The Futures game is a tidy little treat snuck into the beginning of the All Star break. Buried on Sunday afternoon when there is still real baseball to talk about, this year’s edition of the Futures Game featured many of the top prospects in the game. Like the actual All Star game, the Futures game is a revolving door of mid-game replacements and starting pitchers airing it out in one inning stints.
The big names are known to baseball wonks and prospect watchers but rarely to many fans get to see these players ply their trade. Outside the odd Spring Training cameo, it rare to catch of glimpse of most minor leaguers, let alone so much of the top baseball talent in the world in the same place at the same time.
When all the minor league talent came together last week, it was Xander Bogaerts who stole the show. The Red Sox shortstop prospect built on his great first half by putting his many skills on display for a national audience. It is becoming very apparent to those who follow other teams in the American League: Xander Bogaerts is about to become a major thorn in your side.
There is no shame in not knowing much about Xander Bogaerts. The Red Sox top rated prospect is just 20-years old after all, and began this season with just 100 plate appearances at the Double-A level. The native of Aruba signed with the Sox as a 16-year old in 2009 and promptly posted a .314/.396/.423 line in the Dominican Summer League the following year.
Bogaerts rose rapidly through the Red Sox system, posting big numbers at every level, hitting for power and showing a great patience, posting high walk rates in addition to a keen ability to put the bat on the ball. In nearly 1500 minor league at bats, Bogaerts owns a .295/.372/.493 batting line with 52 home runs and 16 triples. This is a shortstop we’re talking about?!
Prompted to Triple-A this season (where he is the youngest player on his team and the youngest player in the International League), Bogaerts has done nothing to take the shine of his considerable prospect diamond. In addition to putting up more great numbers at AAA, his skills have the scouts drooling.
The Futures Game was a perfect showcase for all Bogaerts skills. Baseball America voted him “Best Overall Player”, lauding his combination of tools and applicable skills.
Scouts didn’t need to watch the Futures Game to know that Red Sox shortstop Xander Bogaerts is a special talent. The game only reinforced Bogaerts’ status as an elite prospect who could one day be in the discussion for an American League MVP award.
Bogaerts picked up two hits in the Sunday event, driving a line drive to centre field on some serious heat. Later, he sent another hot shot up the middle for his second hit in addition to putting on a BP show for the assembled hordes. Zack Mortimer of Baseball Prospectus also praised the young SS’s ability to stay within himself during batting practice, getting in his work without selling out his mechanics trying to put on a show.
As impressive as anything he did in the cage was the baseball instincts or “feel for the game” Bogaerts showed as a base runner, making a heads up slide to get around a tag when attempting to score from third on a fly ball. Just as much as a 4:30pm laser show, this slide on the field grabbed the attention of those with their eye on the 20-year old.
Alex Speier of WEEI spoke at length with Bogaerts about his approach to hitting and his experience at the Futures Game and it is impossible not to come away impressed. For such a young hitter to be so keenly aware of “controlling the strike zone” in addition to the rest of his polish, it is an exciting time for Red Sox fans looking beyond their teams’ great first half of 2013.
Might the Red Sox look to Bogaerts to bolster the big league roster in the second half? With serious questions at third base, they just might. Bogaerts is a big for a shortstop (6’3) but many feel he can stick at short for at least the time being. The Red Sox will certainly not rush a player with such a bright future, unless they believe he can step right in and contribute.
The future is very, very bright for Xander Bogaerts and many around the game are starting to take notice. He jumped up to the number two prospect in Fangraphs’ mid-season rankings while Keith Law has him third at ESPN, sane as Baseball Prospectus. Baseball America has the Dutch international fourth behind Miguel Sano and the other usual suspects (Byron Buxton and Oscar Taveras). Dave Cameron even included Bogaerts in his top 50 most valuable trade commodoties in baseball, placing Bogaerts 29th ahead of numerous establish and emergent big leaguers.
It is a good time to be Xander Bogaerts and a good time to be a Red Sox fan. The next wave of Red Sox talent is already knocking on the door as the current veteran-heavy roster competes for a division title. At the front of that wave is Xander Bogaerts, a player many believe will lead the Sox in many title chases to come – with a few MVP chases mixed in for good measure.