Revisiting the Xander-at-shortstop debate

David Laurila

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Most everyone here remembers the speculation that Xander Bogaerts wouldn't stick at shortstop, and that his future was as a third baseman. All these years later he's still at short, albeit with perennially below-average defensive metrics. Given that his bat would allow him to play anywhere, has it been prudent to leave him at the position? Moreover, how long should he/will he stay at short?

I just wrote about Bogaerts at FanGraphs, and upon doing so decided this was a good SoSH topic. Unless I've overlooked it, the subject hasn't been addressed here recently.

 

BaseballJones

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He might be better defensively elsewhere, like, say, 3b. I mean, they're not going to move him to the OF, and any issues he has at SS would be basically equalled if he were to play 2b. So it's SS, 3b, or 1b really. And right now they've got a stud at 3b in Devers, and some rising talent in the organization to play DH or the other corner.

Bogaerts' glove may not be perfectly suited for SS, but his bat REALLY plays well there. He's a 5-7 WAR player at SS. Would he be more valuable than that playing 3b and moving Devers? Or playing 1b and blocking Casas?

I think he's right where he should be, even if his fielding costs them a few runs a year. His bat there easily makes up for that and more.
 

Sandy Leon Trotsky

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Would moving Devers to 1B, X to 3B and then ? at SS (assuming a replacement level SS on offense, but GG quality defense) be better than the current configuration as Devers at 3B, X at SS and Dalbec at 1B? I don't see it.
 

EricFeczko

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Would moving Devers to 1B, X to 3B and then ? at SS (assuming a replacement level SS on offense, but GG quality defense) be better than the current configuration as Devers at 3B, X at SS and Dalbec at 1B? I don't see it.
Yeah, I don't get it either. Xander was far worse at 3B when he actually played there from 2013-2014. Besides, our defense at 2nd and 3rd are far weaker. Unless Devers's bat continues to improve, he'd be below average at 1B.
 

YTF

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IIRC, Bogaerts wasn't overly enthused at the idea of playing 3rd the first time around was he? I wonder how accepting he would be of the idea some 7 years later. If he was blocking a great SS prospect who was MLB ready and the move would improve the team I can see him agreeing, but ATM that's not the case.
 

Royal Reader

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IIRC, Bogaerts wasn't overly enthused at the idea of playing 3rd the first time around was he? I wonder how accepting he would be of the idea some 7 years later. If he was blocking a great SS prospect who was MLB ready and the move would improve the team I can see him agreeing, but ATM that's not the case.
This is where I'm at. As he ages, hopefully the farm system can produce a decent young SS, and he might be best placed moving off shortstop in his early thirties. For the next couple of years with Devers at third, it seems like it moves too many people to positions where their bats play less well.
 

DJnVa

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Unless Devers's bat continues to improve, he'd be below average at 1B.
Just to clarify--Dever's *bat* would be below average at 1B?

In 2019, average OPS at 1B was .807. Even with this weird year, Devers OPS over last 2 seasons is .884, and .830 over his career.
 

Wallball Tingle

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In favor of a swap of Bogaerts and Devers on the field...as long as they get a 1B whose last name rhymes with Chance. Purely so that the double play call could be Xander to Devers to Chance (though it'd probably be tough for this tandem to complete a DP given their defensive struggles).

More seriously, Bogaerts is probably not enough below average defensively (yet) to justify the shift given his offensive output and each position's expected offensive output. If/when he degrades much more, it's easy enough to imagine moving him to a corner for the good of the team if his hitting is still there.
 

DJnVa

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In favor of a swap of Bogaerts and Devers on the field...as long as they get a 1B whose last name rhymes with Chance. Purely so that the double play call could be Xander to Devers to Chance (though it'd probably be tough for this tandem to complete a DP given their defensive struggles).
Might also be tough, as we don't see a lot of 5-6-3 DPs.
 

EricFeczko

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Just to clarify--Dever's *bat* would be below average at 1B?

