This probably isn't fair, but when I look at Xander Bogaerts, I see the Manny Machado of a couple years ago.
Now, the reasons this isn't fair are clear. Machado and Bogaerts are, for all intents and purposes, the same age, so likening now-Bogaerts to past-Machado is comparing guys at different ages, different stages in their developments. And heck, they're different people.
But here's what I see: In 2013, Machado had a strong season, with 51 doubles and a .283 batting average. Everyone watching him marveled at what he might do if he turned those doubles into home runs. Combine some power with his batting average, his defense, his value, and Machado would be an MVP candidate. Lo, after a shortened 2014, Machado hit 35 home runs in 2015, kept his batting average basically where it had been, played all 162 games, and finished fourth in the MVP voting. Dude was a superstar.
Well, last year, Bogaerts looked a good bit like 2013 Machado. Better average (.320), not as many doubles (35), but the indicators were pointing largely in the same direction. Ask the evaluators, the scouts who know this stuff better than any of us schlubs, and the general consensus is that the power is coming. To wit, here's a couple clips from some Keith Law chats on Bogaerts from the last few months:
Do you see the Machado vibe? Bogaerts in 2015 hit seven home runs and 35 doubles. Machado in 2013 hit 14 and 51. Sure, Machado profiles better. But a little development, a little strength, Bogaerts turns two-thirds of those doubles into home runs, turns a chunk of his singles into doubles? The end result there would be a .300-hitting shortstop with (okay, I'm playing with numbers, so let's just make it up) 30-35 doubles and 25-30 home runs. Add in the fact that Bogaerts has said multiple times in the offseason that he wants to up his stolen bases from last year's 10, and there is the potential there for a straight-up superstar.
Potential, though. Like I said, the Machado comp isn't perfect. Machado saw his growth from age 20 to 22. That's, you know, when growth tends to occur. Bogaerts had his big-double, small-homer season at age 22, meaning his development would come later than Machado's. We're used to the bell curve of aging that says players come in, get better and better until their late 20s, then fall off about the same rate. In recent years, that isn't the case. Guys come into the league close to what they really are. Maybe there's a year of growth like Machado, but in general, we're seeing earlier peaks.
Bogaerts isn't likely to keep improving over the next four years until he's Peak Alex Rodriguez. Maybe he is who he is. But there is the makings of a power bat in him, and he's already hitting putting in seasons of a .320 batting average. The upside is enough to have Bogaerts in the top four of (almost) everyone's rankings for the season (you'll have to ask Ray about his No. 7 rank).
Machado qualifies at shortstop in Yahoo's rankings for the season. Carlos Correa and Troy Tulowitzki are the fantasy darlings. After them, though? Shortstop is probably the least impressive position in the game this year that doesn't squat behind home plate. Bogaerts probably stands ahead of the rest of the second tier.