X Marks The Spot

Remember the days when you could just punt the entire Shortstop position and you were content to end up with some schmuck that wasn’t going to destroy your team?  Yeah, those days are long gone. In fact, I don’t see the shortstop position slowing down for another at least another 8-10 years. Youth… check. Speed… check. Power… check. Defense… check.  As if that wasn’t enough, take a look into the prospects coming up from the minors.  Shortstop isn’t nearly as deep as second and third base, though, and you can’t punt the position entirely anymore. Do you go broke for Lindor or Turner? Do you wait it out for Andrelton Simmons or Tim Anderson?

The guy I really want to figure out is who in the heck is Xander Bogaerts?  Is he a guy that we can count on for 20+ HR potential, or is he just a 10-15 HR guy? Last year, Xander broke out in a big way by turning in a 133 WRC+ season which was preceded by 95/114/111 WRC+ in the previous years.  His BB% went up from 8.8% to 9.5% and was the highest of his career. This is a great sign of a hitting maturing and learning the strike zone.

This is backed up by some plate discipline numbers where his O-swing% went from 32.8% to 30.1%.  Wait, what is O-swing%? O-swing% is a percentage of pitches the batter swings at outside the strike zone. His Z-swing% increased by 8.3% from 53% to 61.3%, which is the percentage of pitches the batter swings at inside the zone. So, Xander took more pitches outside the zone and swung at more inside the zone. This led to harder contact, which is reflected by his Hard % increasing from 31.4% to 37.9%.

When I am going through his numbers, they are quite fascinating because things really aren’t too far off of his normal performance levels.  Yet, we see a player going from hitting 7 HRs one year to 21 to 10 to 23. Last week I discussed a lot about FB% and you can see the same thing happening with Xander.  In the years that he hits for some decent pop, he gets the ball in the air at a better clip. When he doesn’t hit for any power, his FB% decreases and the GB% increases.

So what do we do with Xander heading into 2019?  Is he undervalued? I don’t think he’s undervalued at all coming off his best season.  Is he overvalued? He might be slightly overvalued in the NE states, but I don’t think people are going to be taking Xander over Lindor or Machado.  Is he a sleeper? Xander is far too established to be considered a sleeper. Is he a bust? If you reach for Xander over other options on the board or overpay for him in auction leagues, then he could bust your team. However, he doesn’t fit the profile for a player that will wreck your team.  

Currently Xander is about the 50th player off the board, and in auction dollars is going for around $20 – $25 depending on what type of league.  I really don’t like getting into hypotheticals of your drafts and leagues. However, this would be a good time to watch what your opponents are doing in the draft or offseason.  Maybe you are able to talk your opponent into believing that last year was a fluke and can acquire him for 85 cents on the dollar. Or if you own him, you could be able to sell that last year was just the beginning of more great things to come and get a solid 2 for 1 deal.  If you weren’t fortunate to land Lindor, Bregman, or Machado, then be patient and let Xander fall to you. It’s a process. If he continues to fall beyond his ADP, then you can feel free to draft him with confidence.

If you are into superstitions and odd and even years, this would be a year to avoid Xander.  I’m not counting on a repeat of last season, but I don’t see another season similar to 2017 for him either.  Bogaerts is entering his age 26 season and right smack in the prime of his career. You should feel pretty comfortable filling out your lineup with Xander penciled in at Shortstop. I am intrigued by which Xander Bogaerts we will get in 2019, and how much or little owners will be willing to pay to find out.


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