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Only four 22-year-old major-leaguers have been roughly three-win players in 2015:

Player

Team

WARP

Bryce Harper

Nationals

10.0

Manny Machado

Orioles

6.4

Mookie Betts

Red Sox

4.8

Xander Bogaerts

Red Sox

2.8

Harper has captured headlines across the baseball community this year with his historic level of performance. Machado has somewhat slid under the radar in 2015; however, more people are recognizing him as a bona fide superstar. Betts entered the season with lofty expectations, and although much of his value comes from his defense, his .289 TAv illustrates that he’s also been plenty above average with the bat.

Bogaerts, on the other hand, seems somewhat out of place on this list. Not only is he relatively forgotten due to his debut last year, but his lack of attractive counting stats has prevented him from being talked about on every sporting network. A .320 batting average is wonderful. The mere five home runs and seven stolen bases, though, inspire the “empty average” criticisms—that is, his average is lesser because it’s not supplemented with tangible power or speed.

That seems to make a certain amount of sense. His home run and stolen base totals are identical to those of Adeiny Hechavarria, which should prevent us from using any kind of “superstar” label on Bogaerts. Or, at least, that’s what one would think.

Two points:

(1) Xavier Bogaerts is currently the no. 1-ranked fantasy shortstop in ESPN leagues.

(2) In the Live Ball Era, Bogaerts’s 107 wRC+ is the 17th-best single-season mark among 22-year-old shortstops. That is, in almost 100 years of baseball history, Bogaerts has had a top-20 offensive season for a shortstop of his age.

The fact that Bogaerts is the top fantasy shortstop in the majors is indicative of how poor the offensive landscape is at the position and how important run stats can be in fantasy. Shortstops have steadily gotten worse at the plate in this decade. They’ve declined in power and speed, as the current crop of players have 104 fewer stolen bases than shortstops a year ago—which only decreases the collective fantasy production at the position, given the additional decreased on-base percentage.

Bogaerts ranks fourth among shortstops in runs scored and second in RBI. Thus, what appears to be an “empty average” isn’t empty at all in fantasy leagues. He’s a bona fide stud in three categories, and his seven stolen bases help him from being below average in two. Thus, his .263 TAv portrays an average offensive player, a measure that is perhaps accurate of his skills at the plate but something that hides his true fantasy value. Fantasy owners who rely on slash lines and HR/SB totals to make player valuations are missing a key component in standard rotisserie leagues. Bogaerts’s position in the Red Sox’s lineup bumps up his stock.

Furthermore, the 22-year-old shortstop is putting up one of the best seasons a 22-year-old shortstop has ever had in Major League Baseball. Arky Vaughn and Cal Ripken lead the pace by a wide margin; however, Bogaerts states his case just fine.

Player

Team

Year

wRC+

1

Arky Vaughn

Pirates

1934

153

2

Cal Ripken

Orioles

1983

146

3

Vern Stephens

Browns

1943

140

4

Jim Fregosi

Angels

1964

136

5

Alex Rodriguez

Mariners

1998

135

6

Wil Cordero

Expos

1994

120

7

Joe Sewell

Indians

1921

119

8

Johnny Pesky

Red Sox

1942

119

9

Chris Speier

Giants

1972

118

10

Lou Boudreau

Indians

1940

117

11

Hanley Ramirez

Marlins

2006

116

12

Alan Trammell

Tigers

1980

115

13

Ron Hansen

Orioles

1960

115

14

Joe Cronin

Senators

1929

113

15

Robin Yount

Brewers

1978

111

16

Troy Tulowitzki

Rockies

2007

109

17

Xander Bogaerts

Red Sox

2015

107

That’s a quality list that includes six current Hall of Famers and another one or two, depending on the politics of one’s Hall of Fame qualifications. Being on the list doesn’t guarantee such a future for Xander Bogaerts; however, it should put his current season into serious perspective. Instead of equating him to someone pedestrian like Hechavarria, perhaps we should be acknowledging the awesomeness of his work at the plate in relation to his historical counterparts. Though, to be fair, it should be noted that Hechavarria has been a two-plus-win player in 2015 and shouldn’t be utilized in the negative fashion in which he’s been employed. He’s just four years older and only has a .249 TAv and is a different kind of player with a inferior ceiling.

