The Legend of Xander

Pitt the Elder

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Rather than dig up the Bogaerts vs Gregorious thread (and thereby constantly invite the comparison the thread title implies), I figured I'd start a thread where we could look at Xander's 2018 performance and analyze it relative to his career norms.

For starters, qualitative and quantitative evidence shows that Bogaerts is driving the ball with much more authority this year. To wit, here are Xander's stats from 2015 - 2018
  • Exit Velocity: 87.6, 88.8, 87.3, 92.3
  • Launch Angle: 6.6, 11.3, 8.2, 12.7
  • Barrels: 13, 28, 6, 11
  • Barrel %: 2.5, 5.3, 1.3, 16.7
  • Hard Hit %: 34.5, 33.6, 31.7, 42.4
  • OPS+: 107, 111, 95, 137
  • wRC+: 111, 115, 96, 140
  • ISO: .101, .152, .130, .227
  • pa/HR: 93.4, 34.2, 63.5, 31.0
  • BB%: 4.9%, 8.1%, 8.8%, 3.2%
  • K%: 15.4%, 17.1%, 18.3%, 24.7%
By all metrics, Xander is experiencing a power breakout and seems to be doing it, in part, by trading patience for aggressiveness. So far, his 3.2% walk rate and 24.7% strikeout rate represent pretty big outliers for his MLB career, though so far it's hard to argue with the results. What's remarkable to me is that, in 1/6 the at-bats, Xander has already doubled the number of barrelled balls he's hit so far this year. Home runs have been a bit scarce since he's come back from the DL, but given his career highs in exit velocity (92.3) and launch angle (12.7), he's a good bet to start hitting more sooner rather than later.

His defense is beyond my ability to really evaluate, but Xander made a really great play on a grounder up the middle last night that I thought for sure was going to be an infield single. For those that have more experience with this, I'm curious if his defense still grades out as average to slightly below or if he's taken meaningful steps forward there as well.
 

Cesar Crespo

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By all metrics, Xander is experiencing a power breakout and seems to be doing it, in part, by trading patience for aggressiveness. So far, his 3.2% walk rate and 24.7% strikeout rate represent pretty big outliers for his MLB career.
It's hard to get a measure on his BB rate because it's a 93 PA sample where he is hitting .330. I imagine it will be closer to his career norms when he starts to cool off a bit.
 

mfried

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Rather than dig up the Bogaerts vs Gregorious thread (and thereby constantly invite the comparison the thread title implies), I figured I'd start a thread where we could look at Xander's 2018 performance and analyze it relative to his career norms.

For starters, qualitative and quantitative evidence shows that Bogaerts is driving the ball with much more authority this year. To wit, here are Xander's stats from 2015 - 2018
  • Exit Velocity: 87.6, 88.8, 87.3, 92.3
  • Launch Angle: 6.6, 11.3, 8.2, 12.7
  • Barrels: 13, 28, 6, 11
  • Barrel %: 2.5, 5.3, 1.3, 16.7
  • Hard Hit %: 34.5, 33.6, 31.7, 42.4
  • OPS+: 107, 111, 95, 137
  • wRC+: 111, 115, 96, 140
  • ISO: .101, .152, .130, .227
  • pa/HR: 93.4, 34.2, 63.5, 31.0
  • BB%: 4.9%, 8.1%, 8.8%, 3.2%
  • K%: 15.4%, 17.1%, 18.3%, 24.7%
By all metrics, Xander is experiencing a power breakout and seems to be doing it, in part, by trading patience for aggressiveness. So far, his 3.2% walk rate and 24.7% strikeout rate represent pretty big outliers for his MLB career, though so far it's hard to argue with the results. What's remarkable to me is that, in 1/6 the at-bats, Xander has already doubled the number of barrelled balls he's hit so far this year. Home runs have been a bit scarce since he's come back from the DL, but given his career highs in exit velocity (92.3) and launch angle (12.7), he's a good bet to start hitting more sooner rather than later.

His defense is beyond my ability to really evaluate, but Xander made a really great play on a grounder up the middle last night that I thought for sure was going to be an infield single. For those that have more experience with this, I'm curious if his defense still grades out as average to slightly below or if he's taken meaningful steps forward there as well.
I watch every game, and have a considerable uptick in XB’s defense.
 

Marco

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Apr 18, 2018
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Pre-Injury: 40pa, 5.0bb%, 17.5k%, .414babip, .368avg, .342iso, 193wrc+
Post-Injury: 53pa, 1.9bb%, 30.2k%, .412babip, .300avg, .140iso, 100wrc+

not so much power since he came back. and striking out too much. and still relying too much on babip.
 