In 2019, average OPS at 1B was .807. Even with this weird year, Devers OPS over last 2 seasons is .884, and .830 over his career.
Its certainly possible that the 57 games he played this year should be considered a mulligan, but yes, he is slightly below average for 1B for most of his career -- except for a hot streak in 2019. Hence, why I said unless his bat continues to progress.
35025
 

Harry Hooper

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It's a problem beyond Bogaerts. The outlook for upcoming seasons for the Sox is that the infield could lack any very good fielders, which magnifies any shortcomings at SS. If Downs or somebody were projected to be in the gold glove neighborhood, that would help.
 

RedOctober3829

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Could X go to the OF?

I think the best possible thing for the team long term is X in LF, Devers at 3B, 2021 FA SS such as Lindor or Baez, and Casas or Dalbec at 1st. Trade Benny before you have to pay him bigger money than he is getting currently.
 

nvalvo

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Most everyone here remembers the speculation that Xander Bogaerts wouldn't stick at shortstop, and that his future was as a third baseman. All these years later he's still at short, albeit with perennially below-average defensive metrics. Given that his bat would allow him to play anywhere, has it been prudent to leave him at the position? Moreover, how long should he/will he stay at short?

I just wrote about Bogaerts at FanGraphs, and upon doing so decided this was a good SoSH topic. Unless I've overlooked it, the subject hasn't been addressed here recently.

I thought this was a great piece, David. Bogaerts' reflections on the Iglesias-Peavy trade were especially interesting.

I guess I must say, that in 2013, I did not anticipate that Iglesias would by 2020 have about 180% of Avisail Garcia's career WAR total, and that they'd have almost identical career OBP.
 

Red(s)HawksFan

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I see no reason to even consider moving Bogaerts until there's a compelling alternative for SS. If we're talking a real chance to sign a FA next winter like Lindor, Correa, Baez, Seager, or Story (seriously, the 21-22 FA shortstop class is stacked), it's a conversation worth having. Otherwise, X is fine right where he is.
 

scottyno

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Its certainly possible that the 57 games he played this year should be considered a mulligan, but yes, he is slightly below average for 1B for most of his career -- except for a hot streak in 2019. Hence, why I said unless his bat continues to progress.
He's only played 392 games, that "hot streak" in 2019 makes up a huge chunk of his career thus far. He also started absolutely terrible this year and then was a very good hitter for most of it, not sure why he needs a mulligan. It's very likely his true talent bat is what he did in 2019 even if he doesn't progress as a 23 year old.
 

EricFeczko

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He's only played 392 games, that "hot streak" in 2019 makes up a huge chunk of his career thus far. He also started absolutely terrible this year and then was a very good hitter for most of it, not sure why he needs a mulligan. It's very likely his true talent bat is what he did in 2019 even if he doesn't progress as a 23 year old.
Given how many players fluctuate over the early part of their career, this statement is almost certainly premature -- he had a hot streak late in 2019 that looked like development, and this year is striking out 27% of the time. There's a ton of uncertainty in how he'll develop.
 

scottyno

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Given how many players fluctuate over the early part of their career, this statement is almost certainly premature -- he had a hot streak late in 2019 that looked like development, and this year is striking out 27% of the time. There's a ton of uncertainty in how he'll develop.
He really didn't just have a hot streak late in 2019 though

Month by month ops+ in 2019:

109
167
132
191
126
103

That's a 4 month stretch midseason where he crushed the ball, surrounded by a bit of a slow start and a bit of a slow finish

In 2020 he had a 49 ops+ in the 8 games in July and then finished the year with a 115 in August and a 127 in September, so even in a down year he was a well above average hitter once he took a little time to get into form after a crazy offseason
 

EricFeczko

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He really didn't just have a hot streak late in 2019 though

Month by month ops+ in 2019:

109
167
132
191
126
103

That's a 4 month stretch midseason where he crushed the ball, surrounded by a bit of a slow start and a bit of a slow finish

In 2020 he had a 49 ops+ in the 8 games in July and then finished the year with a 115 in August and a 127 in September, so even in a down year he was a well above average hitter once he took a little time to get into form after a crazy offseason
How arbitrary, reminds me of Eric Van trying to find signal by slicing the data so it fits his hypothesis.

