Sunday, February 24, 2013

What Position Should Xander Bogaerts Play?

When the Nationals drafted Bryce Harper first overall in 2010, he was a power-hitting catcher.  The Nationals decided to change Harper’s position to outfielder - a move that was reviled at the time.  Then in 2012, Harper and fellow rookie outfielder Mike Trout put on the best rookie display the MLB has seen in a long time.  The Nationals’ decision to move Harper to the outfield has clearly paid off for their franchise, for a number of reasons.  The success of these rookies has me wondering if it’s time the Red Sox put serious consideration into changing Xander Bogaerts’ position, and doing it right now.

Here are the arguments for the three most likely positions:

Position: Shortstop
The Argument: Don’t mess with Bogaerts’ development by changing his position.  Leave him right where he is and develop him as the Red Sox shortstop for the next ten years starting in 2014.  

Position: Third Base
The Argument: Not much of an argument here.  Will Middlebrooks is playing 3B for the Red Sox for the foreseeable future.  There is not good depth behind Middlebrooks in the Red Sox system, however, so if Middlebrooks gets hurt again in 2013, Bogaerts may end up getting a lot of at bats at 3B.

Position: Outfielder
The Argument: Bogaerts is blocked in the infield for 2013.  The Red Sox have good position depth at SS.  If you want your best lineup on the field, then moving Bogaerts’ bat to the outfield where he could be the starting LF for the next decade isn’t a bad idea.  If the Red Sox are in the pennant race heading into late 2013, wouldn’t they want the uber-talented Bogaerts to give them the same kind of boost that Manny Machado gave to the Orioles last year?  Would playing the outfield be easier on the body and prolong Bogaerts’ impact on the lineup long-term?  Can Bogaerts play some outfield for the Netherlands in the World Baseball Classic so we can see him running down fly balls?

Here’s the bottom line question: do the Red Sox want to get Boegarts on the major league club this year? If so, they might have to move him to OF, baring injuries.  I don’t think the Red Sox will move him.  I think they purposefully went after a guy like Stephen Drew on a one year deal so that Bogaerts and Iglesias can compete for the SS job in 2014 and beyond and they are committed to this plan.  But if the Sox are within shouting distance of the pennant in 2013 and Bogaerts is raking in the minors, I think we have to work out a way to get him in the lineup by the end of this season.  If this means playing some outfield, then I’m all for it.  It’s baseball, not rocket science.  No rule says a guy can’t play outfield one year and shortstop the next.  

Do you think the Red Sox should consider moving Bogaerts?  Discuss in the comments section below:

24 comments:

  1. Should the Red Sox consider moving Xander from shortstop? The answer for now is a resounding not yet. Any player who has the potential to hit 30+ home runs with 100+ rbis is way, way more valuable at SS than other position on the field. ( except maybe catcher, not in Xander's equation).

    But I do think that 2013 will be the year that the answer becomes much clearer, if not answered directly. The stars of this version of " The Decision" will be in order of importance: Bogaerts himself, Jose Iglesias, Will Middlebrooks, Mike Napoli, and Deven Marrero. With lesser supporting roles played by Jackie Bradley, Jr. and Bryce Brentz.

    If Bogaerts, likely to start the year at Portland, approximates his 2012 Sea Dogs performance, he will be in Pawtucket by June. With no bump in the road at AAA he definitely starts 2014 in Boston ( if not sooner).

    Iglesias is in his make or break year with the Red Sox, only because of Xander's presence. But if Jose goes to AAA and hits .275 or so, in conjunction with Bogaerts continuing his ripping up minor league pitching, Iglesias is the 2014 SS at Fenway and Bogaerts gets moved.

    As far as Middlebrooks being the Sox 3B for years to come, do not be so sure. 2013 will also be a big year for Will to recover from his wrist injury and to show his rookie year was truly a snapshot of his coming career.

