume that there is a lot of room for him to get better. This is a good thing because for the once highly touted prospect has yet to reach the high ceiling that his 65-70 grade power rating as a prospect once promised.
A lot has gone very well for Bogaerts during the 2016 campaign. For one, he was named the starter for the American League at shortstop for the All-Star game in San Diego. This came on the back of a first half where he slashed .329/.388/.475 while playing very good defense. Things have begun to unravel in the second half where he has been struggling to a .249/.309/.402 mark and as Matt Collins notes, he has been struggling vs off-speed offerings. I have also noticed that as this slide has occurred public opinion on him has started to slip.
It started off as idle chatter on Twitter where when the top young shortstops in the game were mentioned Bogaerts would be left out of the discussion. I didn’t think much of this other than maybe there is a sense of Red Sox fatigue amongst fans due to the team being relevant again and the David Ortiz retirement tour. Then I saw this article.
In this recent BP article two staffers drafted 25 rounds of potential Hall of Fame players from the current crop of major leaguers. Machado was taken first among shortstops, which I won’t argue with, even if he ends up playing most of his career at 3B the guy is a stud. Next was Corey Seager, a fantastic player doing things someone his age should not be able to do, again no problems here. Third on the list was Carlos Correa, a first overall pick that has more than delivered on the hype, right again!
Then things got dicey, real dicey. Francisco Lindor came up fourth on the list. Ok, I can buy Lindor as a possible hall of famer but, hasn’t this once suspect hitter almost certainly reached his offensive ceiling? The glove will be there but we have seen with Andrelton Simmons that this is the first skill that begins to degrade. When Bogaerts is nearing 30 and presumably hitting his offensive prime, Lindor will be exiting his prime with the glove and presumably nowhere near Bogaerts ceiling in production with the bat.
The fifth and final shortstop that appeared on the list was Troy Tulowitzki who has posted a 37.7 fWAR for his career, well under the threshold of 50 fWAR that typically starts a serious hall of fame discussion. By JAWS a baseball reference stat system that measures hall of fame worthiness it has the average shortstop bWAR at a whopping 66.7 to make the hall and has Tulo currently at 43.3. Considering his health track record there is just about no shot he even brings himself into a legitimate discussion.
Since 1950 just 15 shortstops age 23 and below have hit over 20 home runs in a season. The list below is rife will hall of fame players with by my count just three flukes in Dale Sveum, Ron Hansen, and Denis Menke. Four of the players on that list have done so for the first time this year. Corey Seager Addison Russell, Carlos Correa, and Xander Bogaerts. You read that correctly four of the fifteen players to do so since 1950 are doing so this year. We are in the new golden age of the shortstop.
Below is a table of what the non-flukes have done over their careers.
|Cal Ripken Jr.||92.5|
Because we are in the golden age of the shortstop it’s easy to point to Bogaert’s flaws in comparison to his contemporaries. He doesn’t have the power of Seager. He doesn’t have the glove of Lindor. He doesn’t have the OBP of Correa and so on. When we do this we are discounting what a special talent Bogaerts does have and that appearing on this list at all puts him and all of these players in rarified air. As these players mature and continue to fix holes in their game they will get better. This may be the last time to acquire Russell before he begins to hit for average and it may be the last time to acquire Bogaerts before he puts it all together for a full season.
When reviewing what players to go all in on in fantasy one strategy I like to use is looking at how their own teams view them. John Farrell has batted his 23-year-old shortstop third in the lineup for 104 games this year and more recently at the second spot for 44 games. He is viewed as a middle of the order threat by his own club, just not enough to supplant two MVP candidates in David Ortiz and Mookie Betts. Overwhelm the current Bogaerts owner in your league with an offer he or she cannot refuse and make him your own. There won’t be a time past this year to get it done and the sweetest parts of his career are on the horizon.