This is all to say that the Red Sox’s shortstop has been severely underrated in both fantasy—where he’s only owned in 91 percent of leagues, which is ridiculous for the no. 1 fantasy player at a position—and in real baseball. The overall community has shifted its focus to the likes of Kris Bryant, Miguel Sano, Carlos Correa, and Corey Seager. That quartet is uber-talented. However, Xander Bogaerts has just put together one of the best full seasons a 22-year-old shortstop has done in the live-ball era, and few people seem to have noticed, or cared.

BUYER’S ADVICE: BUY

This lack of attention and the focus on his poor HR/SB totals should allow a savvy fantasy owner to swoop in and acquire a top-tier shortstop without the insane price tag. He showed double-digit capabilities with the long ball a year ago. In fact, he’d hit double-digit homers from 2011 to 2014. The idea that he’s limited to single digits is ridiculous. Expect the power to return in future seasons, which should only increase his overall fantasy value, vaulting him from underappreciated stud to elite. Xander Bogaerts is a great target in dynasty leagues, a guy with a tremendous ceiling who is somehow being treated as a mid-tier fantasy shortstop. He ain’t that. Grab him.

Thank you for reading

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MatternK
9/14
Nice read! Thank you!
markpadden
9/14
Two comments:

1) Why use overall value metrics (which have a ton of very volatile defense baked in) when evaluating fantasy potential? Defense only matters to the extent it allows a player to stay at his position. "Excess" defensive skill -- even if we were to assume that defensive metrics were any good -- largely goes to waste from a fantasy perspective.

2) None of your metrics make any attempt to normalize Bogaerts' ridiculously high .369 BABIP. A 4% BB rate (bottom 15 in all of baseball), minimal speed, and a .369 BABIP do not tend to survive together.

Plenty to like about the player long-term, but I think the fantasy community's short-term skepticism has been warranted.

chapmantime
9/15
J.P. addresses that by also noting that Bogaerts is elite (by SS standards) in three widely used cats: Runs, RBI, BA/OBP. If the fantasy community is skeptical when faced with those numbers, that's on the fantasy community. Those who have scouted Bogaerts since the Sox signed him know that there is a great deal more power in there as well.

Having only seen him sporadically, I can say that those looks have shown a hitter who is aggressive and who uses the whole field. While the walk rate has dropped this year, the strikeouts have even more dramatically, and it's likely that even with a BABiP correction he's probably a .280-.290 hitter. Basically he's been akin to "good" Starlin Castro, with the promise of much more.
markpadden
9/17
The fantasy community is (should be) concerned with the future, not the past. If you think past R, RBI and BA are even decent predictors of future R, RBI and BA, I might just have an opening for you in my league!

Dodger300
9/20
I take your point that these stats may not be the BEST predictors of performance, but you don't think that the RBI stat is even a DECENT predictor of future RBI?

So, I guess you must believe that although Miguel Cabrera has averaged 121 RBI per 162 games over his 13 year career, and has never had less than 105 RBI in any year since his rookie season (during which he produced 62 RBI in only 87 games) occurred by random chance and could not have been predicted?

Seriously?

I just might have an opening for you in my league!
markpadden
10/30
So you're "predicting" something that has already happened? Not really how it works.
Dodger300
11/24
Your comment is a red herring.

The way to check the validity of any predictor is to see if it's past performance was "decent."

While you seem to believe that Mike Trout's future R, RBI, and BA will be totally random, I predict that, barring injury, they will bear at least a "decent" correlation to his numbers in the past. Want to make a bet on that?
sbnirish77
9/15
BABIP either gets promoted or buried depending upon the point one is trying to make.
greywilliams
9/15
Nice article, JP, and it did make me take another look at XB. You might want to do a little compare and contrast with Lindor, who is 1) a full year younger with a higher TAv and almost the same WARP (2.6 to 2.8) in under 2/3 the opportunities, and 2) a no-doubt shortstop for life. That may be a "sell" indicator if Frankie is playing over his head, or it may be that he is just improving rapidly (take a look at his TAv by month and you'll see what I mean). Would love your thoughts on this...
chapmantime
9/15
Most reports I read are treating Lindor like a star, so I don't know if anyone thinks he's in over his head. While he's clearly the better defender, Bogaerts has far more raw power. At this point, I'd say the book on them comp-wise hasn't changed much at all from where it was several years ago when they were both low minors prospects.
markpadden
9/17
The real history being made here is the BB% vs. BABIP. Guess how many qualified players have had a BB% < 5% and a BABIP > .370 in a single season since 2005?

Zero.

Digging deeper (to 1990), I found one player, the immortal Homer Bush (TOR), who posted a 4.0% BB and .374 BABIP -- to go along with 32 SB -- in 1999. He would never play a full season again.