Red Sox shortstop Xander Bogaerts was ranked by MLB Network as the No. 3 shortstop in baseball headed into the 2021 season on Tuesday night.
Finishing behind the likes of Rockies star Trevor Story and Padres sensation Fernando Tatis Jr., Bogaerts is coming off yet another quality campaign in 2020.
Across 56 games played last year, the 28-year-old posted a .300/.364/.502 slash line to go along with 11 home runs and 28 RBI over 225 total plate appearances.
2020 marked the third consecutive season in which Bogaerts finished with an on-base percentage north of .360, a slugging percentage north of .500, and an OPS+ exceeding 130. He finished in the top-20 in American League MVP voting in each of those three seasons.
Going back to Opening Day 2018, the Aruban infielder has accrued 13.6 fWAR in 347 total games played, the second-highest fWAR total among qualified major-league shortstops behind only Francisco Lindor, who accrued 14.0 fWAR in 361 games played with the Indians over that same stretch.
Bogaerts would likely be at the top of FanGraphs’ WAR leaderboards if the defensive metrics fell in line with what he did on the field.
As MLB Network’s Brian Kenny put it Tuesday night, “the defensive metrics do not like [Bogaerts]. Maybe it’s accurate, maybe not quite. But otherwise he would be a WAR leader as well.”
Last year alone, Bogaerts posted negative-5 defensive runs saved and an ultimate zone rating of just 0.3 over 438 innings at shortstop. He also registered negative-2 outs above average at the position, per Baseball Savant.
With spring training set to begin in just a few short weeks, the two-time All-Star is certainly not at risk of losing his starting job, but that doesn’t mean lofty expectations will be placed upon him heading into the new season.
Just ask Red Sox manager Alex Cora.
“Xander, for instance, when you talk about about the shortstops around the league and now you add [Corey] Seager to that equation, he’s up there with them,” Cora said of Bogaerts back in November. “Maybe the next step for us is to push Xander to be a better defender — and he’s not a bad defender — but to become an elite defender.”
Bogaerts, who does not turn 29 until October, is entering the second year of the six-year, $120 million contract extension he signed with Boston shortly after the start of the 2019 season.
He also has the option to opt out of his contract and become a free-agent at the conclusion of the 2022 season.
(Picture of Xander Bogaerts: Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images)