Xander Bogaerts (Ownership rates: Yahoo 9%, ESPN 2.1%, CBS 38%)
Despite a slow start to the season, Bogaerts bounced back strong in Double-A to a .311/.407/.502 slash line, featuring six homers in 259 plate appearances, before moving up to Triple-A. The 20-year-old shortstop didn’t slow down much after his promotion, posting a .276/.372/.471 line, and he has increased his home-run production, with eight homers in 196 plate appearances.
Even more importantly for fantasy purposes, his window of opportunity at the major-league level appears to be wide open. With the Red Sox trading away Jose Iglesias, the club is running out a platoon of Brandon Snyder (.243/.263/.486 in 38 plate appearances) and Brock Holt (.261/.302/.304 in 56 plate appearances) at third base.
Snyder is 26 years old, has a 29.2 percent strikeout rate in his major-league career and he hasn’t drawn a walk in his last 67 plate appearances in the majors (the discrepancy in his batting average and on-base percentage is the product of a hit-by-pitch). The 25-year-old Holt has never hit a major-league home run and has just 12 career homers in 1,889 minor-league plate appearances, half of which came at Low-A in 2009. These are clearly stopgap options.
What about Will Middlebrooks? The 24-year-old was a complete disaster in the majors this year, falling flat on his face and compiling a .192/.228/.389 slash line in 53 games. He’s been okay in Triple-A since his demotion (.255/.316/.433), but is clearly being outperformed by Bogaerts and has never been considered half the prospect Bogaerts is. The fact that he remained in Triple-A after the Iglesias trade makes it pretty clear that the Sox aren’t convinced he’s the answer.
Meanwhile, Bogaerts has been getting a couple of starts a week spelling Middlebrooks at third base in Pawtucket. This has led many, including manager John Farrell, to speculate on whether Bogaerts might be Boston’s answer at third base sooner rather than later:
Xander Bogaerts is "in the discussion" Farrell said, as a third base solution. That said, call-up isn't imminent #RedSox
— Scott Lauber (@ScottLauber) July 31, 2013
Look, when “the discussion” involves guys like Holt, Snyder and Middlebrooks, that choice starts to look pretty obvious. None of them has the upside of Bogaerts, and it’s difficult to claim they’re more reliable or consistent. I’d be shocked if Bogaerts got the call and failed to outperform what the Sox have gotten from those three. I’m not exactly alone in this belief, either.
What we have here is a situation much like Manny Machado found himself in last year with Baltimore. There’s a clear opening at third base with the major-league team, and there’s a highly touted shortstop prospect waiting in the wings. There could be some adjustment period for Bogaerts defensively if he does move from short to be Boston’s everyday third baseman (although there sure wasn’t for Machado), but we don’t care about that in fantasy.
Bogaerts, the top prospect in the organization, has developed fantastic plate discipline (24 walks, 33 strikeouts in Triple-A) and possesses plenty of pop (.493 career slugging percentage in 1,563 minor-league plate appearances). A huge bonus for fantasy purposes is that, while he likely will play third in the majors, he is listed as a shortstop on Yahoo, ESPN and CBS, meaning he should have multi-position eligibility at two premium positions shortly after getting the call.
I just don’t see any reason for the Sox not to give Bogaerts a shot. He’s clearly a better long-term choice than any of the club’s other options, and the Boston media is clamoring for the guy who could be the next Machado. If your fantasy team has a weakness on the left side of the infield, stash Bogaerts now and reap the rewards when he arrives in the majors. You won’t be waiting long.