Cesar Crespo

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Pre-Injury: 40pa, 5.0bb%, 17.5k%, .414babip, .368avg, .342iso, 193wrc+
Post-Injury: 53pa, 1.9bb%, 30.2k%, .412babip, .300avg, .140iso, 100wrc+

not so much power since he came back. and striking out too much. and still relying too much on babip.
Those are incredibly small sample sizes but a .140 ISO would be his 2nd best mark to date. His career ISO is .130. I'd be pretty happy with anything over .150 for the year. I think there is enough data out on Xander to suggest his bb rate and k rate are just SSS noise and will normalize but a lot of his value is tied into his batting average.
 

EllisTheRimMan

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Pre-Injury: 40pa, 5.0bb%, 17.5k%, .414babip, .368avg, .342iso, 193wrc+
Post-Injury: 53pa, 1.9bb%, 30.2k%, .412babip, .300avg, .140iso, 100wrc+

not so much power since he came back. and striking out too much. and still relying too much on babip.
And if he goes 2-4 with a HR, a walk and no K's tonight your analysis will mean?
 

Adrian's Dome

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The only things worth putting any stock into in this small of a sample size are his BB and K rates. Keep an eye on that for the rest of the season and see if they normalize, or if he's truly taken in a change in approach which leads to hitting for more power.
 

Cesar Crespo

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Pre-Injury: 40pa, 5.0bb%, 17.5k%, .414babip, .368avg, .342iso, 193wrc+
Post-Injury: 53pa, 1.9bb%, 30.2k%, .412babip, .300avg, .140iso, 100wrc+

not so much power since he came back. and striking out too much. and still relying too much on babip.
And what will those numbers look like after today's game? That's 3 HRs in his last 7, after 3 in his first 22.
 

Pitt the Elder

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Xander is currently 8th in MLB in barrels/PA. Here's the current top 10:
  1. JD Martinez (15.3)
  2. Teoscar Hernandez (14.7)
  3. Mookie Betts (14.5)
  4. Joey Gallow (14.0)
  5. Mike Zunino (13.8)
  6. Eric Thames (13.5)
  7. Brandon Belt (12.7)
  8. Xander Bogaerts (11.9)
  9. Max Muncy (11.8)
  10. Rand Grichuk (11.7)
 

Savin Hillbilly

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The wrong side of the bridge....
The last couple homeruns off his bat have been no doubters, both crushed.

His defense seems noticeably better this year as well.
UZR agrees with you, but DRS continues to loathe Xander. He's on a pace for what would amount to about a -25 DRS in a full season. This is one of those weird cases where the two systems don't even come close to agreeing on a player. It's been that way for most of Xander's career to date, and so far this year it's worse than ever. It would be interesting to figure out why.
 

Adrian's Dome

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UZR agrees with you, but DRS continues to loathe Xander. He's on a pace for what would amount to about a -25 DRS in a full season. This is one of those weird cases where the two systems don't even come close to agreeing on a player. It's been that way for most of Xander's career to date, and so far this year it's worse than ever. It would be interesting to figure out why.
Defensive statistics are a joke.

He passes the eye test.
 

nvalvo

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UZR agrees with you, but DRS continues to loathe Xander. He's on a pace for what would amount to about a -25 DRS in a full season. This is one of those weird cases where the two systems don't even come close to agreeing on a player. It's been that way for most of Xander's career to date, and so far this year it's worse than ever. It would be interesting to figure out why.
Does anyone have an up to date sense of how the various defensive statistics handle shifts?

That could be the cause of considerable disagreement.
 

Todd Benzinger

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You may be being sarcastic, but I was curious about the same question, so...

It actually means that the player "barrels" a ball in that percentage of his PAs... There is no clear definition, but here's the leaderboard and an article introducing the stat, both of which seem to indicate that it means "percentage"... The article also explores the percentage of BIPS as opposed to PAs, for instance... Why it isn't called Barrell % or something a bit clearer, who knows.

https://www.mlb.com/news/new-statcast-metric-barrels-has-best-hit-balls/c-201699298

https://baseballsavant.mlb.com/statcast_leaderboard
 

Savin Hillbilly

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The wrong side of the bridge....
Why it isn't called Barrell % or something a bit clearer, who knows.
As you pointed out, they have separate stats for Barrels/PA and Barrels/BIP (or "BBE" on the leaderboard page--not clear if there's a difference). If they said "Barrel %" you'd be left wondering "percentage of what?". Barrels/PA is clearer because it includes the answer to that question.
 

