The Boston Red Sox promoted top prospect Xander Bogaerts to the major league roster Monday. One of the elite prospects in all of baseball, Bogaerts has performed well at every level of the farm system and looks ready for a major league trial. It will be a trial by fire in the midst of a tight pennant race, but Bogaerts has the tools and skills to be a star for years to come, no matter what may happen in the short term.
The Red Sox signed Bogaerts in 2009 out of Aruba, giving him a $410,000 bonus. He debuted in the '10 Dominican Summer League and performed quite well, hitting .314/.396/.423 in 63 games. This earned him a promotion directly to full-season ball in 2011, skipping the short-season levels. He responded to the show of confidence with a fine season in the South Atlantic League, hitting .260/.324/.509 with 16 homers in 72 games for Greenville, very impressive for age 18.
Opening 2012 with High-A Salem in the Carolina League, Bogaerts hit .302/.378/.505 with 20 homers in 104 games, then remained hot with a .326/.351/.598 line in 23 late-season contests for Double-A Portland, emerging as one of the very best prospects in baseball.
He's solidified that standing with a strong '13 season, hitting .311/.407/.502 in 56 games for Portland, followed by a .284/.369/.453 mark in 60 games for Triple-A Pawtucket.
Overall, in 396 minor league games over four seasons, Bogaerts has hit .296/.373/.489. Keep in mind that he's still just 20 years old, and he hasn't been putting up these gaudy numbers in thin air hitter's leagues or bandbox home parks. The numbers are legitimate.
Bogaerts is a 6-3, 185 pound right-handed hitter and thrower, born October 1, 1992. He has the tools and skills to be a complete hitter, producing power, batting average, and on-base percentage. His eye for the zone wasn't outstanding early in his career, but he's rapidly improved his approach and his walk rates have been trending upward, at the same time his strikeouts have been moving down.
Although he will pull the ball for power, he is far from being a one-dimensional hitter and will hit the ball hard the opposite way when appropriate. He has the bat speed to handle most any fastball, and while he can be fooled with a breaking pitch occasionally, he adjusts rapidly to the pitcher's tactics.
Defensively, Bogaerts' best asset is his strong throwing arm, worthy of either third base or shortstop. His running speed is nothing special and he is not a big stolen base threat, although he isn't a slug either. He's a reliable defensive shortstop for his age, but his range isn't spectacular and in the long run he likely profiles best as a third baseman. He's played very well at the hot corner in limited looks at the position, and he'll certainly hit enough for third if he winds up there in the long run.
By all accounts, Bogaerts has strong makeup with confidence, dedication to the game, and a high measure of intelligence.
As with any rookie, he could get off to a slow start or have initial adjustment issues. Nevertheless, the combination of natural talent, an increasingly refined hitting approach, and defensive value should make Bogaerts a long-term star for the Red Sox.
He is a Grade A prospect all the way.
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