A 60 game rolling average is a far better indicator -- and clearly shows a spike of about 50 games, after which he came crashing back down.

Even if one accepts your post-hoc narrative regarding 2020, such evidence indicates that Devers bat is vulnerable to disruption -- which adds an unmeasurable degree of uncertainty to his progress.
 

effectivelywild

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How arbitrary, reminds me of Eric Van trying to find signal by slicing the data so it fits his hypothesis.

A 60 game rolling average is a far better indicator -- and clearly shows a spike of about 50 games, after which he came crashing back down.

Even if one accepts your post-hoc narrative regarding 2020, such evidence indicates that Devers bat is vulnerable to disruption -- which adds an unmeasurable degree of uncertainty to his progress.
Not for nothing, his spike of about 50 games (to me, more like 60, but YMMV) in 2019 is longer than his "crashing back down" of 2020. And yes, prior to the 2019 hot streak he did have a long stretch of being a below average hitter---but those were the first games of his career. I realize that its easy to frame numbers to fit a narrative, but the narrative of "young player improves as he gets more experience" is not an outlandish one. Yes, its unclear if the progress he has shown is sustainable, but I feel like you could be equally accused of Eric Van-ing his numbers to suit yourself.
 

scottyno

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How arbitrary, reminds me of Eric Van trying to find signal by slicing the data so it fits his hypothesis.

A 60 game rolling average is a far better indicator -- and clearly shows a spike of about 50 games, after which he came crashing back down.

Even if one accepts your post-hoc narrative regarding 2020, such evidence indicates that Devers bat is vulnerable to disruption -- which adds an unmeasurable degree of uncertainty to his progress.
You called his results based on "a hot streak late in the 2019 season", who knew that May-August was late in the season and not the majority of the season?
 

EricFeczko

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Not for nothing, his spike of about 50 games (to me, more like 60, but YMMV) in 2019 is longer than his "crashing back down" of 2020. And yes, prior to the 2019 hot streak he did have a long stretch of being a below average hitter---but those were the first games of his career. I realize that its easy to frame numbers to fit a narrative, but the narrative of "young player improves as he gets more experience" is not an outlandish one. Yes, its unclear if the progress he has shown is sustainable, but I feel like you could be equally accused of Eric Van-ing his numbers to suit yourself.
I agree entirely with this sentiment, which is why I originally wrote this:

Yeah, I don't get it either. Xander was far worse at 3B when he actually played there from 2013-2014. Besides, our defense at 2nd and 3rd are far weaker. Unless Devers's bat continues to improve, he'd be below average at 1B.
I'm optimistic, but making a switch to 1B now seems extremely short-sighted.

You called his results based on "a hot streak late in the 2019 season", who knew that May-August was late in the season and not the majority of the season?
Well I certainly wouldn't make any claims on his true talent from May-August, especially when he crashed heading into 2020, unlike this post:

He's only played 392 games, that "hot streak" in 2019 makes up a huge chunk of his career thus far. He also started absolutely terrible this year and then was a very good hitter for most of it, not sure why he needs a mulligan. It's very likely his true talent bat is what he did in 2019 even if he doesn't progress as a 23 year old.
EDIT: Furthermore, if you're hoping for players to build on their career -- shifting them around and forcing them to learn new positions seems like a terrible way to facilitate improvements with the bat.
 

scottyno

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I'm not saying may-august is his true talent, I'm saying the entirety of his 2019 season likely is, which seems reasonable since for the majority of the shortened season of 2020 he put up similar numbers
 

Papelbon's Poutine

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Leave everyone alone and where they are. Don't make more problems. X is perfectly fine as a capable SS, he isn't Omar Vizquel but he isn't a butcher. Same with Devers. Focus on pitching.
 

