EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

July 13, 2013

Bogaerts could make impact in Boston this year

On Pro Baseball
Christopher Smith

---- — Dodgers rookie Yasiel Puig has been the talk of the baseball world.

Everyone debated whether the 22-year-old Puig (8 homers, 19 RBIs, .397 average) should be an All-Star despite only being in the majors since June 3.

The real question everyone should be asking is why was he called up at such a young age and despite having played just 63 minor league games and none at Triple-A?

“Had we had outfield room at the end of spring training he may have made the club,” Dodgers GM Ned Colletti told The Eagle-Tribune. “Young players need repetition and they need to play. Puig needed to play and when our outfield ended up with a couple of injuries to Carl (Crawford) and Matt (Kemp), we knew he would get a chance to play.

“Beyond that, it’s balancing the inexperience factor and providing experience and being patient through some rough areas. Talent will always do well, sometimes right away and sometimes through overcoming failure by adjustments. The best players in any sport are always adjusting.”

Bogaerts vs. Puig

That brings us to the debate over Boston’s Xander Bogaerts, a 20-year-old who Baseball America just ranked the fourth best prospect in professional baseball.

Bogaerts, who was promoted to Triple-A Pawtucket in June, has played 347 minor league games.

The right-handed, power-hitting shortstop entered yesterday batting .296 with a .372 on-base percentage in four minor league seasons.

He also entered yesterday with 7 homers, 19 RBIs, a .267 batting average and .357 OBP in his first 28 games with Pawtucket.

He started slowly in Triple-A but made the adjustments and has done especially well recently.

He will play in the All-Star Futures Game tomorrow.

Bogaerts vs. Middlebrooks

The Red Sox could use an additional right-handed power bat in the lineup. Boston is more likely to fill this void internally rather than through a trade. The first option likely is third baseman Will Middlebrooks, who was demoted to Pawtucket after a prolonged sophomore slump in Boston.

But if Middlebrooks continues his inconsistent play, then the Red Sox should not hesitate during the second half of this season to promote Bogaerts to be their third baseman.

Despite being a shortstop, Bogaerts’ physical build likely will eventually lead him to third. He has played two games there with the PawSox.

Who knows? Bogaerts could end up being an incredible spark plug for the first-place Red Sox just as Puig has been in Los Angeles.

As Colletti said, it’s all about adjustments. Bogaerts has made adjustments at every level of the minors.

He’s a smart kid. The talent is there. Why wouldn’t he be given a chance this year?

From Puig to the Angels’ Mike Trout to Washington’s Bryce Harper to Baltimore’s Manny Machado to Colorado’s Nolan Arenado to even Boston’s Jose Iglesias, other youngsters have shown that they not only can contribute but play at an All-Star-caliber level.

“Adjustments (are being made) slowly but surely,” Bogaerts said, modestly. “I’m working with my hitting coach and seeing a lot of video. I’m a guy that likes to look at video and see my mistakes.”

Bogaerts also likes to ask questions during games. A native of Aruba, he said he often asks PawSox manager Gary DiSarcina about positioning at shortstop.

“He’s been a great major league shortstop,” Bogaerts said about DiSarcina. “It’s great to get advice from him and also our infield coordinator. ... Ask as much as you can because he played the position you want to play.”

Uncommonly mature

Everyone who has coached Bogaerts raves about his maturity on and off the field.

Maturity is a trait important to GMs when deciding to promote a young player.

It was to Colorado Rockies GM Dan O’Dowd, for example, before he promoted the 22-year-old Arenado despite the third baseman having played just 18 games in Triple-A.

“There is, for almost all of these kids not named Trout, a process of development they need to go through and Nolan is experiencing that right now. But the real good ones get through it and are pretty special on the other side,” O’Dowd said.

Bogaerts seems well suited to make adjustments in the big leagues because he is a patient hitter with a plan. He had a .407 OBP with Portland this year.

“I know that I like to battle (in) my at-bats,” Bogaerts said. “So I try not to give away at-bats for one thing. Once you see me with two strikes, I’ll dig in there and just try to fight. So I won’t go down easy. And the pitchers, they have been pitching me tough: 3-2 offspeeds, 2-0 offspeeds, a lot of offspeeds. I’ve been very patient.”

Bogaerts has confidence. Even if he doesn’t succeed at the majors immediately, he is one who wouldn’t get discouraged upon being optioned back to Triple-A — similar to Jackie Bradley Jr.

Red Sox GM Ben Cherington didn’t dismiss the idea of promoting Bogaerts to Boston this season when he was asked about it in June. Maybe the only part of Bogaerts’ game that isn’t major league ready is his defense.

“If I get the call up there, I’ve just go up there and play baseball and play the same way I’ve been playing down here and just try to translate everything I can,” Bogaerts said.