Boggs26

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As you pointed out, they have separate stats for Barrels/PA and Barrels/BIP (or "BBE" on the leaderboard page--not clear if there's a difference). If they said "Barrel %" you'd be left wondering "percentage of what?". Barrels/PA is clearer because it includes the answer to that question.
While you're correct about the confusion around Barrel % when there are two different stats, their labeling is still terrible. If someone has a K/9ip of 10.4 that means they strike out 10.4 batters for every 9 innings they pitch (I know you know this, obviously). If a stat is listed as Barrels/PA and the # listed is 14.3 that should mean - following basic stat labeling conventions - that the player gets 14.3 barrels for every plate appearance, something that obviously makes no sense. The easy solution is to add "%" to the numbers in that column, otherwise their labeling makes no sense whatsoever.
 

Cesar Crespo

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Xander's walk rate is starting to return to his career rate (6bb in last 47PA) while he continues to hit for power. His season this year looks a lot like last, except with considerably more power. His ISO atm is .238, his career high was .152. He's starting to show the power he did in the minors.
 

Reverend

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There was a stage when the plan, as we were told anyway, was to teach him to go opposite field and sacrifice some power during the learning process under the assumption that his natural power would emerge.

And then... somehow the provisional nature of that approach disappeared, and he languished a bit as kinda a lap hitter. It's like the old regime forgot why they had been doing that in the first place--I guess that's why you sometimes need a coaching shakeup to get back on mission? Because it seems like they are back on the track with X that had initially been drawn up but somehow discarded.

This is at least one possible reading of the narrative--if it's correct, that could bode very well for Xander's future, so I like it.
 

EricFeczko

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There was a stage when the plan, as we were told anyway, was to teach him to go opposite field and sacrifice some power during the learning process under the assumption that his natural power would emerge.

And then... somehow the provisional nature of that approach disappeared, and he languished a bit as kinda a lap hitter. It's like the old regime forgot why they had been doing that in the first place--I guess that's why you sometimes need a coaching shakeup to get back on mission? Because it seems like they are back on the track with X that had initially been drawn up but somehow discarded.

This is at least one possible reading of the narrative--if it's correct, that could bode very well for Xander's future, so I like it.
An alternative explanation would be that Xander was putting it together last year, but derailed by injury (or being placed into the lineup while injured, perhaps a coaching issue).

A rolling view of some key statistics
note that Xander (sucked in 2014, except for his eye, apparently) was figuring out how to hit at the MLB, one component at a time. First was cutting down strikeouts (2015, first half), then learning how to make solid contact (2015 second half), then increasing his power and homeruns (2016). In 2017, Xander started to bring back his patience, but fell apart in the middle of season.

Given that Coaching didn't change since Xander's been at the MLB level; I suspect that had Xander been fully healthy, we would have seen the 2018 Xander emerge fully at the end of last year.
 

Cesar Crespo

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Since returning from injury: 155 PA, .271/.335/.493. 11bb/34k, 7 HRs.
Last 8: .367/.441/.700, 34 PA 4bb/6k.

Season line: .292/.349/.539. He's also been a plus defender at SS according to dWAR.

I dunno if he is due for regression or this is the Xander Bogaerts we thought we were going to get when he was in the minors.

The one thing that gives me pause is he's teased us all before and then disappears for 2-3 months. First Half OPS/2nd half OPS
2014: .658, .661
2015: .750, .803
2016: .863, .729
2017: .806, .671
Career: .785, .721 (includes this year).

Xander's performance in 2018 is much different than the last few times he teased us though.

Career/This Season
ISO: .126, .247
HR%: 1.7%, 4.6%
XBH%: 7.3%, 13.3%
X/H%: 28%, 50%
AB/HR: 47.4, 19.8
LD%: 23%, 26%
HR/FB%: 5.8%, 12.3%
IF/FB%: 14%, 11%
GB: .89, .67.

