Xander Bogaerts Shines Under the Radar

Credit: USA Today Sports

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(AP Photo/Alex Gallardo)

The 2022-23 MLB offseason was the year of shortstops, with stars such as Trea Turner, Carlos Correa, Dansby Swanson, and Xander Bogaerts posted on the market. Many fans were asleep when the San Diego Padres shocked the baseball world by signing Bogaerts, now 31, to an 11-year, $280 million contract on December 8, 2022.

After the 2023 Padres’ disappointing season in which they finished 82-80 and missed the postseason, Bogaerts selflessly agreed to move to second base for the 2024 campaign and allow defensive wizard Ha-Seong Kim to flash the letter at shortstop.

“The only reason I came here was to win a World Series,” Bogaerts told reporters in a spring training interview. “So if this (moving to second base) is the way that we’re gonna get one, so be it.”

After the news of the position change broke, baseball fans criticized the Padres for paying almost $300 million for a second baseman.

However, these fans forget that Bogaerts is elite and has become one of the most underrated players in MLB baseball.

Bogaerts, who entered his Padres career having slashed an impressive .292/.356/.458 in 10 seasons with the Boston Red Sox, was stellar in his first month in the brown and gold; in his first 29 games of 2023, Bogaerts smacked six homers with an OPS north of .900.

However, on April 18, Atlanta Braves flamethrower Spencer Strider hit Bogaerts with a pitch on the wrist, the beginning of a slump that lasted through the all-star break.

In May, Boagerts slashed .200/.283/.263 and followed that with a rough June featuring a .262/.330/.369 slashline. Over those two months, Bogaerts only connected on two home runs, a major step down from the six in March/April.

Going into the all-star break, despite an elite first month, Bogaerts mustered a disappointing .731 OPS.

Many fans and critics called the contract a major mistake, but Bogaerts proved them wrong during his healthy second half.

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Bogaerts returned to his old form after the all-star break, hitting an impressive .321 in the back half of the season with a .857 OPS. In the final 26 games alone, Bogaerts was more than 100% better than the average hitter with a 202 OPS+ and an unbelievable .418/.452/.670 slash line.

However, the Padres’ rapidly dying season, which began with the expectation of bringing the Commissioner’s Trophy to San Diego, overshadowed Bogaerts’s dominance.

While one of the best and now most overlooked hitters in the game, Bogaerts, who has 175 career round-trippers, does not quite hit for the power he once did. Bogaerts has cracked 30 home runs only once. In his best season in 2019, when he finished fifth in American League MVP voting, the slugger crushed 33 homers.

Beginning in 2024 spring training, newly signed manager Mike Shildt started placing Bogaerts at the lead-off spot due to his ability to get on base and particularly hit doubles.

In the first two games of the 2024 season played in South Korea, Bogaerts carried his success over from the second half of 2023. The second basemen went 4-for-9 and posted a .500 OBP, which is exactly what a team needs from their lead-off hitter.

The Padres have not had a qualified .300 hitter since Brian Giles in 2008. Xander Bogaerts, who has become one of the more underrated players in baseball, looks to change that this 2024 MLB season.


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