EricFeczko

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I'm not saying may-august is his true talent, I'm saying the entirety of his 2019 season likely is, which seems reasonable since for the majority of the shortened season of 2020 he put up similar numbers
I'm saying that making any claim about true talent on the basis of a single season is ludicrous.
 

scottyno

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I'm saying that making any claim about true talent on the basis of a single season is ludicrous.
Unlike definitively stating that his current bat is below average for a 1st baseman based on 60 game rolling averages?
 

EricFeczko

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It's a problem beyond Bogaerts. The outlook for upcoming seasons for the Sox is that the infield could lack any very good fielders, which magnifies any shortcomings at SS. If Downs or somebody were projected to be in the gold glove neighborhood, that would help.
Agreed. The problem here is not the heavily discounted SS superstar Xander Bogaerts (2nd in SS fWAR over the past 4 seasons), but rather the lack of good players everywhere else. 2B and 1B are possibly poor positions for the Red Sox (Dalbec's K rate remains concerning, even if its largely driven by a bad start -- he too needs to improve). I wonder if Downs would be slotted at 2B in the Red Sox farm system.


Leave everyone alone and where they are. Don't make more problems. X is perfectly fine as a capable SS, he isn't Omar Vizquel but he isn't a butcher. Same with Devers. Focus on pitching.
100 percent. Our biggest problem is that we have 3 starting pitchers, basically.
 

EricFeczko

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Unlike definitively stating that his current bat is below average for a 1st baseman based on 60 game rolling averages?
For most of his career it, objectively, has been (YMMV) -- if we start from the premise that 1B average an .807 OPS (which I'm not so sure about, actually). He had a spike in 2019, which is encouraging, but its about a third of his games. It doesn't mean much unless its followed up.
 

jon abbey

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To me it seems like Devers had pretty similar offensive seasons in 2019 and 2020, terrible first 80 or so PAs and great the rest of the way, it's just that 2019 was so much longer.

2019: first 79 PAs, .665 OPS
rest of the season, .946 OPS (623 PAs)

2020: first 88 PAs, .556 OPS
rest of the season, .894 OPS (169 PAs)
 

scottyno

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For most of his career it, objectively, has been (YMMV) -- he had a spike in 2019, which is encouraging, but it doesn't mean much unless its followed up.
It was followed up by a fine year despite the lost season that you called a crash
 

EricFeczko

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It was followed up by a fine year despite the lost season that you called a crash
We weren't talking about "fine", we were talking about whether his bat will play at 1B. Longing for a player that's 10 percent better than Mitch Moreland performed at 1B is the definition of aiming low.
 

EricFeczko

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To me it seems like Devers had pretty similar offensive seasons in 2019 and 2020, terrible first 80 or so PAs and great the rest of the way, it's just that 2019 was so much longer.

2019: first 79 PAs, .665 OPS
rest of the season, .946 OPS (623 PAs)

2020: first 88 PAs, .556 OPS
rest of the season, .894 OPS (169 PAs)
Agreed, he definitely recovered after crashing (see the chart), which is why I'm optimistic his bat will continue to improve. It's a shame we won't see whether he'll achieve the same spike he did in 2019.
Still doesn't mean he should be slotted at 1B to make room for Xander at 3B ;)
 

scottyno

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In his "crash" year, while including the terrible start, he still put up what would have been average 1b offensive numbers
 

scottyno

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All of this is off topic though, to answer the question, I think until they know what Dalbec is then they can't really move X anyway because Dalbec needs to play 1st since JDM needs to DH
 

The Gray Eagle

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Doesn’t sound like a guy planning to opt out.
Until he gets moved off his position for some guy who will be getting paid way more money for more years than he has left on his contract. That would change things in a big hurry.
 

Savin Hillbilly

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The wrong side of the bridge....
Could X go to the OF?

I think the best possible thing for the team long term is X in LF, Devers at 3B, 2021 FA SS such as Lindor or Baez, and Casas or Dalbec at 1st. Trade Benny before you have to pay him bigger money than he is getting currently.
I have thought all along that a corner OF spot was X's ultimate destination. He has a bat to carry there, and tracking down flies has always seemed to me like one of the better parts of his defensive game.