If you look at his swinging strike%, L/strike %, etc. you will see that his 2017 is an outlier and in 2018, he's bounced back to his career rates. Looking at the numbers, last year it looks like Xander was taking way too many pitches for strikes. His L/strike% was 36.0% in 2017, it is back down to 31.9% this year, his career rate is 31.5%. His swung at strike % in 2017 was 64%. This year it is at 68.1%, while his career rate is 68.5%. His first pitch swinging % in 2017 was 11.8%, back up to 17.3% this year. His career % was 18.3%. Oddly enough, he is seeing 4.02 pitches/PA this year, after seeing 4.03 last year. In 2015 and 2016, those numbers were 3.86 and 3.95. So he's essentially reverted back to his old approach but is still seeing as many pitches as he was in 2017. Despite that, he is walking 2.1% less than last year, although he does have 9bb in his last 68 PA, after only 4 in his first 127 PA. It's also only 3bb over the course of 200 PA, so he's not really that far off.

Another good sign: Career vs R: .275/.325/.409 in 2173 PA. This season vs R: .285/.325/.556 in 154 PA. Basically the same exact slash line, except for a HUGE increase in slugging %. All 9 of his HRs have come vs R this year. For comparison, Career vs L: .313/.387/.450 in 674 PA, this year .324/.439/.471 in 41 PA. (Career numbers include this season)

Just for fun, if Xander's BB rate was 8% (8.1%, 8.8% last 2 years) his season line would be .292/.364/.539.

With the start Mookie Betts has had, with as hot as Ben10 has been over the last month+, and with Xanders Ok but not great performance prior to 2018, it seems people are/were sleeping on Xander but he's having a breakout year. He could potentially hit 30 HRs this season, despite missing a few weeks to injury, and he's also on pace to hit 50+ doubles. Both would be career highs.

Somehow, Xander actually hit .220/.292/.413, .250 BAbip in 120 PA for the month of May. In the last few years, that line would have been .220/.292/.325. Now when he struggles, he still hits for enough power to not be a total black hole.
 

Al Zarilla

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Xander finally, again, has enough plate appearances to show up in Fangraphs qualified shortstop list. He’s 5th out of 27 qualified shortstops with a 2.0 fWAR, one position ahead of Carlos Correa. As for his defensive fWAR, he’s 9th out of 27. All good. Anybody thinking all star, this is a loaded position, think back to the Nomar, Jeter, Arod days. Ahead of X in fWAR all MLB SSs are Lindor, Simmons, Machado and Segura, all ALers, with Correa right behind. Solid year so far for the X man.
 

Pitt the Elder

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The one thing that gives me pause is he's teased us all before and then disappears for 2-3 months. First Half OPS/2nd half OPS
2014: .658, .661
2015: .750, .803
2016: .863, .729
2017: .806, .671
Career: .785, .721 (includes this year).

Xander's performance in 2018 is much different than the last few times he teased us though.
I would add that there were specific reasons for his 2nd half declines in 2016 and 2017. Somewhat correct me if I'm wrong, but, in 2016, pitchers learned they could hammer Bogaerts with breaking stuff down and away and he couldn't lay off it. That year, his k% went from 14.7% to 20.0% from the first half to the second. I can't find his o-swing splits, but that was my memory anyway. It seemed like he had figured out how to lay off those pitches last year, but then hurt his hand by a HBP in early July.
 

Pitt the Elder

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And also to add, updated stats from Fangraphs:

SeasonBB %K %BB/KAVGOPBSLGOPSISOBsRSpdBABIPwRC+
20146.6%23.2%0.280.2400.2970.3620.6590.1230.62.60.29781
20154.9%15.4%0.320.3200.3550.4210.7760.1013.94.80.372111
20168.1%17.1%0.470.2940.3560.4460.8020.15264.50.335115
20178.8%18.3%0.480.2730.3430.4030.7460.1308.36.70.32796
20186.7%21.0%0.320.2920.3490.5390.8880.2470.82.30.333137

SeasonGB/FBLD%GB%FB%IFFB%HR/FB%PULL%CENT%OPPO %HARD %
20140.9220.6%38.1%41.3%10.7%7.1%46.9%33.7%19.3%34.2%
20152.0521.3%52.9%25.8%10.6%5.3%33.8%34.2%32.0%27.4%
20161.3019.6%45.5%34.9%17.8%11.4%44.5%31.2%24.2%30.6%
20171.6020.6%48.9%30.5%13.7%7.2%40.8%33.3%25.9%31.4%
20181.0822.6%40.1%37.2%13.7%17.6%45.7%35.5%18.8%36.2%


And updated stats from Statcast:

SeasonBarrelsBarrel %Exit VelocityLaunch AngleXBAXSLGXWOBAWOBAHard Hit %PA/HR
2015132.50%87.66.60.2690.3590.2950.33834.6%93.4
2016285.30%88.811.30.2500.3940.3150.34833.6%34.2
201761.30%87.38.20.2360.3260.2860.32231.7%63.5
20181813.30%91.715.10.2860.5840.3930.36543.0%21.7


EDIT: typos, formatting, added data from 2014, 2015
 
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burstnbloom

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You can really see the effect of the exit velocity and launch angle emphasis has had on X. His launch angle is up to 15.1 from 8.2 last year and a career average of 10.8. He's also posting his best ever exit velocity by 3mph on average. So he is hitting the ball harder and higher than ever before. He's hitting 8.9% more balls in their air than he was last year. Really encouraging stuff.

edit - or basically what he said without fancy tables.
 

shaggydog2000

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You can really see the effect of the exit velocity and launch angle emphasis has had on X. His launch angle is up to 15.1 from 8.2 last year and a career average of 10.8. He's also posting his best ever exit velocity by 3mph on average. So he is hitting the ball harder and higher than ever before. He's hitting 8.9% more balls in their air than he was last year. Really encouraging stuff.

edit - or basically what he said without fancy tables.
He's also going the opposite way a lot less. Which is good for him in the power department it appears.
 

burstnbloom

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He's also going the opposite way a lot less. Which is good for him in the power department it appears.
Agreed. I always liked that he can go to all fields and his oppo homer the other day was impressive but I'd prefer that he is this version of himself that goes oppo when he needs to and drives the ball when he can. Last years (injured) version of himself slapped middle in pitches the other way far too often.
 

Pitt the Elder

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I went back and added data to my tables from 2014 and 2015 (Statcast data only goes back to 2015) because it's interesting to look at this year as the next chapter of a longer narrative. For instance, it's really telling to compare Xander's approach this year to that he used in prior years, specifically 2014 and 2015.

In 2014, Xander had a pretty terrible year, hitting .240 with a (relatively) high amount of strikeouts and little power.

In 2015, Xander seemed to make a conscious adjustment *not* to hit for power and simply get hits. To some degree, it worked incredibly well. Xander hit .320 with an OPS of .776 and a wRC+ of 111. But to do that, though, Xander essentially become a slap hitter that would hit grounders (52.9% rate) and flares to all fields (his pull/center/oppo numbers are nearly all 33%). This light-hitting approach seemed to be sanctioned and supported by the coaching staff, even though it took his natural power out of play:

“He’s got power,” insisted Davis. “I’ve looked at videos of him in the minor leagues and he’s hitting home runs. Not just pulling them, but hitting them to right-center, right field. That’s the last thing you want to rush him into. He’s so consistent right now for what he does. He’s been hitting in big RBI situations. I wouldn’t change a thing right now. His power is going to come.

“His confidence is like climbing right now. When he gets close to peak, he’s going to say, ‘You know what? I like this pitch right here. I always get good swings on this pitch,’ and he’s going to add a little bit more on his own.”
In 2016, it seemed like Xander tried to tap back into his natural power but hit a rough patch as pitchers found a hole in his approach. In 2017, it's hard to say Xander really found his power stroke (only 6 barreled balls all year!), bu the injury certainly didn't help.

In a weird way, Xander has come full circle in 2018, with his batted ball profile and K and BB rates very similar to those he had in 2014. The difference is that he's executing much better and punishing pitches with that natural power. You could argue that *this* is the real Xander, and that 2014 - 2017 was a weird circuitous journey he found himself on that emphasized survival at the MLB level rather that developing his natural approach. I wonder if he would have reached this point sooner if he had spent an extra year or two in the minors where he could have refined his natural approach, but who knows. This is probably something we should keep in mind when we evaluate young players like Rafi.

EDIT: typos, clarity
 

uncannymanny

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Just want to say thanks to everyone for the last several posts. I love X and in turn I love seeing these positive trends.
 

joe dokes

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Cora, on diving into 1st:


"You can tell them all you want. People can write about it and say, ‘Don’t do it, don’t do it, don’t do it.’ There’s going to be a point that if you’ve been doing it your whole career, you’re going to dive. Is it great? Of course not. But it doesn’t matter what you tell him. I did it my whole career. I always tried not doing it and I did.”
 
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Cesar Crespo

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It's hard to get a measure on his BB rate because it's a 93 PA sample where he is hitting .330. I imagine it will be closer to his career norms when he starts to cool off a bit.
And after today's game, his BB rate% will be at a career high, albeit very close to last year.
 

burstnbloom

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We are now 300+ plate appearances into the "new" Xander and everything appears to be holding. He's 2 barrels from matching his career high despite 200 fewer batted balls. He's hit 41.3% of his balls hard at the highest launch angle of his career. Bless you Tim Hyers.
 

