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June 12, 2012 at 7:25 AM

The Book: Xander Bogaerts

Date: June 4-6, 2012
Team: Salem Red Sox

Line: 5 for 11, 3 strikeouts swinging, 4 singles, home run, 2 groundouts, foul pop out

Swing: Bogaerts generates easy batspeed. He fluidly rifles the head of the bat through the hitting zone via strong, quick wrists and extends well post-contact to produce lift after squaring up pitches. Bogaerts shows the early understanding of how to keep his hands back during his stride to prevent them from getting too far out in front of his body. In the third game of this scouting opportunity, he put a very easy swing on a 91 mph fastball at the belt and a touch inside to drive it into left-center field for a long solo home run. Bogaerts stayed balanced with his weight and kept his hands back before driving through the pitch to square it up with backspin. The ball jumped off his bat. However, there is some wrap and length to his swing. He can get long when over-extending with his arms, especially against secondary offerings. Two of his three swinging strikeouts came as a result of waiving over the top of off-speed pitches. Bogaerts’ below-average pitch recognition also led to him being fooled and way out on his front foot when offering at them. The hands were back, but his early extension with his arms prohibited him from being able to control the bat enough to make contact. While his swing can get inconsistent, he continued to show improvement using his hands to stay inside the ball. Bogaerts lined two hard singles into right field against fastballs away and muscled another one that jammed him a bit into right for a single. The ease and ability to drive the ball the other way in game action jumped out.

Defense: Bogaerts manned shortstop in all three games of this extended look. He put a lot of work into honing his craft during batting practice and approached his repetitions with focus. The translation defensively into game action was mixed. While Bogaerts is a good athlete, he can be stiff and rigid at the position. He allowed the first play of the second game to eat him up, backing up on the ball after first beginning to charge, and he botched the last hop for an error. Besides being indecisive, Bogaerts’ feet were tangled up and he did not have the balance to react quickly to the bounce of the ball after putting himself in no-man’s land on the play. His reactions can also be slow and inconsistent at the crack of the bat. Bogaerts made a very good diving play into the shortstop hole on one hard- hit ball. He went into full extension to glove it and then bounced up to make a strong, accurate throw to nab the runner. But on another similar ball, and one with less degree of difficulty, his feet looked stuck in the mud upon the crack of the bat. His slow read and less powerful first step prevented him from getting any type of range on the ball as it went into left field. The fluidity and smoothness defensively is not indicative of the players that typically stick long term at the position, even at the present age.

Take: Bogaerts’ tools have stuck out since initially seeing him back in the Fall Instructional League when he first came to the United States. The big thing that jumped out in this scouting opportunity was the progress with his hit tool. This was an area I wanted to focus in on given the chance to watch him in extended game action this season after building an initial base during spring training in March. Bogaerts’ power has been easy to see, with raw power that grades among the best in the system and in-game power that can project to be plus-to-better at the major league level. While Bogaerts’ home run was impressive and continued to show off his ability to hit the ball a long way, his ability to use his hands and drive balls away from him hard on a line the other way was more impressive for me. It gave me a much better feel for the type of hitter he can become and showed that he is continuing to make progress in a very aggressive placement in High A. The hit tool is there for him to develop into a .280s hitter at the big league level. Bogaerts’ pitch recognition and pitch selection need work to make that happen, but for most young hitters those aspects are always a need and a 19–year-old in High A is certainly going to show some roughness when facing more advanced secondary offerings. Future scouting looks will zone in on the progress he is making here.

While Bogaerts is ahead of the curve with how he is able to stay back on the ball and is able to mitigate his weakness by barreling up a lot of fastballs presently, he is going to run into resistance against the increasingly more polished pitchers in higher levels. He expanded his strike zone and attacked some balls in hitter’s counts that he is better off taking, along with getting caught chasing up the ladder with some fastballs during this view. I feel that with experience Bogaerts will learn to tone things down and pick up secondary offerings quicker given the baseball IQ he presently shows, but there will be some growing pains as he learns. This progress will be important for fully unlocking his hitting tool. It shouldn’t be seen as a knock against him that the projection points towards him moving off the shortstop position. Bogaerts has defensive ability, but not the premium skills seen in the players that stick up the middle. He is a good enough athlete to slide over to third base and the bat profiles in a corner outfield spot, likely left field in my eyes after filling out if the outfield becomes his defensive destination. The main take from this scouting swing is that he is a hitter making progress and one that does not look out of place at the level. Timetables are always tricky and a player as age advanced as Bogaerts is likely to meet resistance at some point. I see a future major leaguer, but expect there to be some lead time as he begins to polish his rough edges in Double-A and beyond.

Chris Mellen is Director of Scouting for SoxProspects.com. Follow him on Twitter @ChrisMellen