    Mike Napoli is now in Boston on a one year deal, and unless Nap pounds two or three dozen homers and stays healthy, it is very possibly his only year in Beantown. Do not be surprised if Iglesias comes to life at the plate that Xander takes third with Willie Middle moving across the diamond to first.( or somewhat less likely Xander takes over first with Middlebrooks being the long term 3B answer).

    Deven Marrero is the other person all ready in the Sox system who could bump Xander off SS. Rather than 2014, Marrero's debut is more likely a 2015 timetable. But as highly regarded college player, who is expected to be a player who profiles as a shortstop, with a big 2013 he could shoot all the way to Pawtucket by late this year or to begin 2014. (especially if Iglesias fails at the plate).

    The inclusion of Bradley and Brentz as role players to our story is simply to account for how many openings the outfield would have if Xander is to move there.

    If at this point I had to guess I think Bogaerts will start in the bigs as the Sox SS with a move to third or right field by year 3 of his career.

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  2. Absolutely, the Sox should move Bogaerts. To another team. Use the depth at SS to trade him while his stock is high.

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    1. Who do you want to trade him for?? Giancarlo Stanton?

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    2. Don't hold your breath...It's not gonna happen nor should it. Right or wrong Ben Cherington is going to hang on to his top prospects like they're gold. We could debate whether or not it is the right move, but Ben Cherington has already made up his mind. BOGAERTS WILL NOT BE TRADED.

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    3. Never say never. If the deadline approaches and the Sox are in the thick of a pennant race, and the Nation badly wants to go back to the postseason after three years missing it, and somebody like Felix Hernandez or Roy Halladay or Clayton Kershaw becomes available somehow....Benny would have to think about it. Right?

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  3. This question may be the key to the success of the team over the next 2-3 years (which position he plays, not whether or not they should trade him). Brandon said it correctly, this is baseball not rocket science. However, this is an important decision and it is possible that a drastic change could mess up his offensive potential.

    His inclusion in the WBC with the Dutch team has given us an early glimpse into the Red Sox plans for Xander. They told the Dutch team that they can not use him in the Outfield. They did agree to him playing anywhere on the left side of the infield (SS or 3B). That tells me that they plan on using him at either of those two positions. Brandon is also correct in saying that he could very well play a couple of different positions early in his career before he settles into a spot.

    If Middlebrooks gets hurt this year than you could very well see Bogaerts used similarly to how Baltimore used Manny Machado last year, at 3B. As the Deacon pointed out this year will be a pivotal year to sort out some of these issues. The picture will certainly be a lot clearer by October. If Iglesias has a big leap year offensively than you have a logjam (which is a good problem to have).

    One other thing that could help ease the logjam will be the health/age of Big Papi. If the DH spot is open next year or certainly in 2015 than you can use the DH spot to rotate the extra player out of the Bogaerts, Middlebrooks, Iglesias, Napoli logjam.

    This is a fun topic...so many possibilities!!

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  4. In other AL east news: Curtis Granderson was hit by a pitch today and broke his forearm and he's out for 10 weeks.

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  5. What to do with Xander? What makes this shortstop argument so interesting is the fact that Bogaerts and Iglesias are almost polar opposites. Iglesias is labeled as all glove...no hit and Bogaerts is known as someone who may be a major league ready offensive player with a glove that is holding him back (I don't think that Xander's defense is as bad as Iglesias' offense, but you get the idea.

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  6. Highlights from today's split squad spring training games. The Red Sox beat the Blue Jays 4-2.

    1. Steven Wright got a little coaching from Wake prior to the game and then went out and pitched 3 shutout innings.

    2. Not to be out done by De La Rosa, Allen Webster pitched well today hitting 99mph on the radar gun with one pitch and consistently was between 94-97.

    3. Jackie Bradley was 3 for 3 with and RBI single in the 9th for an insurance run.

    Rays beat the other Sox squad 6-3

    1. Dustin Pedroia hit his first HR of the spring.

    2. Alfredo Aceves pitched two innings giving up two runs, and then according to Nick Cafardo sat on the bench the rest of the game.