Pitt the Elder

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Xander with late-inning grand slam heroics keeps the power coming. 15 hr in 78 games played is pretty legit.
 

Chainsaw318

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It’s crazy how deep SS is, especially in the AL, that he’s not considered one of the top 3 guys at the position in the league.

And I just mean Machado, Correa, Lindor. Some would rank him behind Segura or Gregorius or Simmons.
 

Sandy Leon Trotsky

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Also clear is that he was definitely injured last season, and that his slight downturn this season in production corresponded to his return after the slight injury. I've only been able to watch 4 games this entire season and his defense still seems more than average, although far from otherwordly. I'd guess if he hit the market this offseason, he could get 5 years at 20M each easily.
Obviously the Sox should be targeting Sale and Mookie as their long term targets... but Xander should be right there as well. In order, for me....

-Mookie
-Sale
-Xander
-Benintendi

Those 4 guys could anchor the team through the next 5-7 years if they can wrap them up
 

bosockboy

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Also clear is that he was definitely injured last season, and that his slight downturn this season in production corresponded to his return after the slight injury. I've only been able to watch 4 games this entire season and his defense still seems more than average, although far from otherwordly. I'd guess if he hit the market this offseason, he could get 5 years at 20M each easily.
Obviously the Sox should be targeting Sale and Mookie as their long term targets... but Xander should be right there as well. In order, for me....

-Mookie
-Sale
-Xander
-Benintendi

Those 4 guys could anchor the team through the next 5-7 years if they can wrap them up
Have to add JD to that equation. Barring injury he’s opting out after next season. He’s putting up Triple Crown worthy numbers.
 

Sandy Leon Trotsky

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Right. Such an easy guy to forget....

Actually, I'm not. I'm thinking he'll be gone and if given to prioritizing for budgetary reasons, he'll be let go. I'm very bullish on Devers and think he'll be moving to 1B after 2019 and will be a close approximation of JDM by 2020. I'm probably in the minority of thinking that though
 

Cesar Crespo

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Dec 22, 2002
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I think he's a below average but passable SS. I also think the scouting reports will ultimately be correct and X will have to be moved off the position in a few more years. That makes me the minority from what I've read on the board though. I don't see the defensive improvement others are talking about. I think he's gotten worse this year, though that could be the Nunez/Devers effect.

edit: Obviously the offensive power spike more than makes up for it.
 
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Al Zarilla

Member
SoSH Member
Dec 8, 2005
51,459
San Andreas Fault
I think he's a below average but passable SS. I also think the scouting reports will ultimately be correct and X will have to be moved off the position in a few more years. That makes me the minority from what I've read on the board though. I don't see the defensive improvement others are talking about. I think he's gotten worse this year, though that could be the Nunez/Devers effect.

edit: Obviously the offensive power spike more than makes up for it.
Below average? He’s 5th in fWAR among 26 qualified shortstops right now. Even his defensive component is a solid +5.1. What do you want?
 

Byrdbrain

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SoSH Member
Jul 18, 2005
8,588
He seems a perfectly adequate defensive SS, I imagine as he ages he'll need to be moved but I don't see that happening for several years. It will be interesting to see how the market develops for him with all the other depth at the position.
 

Cesar Crespo

79
SoSH Member
Dec 22, 2002
11,440
Below average? He’s 5th in fWAR among 26 qualified shortstops right now. Even his defensive component is a solid +5.1. What do you want?
I was talking defense only. His bat more than makes up for his glove, and I don't think his glove is a problem... yet. I don't think Xander will still be a SS by the time his next contract expires. When the time comes, I think he has all the tools to be a good defensive 3b, 2014 be damned.

Anyway, over his last 11 games and 51 PA: .366/.471/.829, 3 doubles, 2 triples, 4 home runs, 9bb/8k, and has raised his batting average by .013, obp by .020 and slugging by .044 in that time.

Also, there is this:
April: 54 PA 2bb/9k
May: 120 PA 8bb/28k
June: 116 PA 11bb/15k
July: 58 PA 9bb/10k

Last 47 games and 209 PA: 25bb/31k. First 139 PA: 5bb/31k. 70 more PA, 20 more walks, same amount of Ks. That's pretty remarkable.