Last year, the fantasy landscape was significantly altered by the several young breakouts at the shortstop position. Some were top prospects coming of age – for example, Corey Seager, others were the result of skill change unforeseen by majority of the fantasy community – for example, Jonathan Villar. Xander Bogaerts falls squarely into the first category. Although he had success in 2015, Bogaerts took another major step last year by tripling his power output up to 21 homers while compiling 115 runs, driving in 89, stealing 13 bags and triple-slashing .294/.356/.446. Not only did his results improve, but Bogaerts improved his plate discipline, walking 8.1% up over 3% from 2015.
This cluster of talent has caused a shortstop flood between the second and third rounds of fantasy drafts. There are six shortstops going between average picks of 16.7 (starting with Carlos Correa) and 31.66 (ending with Trevor Story). Bogaerts is the 4th of this group and is being selected on average on NFBC at 28.19. I do not believe that Bogaerts warrants this type of investment.
First, let’s look at last year, there is no dispute that it was a very good season. However, with an average selection of 28.19, Bogaerts is actually going at a deficit compared to his actual production from last year when he finished as the 44th overall player. Most will say two things in response to this: (1) he’s young and will get better; and (2) he’s got a safe floor. These are valid arguments on their face, but when you dig in I believe that they are flawed.
With respect to youth and growth, we have numerous examples of why expecting linear growth is folly. We do not need to look any further than fellow shortstop Carlos Correa, who last year was going in the middle of the first round following a breakout rookie campaign. Last year, even though Correa was solid, it was not the “growth” that the fantasy community had projected – in fact, Correa was worse year-over-year. Thus, Bogaerts might find another level to his game – he is just 24 – but that does not mean he is going to get better and find that level this season simply because he is one year older. We cannot assume that he is going to get better.
The argument then shifts to floor or more likely, that Bogaerts will repeat what he did last year, which I also think is a flawed assumption as it was for Correa in 2016. No one can dispute that there is giant crater in the Red Sox lineup from the exit of David Ortiz, who is being replaced – at least for the start of the season – by Mitch Moreland. While competent, Moreland is not going to give the Red Sox what Ortiz did. There are very few players, who could. Admittedly, this concern does not kill Bogaerts’s value because Boston has a wide array of hitting talent in their lineup even without Ortiz. The counting production should still be strong, but I do not think it is prudent to project him for a repeat of 200+ runs and RBI.
Of course, the safety in Bogaerts’s counting numbers are also dependent upon his own performance and I think this where I have the largest issue. A year after posting a .372 BABIP, Bogaerts had a .335 BABIP in 2016. Thus, on the face of those numbers, he appears to be a plus BABIP player, but I think the underlying numbers tell a different story.
Last year, despite an exceptional BABIP, Bogaerts posted a below league average line-drive rate (19.6% compared to league average 20.7%). In addition, he was below league average in Hard Contact % (30.6% compared to league average 31.4%). Although he was only slightly below average, that would still indicate to me a player that’s much more likely to be a league average BABIP player than one posting a .335 BABIP like last year. These are not the only issues in his batted ball profile. Bogaerts was also above league average in Soft Contact% (20.5% compared to 18.5%). Most alarmingly of all, infield flyball percentage was nearly double the league average at 17.8%. In fact, Bogaerts was second among qualified hitters in this onerous statistic just behind Todd Frazier’s league leading 18.5%, which accompanied his .236 BABIP.
Now, the batted ball profiles are drastically different between Frazier and Bogaerts overall – Frazier is much more of a pull happy, flyball hitter while Bogaerts is more groundball-centric. Nonetheless, the infield flyball percentage is extremely troubling and the profile, as a whole, indicates that there was a good deal of luck in Bogaerts’s success in 2016. Bogaerts expected average (xAVG) last year was .259, well below the .294 AVG that he posted.
Thus, we have a player in Bogaerts, who (1) is coming off a career season; (2) costs more than what his career year produced; (3) is entering into a less favorable, counting stat situation in 2017; and (4) has a good deal of regression in his profile. I am passing on that price and he is my least favorite among that group of six shortstops.
My Projection for Bogaerts: 155 GP, 83 R, 18 HR, 85 RBI, 7 SB, .269/.330/.435.