    3. Ryan Dempster makes his Red Sox spring debut tomorrow vs. the St. Louis Cardinals

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    1. Correction Wright pitched two scoreless innings not 3. Allen Webster also pitched 2 scoreless innings. Brock Holt and Mitch Maier also went 2 for 3. Brock Holt will be pushing Pedro Ciriaco for the utility infield position.

      Will Middlebrooks went 1 for 3 and according to a Pete Abe tweet he had a potential 3 run homer taken away by the wind in the first inning off RA Dickey.

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    2. Boy I should have done more/better research...Allen Webster pitched very well and he struck out 4 Blue Jays in a row including Jose Bautista, Edwin Encarnacion, JP Arencibia and Brett Lawrie, but he didn't pitch two scoreless innings he gave up a run in his first inning of work.

      In fact here is the box score from the Sox vs. Jays game:

      http://boston.redsox.mlb.com/news/boxscore.jsp?gid=2013_02_25_bosmlb_tormlb_1

      and here is the box score from the Rays vs. Sox game

      http://boston.redsox.mlb.com/news/boxscore.jsp?gid=2013_02_25_bosmlb_tbamlb_1

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    3. Copy and paste those links into your web browser to check em out

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  7. It's a bit early to have this debate and as such, Bogie will be staying at SS until he's definitely major-league ready (he's not yet) and there's another position open for him on the big club. The reason is simple: leaving him at SS maximizes his potential trade value. It doesn't matter that they're not going to trade him or that it would be foolish to do so (unless someone bowls you over with an offer of a young, proven CY candidate); it's simply one of the principal jobs of a GM to protect and maximize every player's value, just in case. If you move Bogie off SS now, less than 100 ABs into his AA tenure, you're telling the rest of the league that he definitely can't play SS. He becomes a slugging 3B or LF prospect, rather than a special SS and he falls out of everyone's Top 10. He's still a great prospect but he loses his uniqueness if he moves off of SS. So even if it might make sense for him to move eventually (esp. after he adds another 20-30 lbs to his 6'3" frame), Cherry's going to insist until he's blue in the face that he's a SS - until another role on the big-league team becomes imminent.

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    1. P.S. it's never too early to have debate's like this because they are fun, but Brian's points about Xander's value related to his position are very true.

      So that got me thinking about a similar question which may be more current. Will Jackie Bradley Jr. make the team out of spring training? Nick Cafardo asked that question to John Farrell today and got an interesting answer. So if he does make the team which outifeld position will he play most? Everyone knows that JBJr is an above average CF so moving him to LF or RF won't hurt his "value". Even if he doesn't make the team out of spring training it seems as though he is in a position to help Boston in 2013. Which position is he most capable of helping the Red Sox out this year?

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    2. Much of what is said and done at the beginning of spring training is overblown, but I did find it interesting that John Farrell did not give a stock answer about Bradley needing more seasoning. And kind of hidden in the Globe piece was another interesting tidbit about JBJ. That is the original plan had been to send him back to AAA at some point. All of the conventional wisdom over the winter was that both Bradley and Bogaerts would at least start 2013 in Portland. Maybe not for Bradley.

      If Bradley should make the team out of camp, or if he is recalled in early 2013, even though he is a far superior defensive CF to Ellsbury, I believe he would play the role that could have been Ryan Kalish's. That is to back up all three OF spots. If Jonny Gomes turns out to be just a platoon LF vs. left handed pitching, the most of the games for JBJ would be in left. He would need to play at least 4-5 games a week otherwise he would be better off playing every day in AAA.

      At this point, if I had to guess, Bradley will not make the team out of Florida, but I bet he is in Boston by May 10th.

