Minor League Prospect Report: Xander "The Eliminator" Bogaerts, SS, Boston Red Sox
Boston Red Sox prospect Xander Bogaerts firmly established himself as one of the top prospects in baseball in 2012. Signed out of Aruba in 2009 for $410,000, he seems like quite a bargain at this point, his bonus having been equivalent to third-round money that year.
Assigned to High-A Salem at age 19 this spring, he hit .302/.378/.505 with 27 doubles, 15 homers, 43 walks, and 85 strikeouts in 384 at-bats over 104 games. This earned him a promotion to the Double-A Eastern League, where he added 60 points to his OPS with a .326/.351/.598 mark, with 10 doubles and five homers in 92 at-bats.
The insect in the ointment: he drew just one walk against 21 strikeouts, obviously a poor ratio. Should we be concerned about that?
I think it is something to be aware of, but not something to panic about. The scouting word on Bogaerts is that he is a free swinger and has problems with breaking balls, but that he'll kill anything hittable in the zone. A 19-year-old reaching Double-A for the first time and struggling with his BB/K ratio fits that scouting report to a tee.
However, the age thing comes into play here: he's the same age as a guy one year out of high school. He has plenty of time to make adjustments, and he has already enough bat speed and hitting aptitude to ring up a .948 OPS against older competition even with an over-aggressive approach. Given his place on the age curve, I'm not genuinely worried about the plate discipline issue. We should be aware it exists, but it isn't something that will negatively impact his placement on prospect lists at this point, at least not for me.
The other concern for Bogaerts is defense. Currently a shortstop, he cut his error rate substantially this year, more sabermetric confirmation of subjective reports noting improved steadiness on defense. Whether he has the range to remain at shortstop once his body fills out is an open question; many scouts assume he'll end up at third base, or perhaps right field if Will Middlebrooks lays permanent claim to the hot corner in Fenway. Bogaerts should have the bat to play at either position.
I expect he'll begin 2013 back in Double-A, with a Triple-A promotion (and perhaps more) on the horizon if he makes the expected progress.