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Where Are You, Xander Bogaerts?

He was going to be the next great Red Sox player.  He was the kid who had can’t miss talent.  He was the guy every MLB team coveted in trades and the Red Sox said “no way”.  He was, at one point early last season, arguably the best hitter in the American League.  Now?  He’s just another guy.

So, what happened to Xander Bogaerts?

Let’s take a step back.  While he’s only 24 years old, Bogaerts has made an impact on the Red Sox now for five seasons.  It all started in 2013, when he was plugged into the starting lineup in the playoffs.  Bogaerts hit .333 that postseason and he made a solid impact defensively at third base.  He was a World Series champion and was pegged to be the next great Red Sox player.  The sky was the limit for this kid at just 20 years old and he was plugged into the starting lineup to start the 2014 season.

In 2014, Bogaerts struggled.  He hit just .240 with 12 home runs and 46 RBI in 144 games.  However, he was still raw and surely no one expected him to fully develop in his first full season.  In 2015, everything changed.  The player the Red Sox had high hopes for had arrived.  Bogaerts hit .320 with 81 RBI and he improved defensively.  Although he lacked power with just seven home runs, Bogaerts was the Silver Slugger Award winner and he finished second in the batting title race.

Last season, Bogaerts continued his upward trend in the first half of the season.  His name was now out there across baseball and he was chosen as the starting shortstop in the American League.  His power developed over the course of the season as he finished with 21 home runs and 89 RBI.  With that said, his numbers dipped significantly in the second half of the season lowering his average for the year to .294.  The Red Sox made the playoffs and Bogaerts was a key bat in the middle of the best lineup in baseball.

The second half struggles?  Just a bump in the road, right?

A year ago today, one could have made the argument that Bogaerts and Mookie Betts were the two best position players in the American League under 25 year old.  Which player was more valuable was frequently debated on the local sports radio stations.  Betts had the five tools, but Xander played shortstop and great hitters are a rarity at that position.

Fast forward to 2017.  Going into Tuesday’s game vs. the A’s, these were Bogaerts stats FOR THE SEASON…

.266, 8 HR, 53 RBI.

Wait.  It gets worse.  In the second half of the season (48 games), Bogaerts is hitting .200 with 2 homers and 12 RBI.  What happened to the power?  What happened to the extra base hits?  Bogaerts has suddenly become Marty Barrett trying to bloop hits over the second baseman’s head…and its not working.  The two-time defending Silver Slugger Award for the shortstop position in the AL is currently ranked 10th in the AL in home runs and 8th in RBI.  He went from being the best hitting shortstop to one of the worst.  Just another guy…

It has gotten so bad that John Farrell has to decide whether or not he can put this former phenom in the starting lineup.  He’s as close to an automatic out as anyone in the league.  The Red Sox are headed towards the postseason and the player who was debated as the best young player in the AL a year ago may now be benched in playoff games.

Is it possible that this player peaked at ages 22 and 23?  Or is this simply just a lost season in the career of a great player?

Don’t let the three hits on Tuesday fool you.  One was a grounder that found the hole up the middle, the next was a pop fly that the right fielder got a late jump on, and the last hit travelled less than five feet in front of home plate.

Regardless, the Sox need the guy who showed up in 2015 and 2016 for the stretch run or we may be in for a repeat of last offseason.

 

 

 

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