The “Beer and Chicken” scandal several seasons ago in Boston ended with the departure of many Red Sox members. The biggest move, other than firing Bobby Valentine, was the massive trade that sent a multitude of players to L.A. for a bundle of youth. One of those players was Josh Beckett who ironically enough is now playing alongside the very player who initially brought Becket to Boston, Hanley Ramirez.
Hanley Ramirez isn’t the most prominent name in Boston but he once was the most decorated shortstop prospect since Nomar perhaps in Red Sox history. Today, that same honor is held by the new hope at shortstop in Boston: Xander Bogaerts.
Despite the accolades, hype and skill, Bogaerts has seen his fair share of struggles in his first full season leading fans to wonder will Xander Bogaerts ever break out and become a breakout player?
Although not a shortstop anymore with Red Sox (management announcing his permanent movement to third base), very few of the concerns with Bogaerts have been in the field. Instead the issue has been Bogaerts’ inability to get on base or even make solid contact this year. After showing impressive pop at the plate in his initial call up to the majors last season during the teams World Series run, Bogaerts is hitting a putrid .234 this season and more recently is hitting in the low .100s.
So what proof is their that a Xander Bogaerts break out will occur during the second half? The best excuse to maintain hope for Bogaerts may be that history repeats itself. Going all the way back over the past four years, Xander Bogaerts hit .300+ in AA, A+, R, and hit .284 in AAA. With a history of batting around .300 including a career AA batting average of .370+, Bogaerts clearly has the talent to become a solid hitter at the plate.
That same history of hitting success makes it even more perplexing that Bogaerts isn’t hitting the ball with consistency, so whats spoiling his success in 2014? The most obvious observation on Bogaerts’ lack of success would be his poor plate discipline. With 90 k’s in 374 plate appearances, Bogaerts strikes out almost once per four at bats, a dismal statistic that brings memories of Kevin Youkilis in Boston.
Bogaerts is suffering from a phase in every players career when opposing teams figure out your weakness at the plate. Fellow Red Sox third baseman Will Middlebrooks suffered a similar problem after bursting onto the season two years ago only to have the opposition realize he cannot cover the plate. So with Middlebrooks fizzling out in AAA and Bogaerts flailing in the majors, whats here to give more confidence for the later of the two?
Unlike Middlebrooks, who is already 25 years old, Xander Bogaerts is still 21 with many years of growth ahead of him. With all the time to develop, fans can stay positive that Bogaerts will develop along the same career path of the previously mentioned Youkilis who’s batting average increased the first four years of his major league career until he was a .300 hitter.
Is their hope that Xander Bogaerts will break out in the second half? Yes, but it is more likely that the very breakout we are looking for may be hitting .270 for the remainder of the season, showing consistent growth which will transfer to future seasons, growing with a young team in the process.