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Player Profile: Xander Bogaerts

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Do you know what Xander means?

Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

The name Xander has a Greek origin and means the defender of the people...  After a very nice 2013 playoffs, Xander Bogaerts had high expectations for 2014.  He is a big slugging SS, with high ranking prospect pedigree, a good home park, and in a good lineup.

Courtesy of SBNation

Then he dropped a major dud of a season last year.  His 240/297/362 is not good, and an 82 wRC+ sums up all of his production, but when you look deeper I found some things that reassured my love of Bogaerts.

Last season Xander's batted ball profile showed a knack to hit balls hard.  His 20.6% line drive rate was 9th amongst SS, and his infield fly ball % was 10th among SS.  His 38.1 ground ball percentage, and 41.2 fly ball percentage shows that he is squaring up a lot of balls and not predictably missing one way or another.

Then you look at him hitting fly balls and line drives to all fields, the problem that will appear to be obvious, is that he pulls a ton of ground balls, and hits very few to the right side of the infield.

Courtesy of Fangraphs.com

One of the most common problems in baseball is pulling way too many grounders.  This can be fixed with mechanical adjustments to level your swing (also usually results in fewer fly balls to the opposite field), bunting, or making an effort to hit more balls in the air.  One thing this graph above doesn't show is where his hits were located, and truthfully, I don't want to show you, because something that I noticed was that over the course of the year, this slugging protégée was not hitting balls hard at all.  I never would have guessed that his home run and fly ball distance was a feeble 268.11 ft.  This may be the most disappointing part of his whole season to me, after years of slugging percentages over .500 in the minors I expected him to be hitting the ball harder.

As far as plate discipline, Bogaerts stuck to his guns and did what he was known for in the minors, showing patience at the plate.

Season

Team

O-Swing%

Z-Swing%

Swing%

O-Contact%

Z-Contact%

Contact%

Zone%

2014

Red Sox

30.30%

61.90%

45.30%

62.20%

86.60%

78.10%

47.60%

2014

Average

31.30%

65.60%

46.70%

65.90%

87.30%

79.40%

44.90%

I like to see that Bogaerts is sticking to his guns and didn't try and expand the zone, or speed up his game and swing more last year.  I'm hoping that his below average contact rate is something that is part of his growing pains and adapting to the MLB.

Here is an expanded view of his whiff rates.

Courtesy of BrooksBaseball.net

These whiff rates, while significantly lower, had a similar breakdown to that of Javier Baez, another powerful young middle infielder, whom I wrote about last week.  So I separated his whiffs by hard stuff, and then off speed and breakers

Hard stuff whiff rates, courtesy of BrooksBaseball.net

Whiffs on off speed and breakers, courtesy of BrooksBaseball.net

Essentially, it looks like he was hitting poorly executed pitches and having a harder time with good pitches.  It seems like a lot of young players have similar issues, and I think this is because they haven't physically matured enough to match the strength of MLB pitchers. This results in young hitters attempting to speed up their game and match the pitching (Baez) or they don't try and catch up, and end up over powered (Bogaerts).  Either way, this doesn't yield good fantasy results.

This season, I'm hoping Bogaerts can show up stronger and ready to rake.  But even a big jump in production from last year won't make him a fantasy superstar.  Next season ESPN and Steamer project:

R

HR

RBI

SB

AVG

Steamer

61

14

61

5

256

ESPN

69

14

66

5

255

So they expect a 15+ point jump in BA, and a 40 point jump in slugging, but this still won't make him an incredibly valuable SS, but startable.  Both of these sources use an algorithm to project future values, and if Bogaerts gets stronger faster than a normal 22 year old (top prospects frequently do), his bat speed may move up enough to really outplay his projections, but that's purely speculation on my part.  Here is the trap I'm going to try and help many of you avoid. if you really enjoy prospecting, don't go overboard on Bogaerts next season, I get that his tools were always highly rated, but those scouts are projecting for a career, not immediate results.  Next year, he'll likely be good, but don't go overrating the defender of men.