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    3. I highly doubt JBJ will make the team out of camp this year. And talk about premature debates -- it's less than a week into spring training! How many ML pitchers has he faced? One per game? And how many of them threw all fastballs, just trying to get a feel for having a batter in the box after 5 months off (I guess Dickey probably threw all knuckleballs yesterday)? The other issue is team control over him into the future. The last thing the FO wants to do is start his ML service time clock way earlier than is necessary. Essentially, they would be sacrificing a year of control over him down the road (when he's nearing his prime) for a year or less now when he's trying to get used to ML pitching. Yes, he's athletic and had a great game yesterday but he's barely had 60 games in AA (during which his offensive numbers took a hit compared to A-ball) and no games in AAA. And if he was on the major league team, he'd be sitting a lot, which won't do him any good at this point. I think Farrell was just being careful in his answer to not say something that might hurt the kid's feelings but I'll be shocked if he goes north with the big club.

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    4. Brian, you're right on about JBJr. The Sox will not start his arbitration clock early and he has barely seen major league pitching. But it's spring training and there is still six inches of snow on the ground here in Maine, and what better way to pass the time until Opening Day but waxing poetic about the future of our bright Red Sox prospects? After all, it's much more fun than talking about Ellsbury's contract or Napoli's hips or even Lackey's big lips.

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    5. Great points here Brian. I think your best two points are: 1) one principal job of a GM is to maximize each player's value, and 2) "until another role on the big-league team becomes imminent. These are seemingly contradictory statements, but they summarize the Bogaerts positional debate perfectly. Yes, there are all kinds of reasons to keep him at SS.....BUT if the Sox need his bat in the major league lineup this year and the left side of the infield is clogged, then they have to look at him at OF if he could be the difference between making the playoffs and sitting at home during the postseason for the fourth straight year.
      One last point - if Bogaerts has a bat capable of being a LF in the major leagues, then wouldn't he still be a very valuable commodity? How big is the difference really between an elite SS prospect and an elite outfield prospect? As I said in my original post, a couple of kids named Harper and Trout did alright for themselves last year as first year players in the outfield. Wil Myers, to name another, seemed to have pretty high value in the trade of the winter between the Royals and Rays. If Bogaerts can be our LF for the next 15 years, then why are we worried about losing his potential value as a SS?

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  8. This debate (the Bogaerts one) takes on a little different feel with the Will Middlebrooks injury. Btw I'm scared as hell about Willie Middle. I know there is a long way to go before opening day, but anytime the team and player rush out to say that we are just going to get it checked out for precautionary reasons...it never goes well. Nomar all over again.

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    1. Three words: gulp, gulp, and gulp.
      I too am scared to death about the short and long term future of Willie Middle. I want so badly for this to just be an overblown bump in the road, but as you said we have seen the impact of wrist injuries before with Nomar. This debate about Bogaerts' position may be moot if Willie Middle is out this season too. Let's all hope that isn't the case and Willie crushes 25 bombs and 100 RBI this year.
      Gulp.

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  9. Looks like the Middlebrooks injury isn't serious for now. He saw a specialist yesterday and was cleared for all baseball activities. The wrist injury still scares the hell out of me though. If he was to be out for the season of whatever reason who would play 3B? It would have to be someone not in the organization right now. Ciriaco is not the long term answer and there's no one other than Bogaerts in the system who could do it and let's face it he's not ready for that. They'd have to trade some of their catching or relief pitching surplus to acquire a third basemen right?

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  10. Can we all just take a moment and send a gigantic "thank you again!" across the U.S. to Ned Colletti? Carl Crawford is already sitting out with soreness in his repaired elbow and is questionable to be ready for Opening Day. Could we imagine heading into 2013 with Crawford's albatross contract still around our necks, Gonzo's flaccid bat still in the middle of our lineup, and Beckett's brooding still souring the clubhouse? I think we're going to look back on that trade a few years from now as the best Red Sox trade since moving Nomar in 2004, and maybe ever. And that's before we even talk about picking up De La Rosa and Webster in the deal, who both might end up being top end starting pitchers for us! One more time, "Thank you so much Ned! Good work Benny C!"

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