Red Sox forgotten man Bogaerts has a high 2018 ceiling

Two years ago fans were clamoring for a long-term deal for Bogaerts. My how times have changed.

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After the 2015 and 2016 seasons, Boston Red Sox fans viewed shortstop Xander Bogaerts as a player that the team should lock up long-term. After a poor 2017 season though, he now seems to be the forgotten man.

Bogaerts has the potential to bounce back in 2018 with some solid numbers, returning to the list of the league’s elite shortstops.

Last season, Xander hit .273 with 10 home runs and 62 RBI. When averaging his numbers from 2015 and 2016, those numbers jump up to .307, 14 home runs, and 85 RBI. If he can return to that kind of production in 2018, the love from fans will certainly return. A hand injury early in the season likely impacted Bogaerts at the plate, and one poor 2017 season should not define him. In the “what have you done for me lately” society that we live in, that’s just the way things go though.

In 2016, Bogey had a career-high 21 home runs. While that’s unlikely to happen again, he does have enough power to wind up somewhere between 14-16. He should also be able to get up above or close to 80 RBi on the season.

Defensively, Bogaerts is still clearly one of the best shortstops in the MLB. He’s a career .977 fielder at shortstop for the Red Sox, and he’s just as valuable in the middle of the infield as Mookie Betts and Jackie Bradley Jr. are in the outfield. Clearly, he is a player that will remain in the lineup even if he’s struggling at the plate, but the team would surely love to see that offensive production climb. New manager Alex Cora is among those with high hopes for Xander in 2018. He noted that Boagerts, and other Red Sox player, had quite a few bad takes.

“We can’t have bad takes at the plate,” Cora said.

“A bad take for me, I learned last year is like, if you’re a good fastball hitter and you take a fastball right down the middle, that’s a bad take. Don’t just take pitches just to take pitches. I know the game will dictate what you do sometimes, but there’s nothing wrong to go hunt the first pitch that you can drive, put a good swing on it, and you hit a rocket to center field and it’s one out.”

“People will go, ‘One pitch, one out.’ But that was a missile. It doesn’t matter. All you want to do as a hitter is hit the ball solid, and that’s what we want from him, either it’s pitch 1 or pitch 18 of an at-bat. You do that and you’ll be fine.”

Bogaerts has said that he would like to be more aggressive early in the count this season. Last year, he hit just .241 on the first pitch, but he did have a spike when things got to an even 1-1 count at .286, and at 2-1 he hit .317. As soon as Bogaerts got down in a count though, he struggled to get on base. When he got into a 0-2 hole Xander hit just .262 and he will look to avoid that by getting after things early with the first or second pitch. As a whole, the entire Red Sox team would likely aim to be more aggressive, as it seemed like they were deep in the hole in almost every at-bat.

Xander Bogaerts also has the added benefit of actually being that forgotten man. There really isn’t any pressure on him, so he should just be able to step up to the plate and feel comfortable, at least in the beginning of the season. The lineup has more insurance with J.D. Martinez added, so Bogaerts does not have to do anything crazy. Rafael Devers should also be better, and many expect Betts to bounce back in ’18. If all of that does happen, a .290 season would be viewed as spectacular for Bogey.

Simply put, there’s no reason to expect another poor season from Xander Bogaerts. He has what it takes to succeed at the plate, and defensively he’s one of the best. He could end up being an unsung hero for Boston if he’s able to return to his 2015-16 form.