Photo Credit: AP Photo / Winslow Townson

The Red Sox shortstop has blossomed into a star and a reliable source in clutch spots.

2017 was a troublesome season for Xander Bogaerts. The young shortstop was coming off his first All Star season and had a solid start to the season before getting drilled in the hand against the Tampa Bay Rays.

The injury, similar to that of the Yankees’ Aaron Judge, clearly hindered his ability at the plate and dropped his impressive .303 average in the first half to a stone-cold .235 average upon his return. It seemed as if the Aruba-native was hitting his stride before the injury occurred and turned out to be a huge blow to the Red Sox lineup.

Fast forward a season and Bogaerts has moved past his injury-laden past and put together one of his best seasons to date. In most cases, the offensive output would yield a nod to the Mid-Summer’s Classic; however with the loaded American League shortstop class of Francisco Lindor, Carlos Correa, Didi Gregorius, and others, Bogaerts has largely flown under the radar.

In 2018, Bogaerts has put together 21 homeruns (tied for a career best), 93 RBI’s (a career best), a .291 batting average, and a career best .891 OPS. As a prospect, he was labeled as a middle infielder with plus power and had largely underperformed in that aspect. However, under new hitting coach Tim Hyers, Bogaerts has found the sweet stroke that made him a highly-touted prospect on his road to Boston.

Perhaps what may be more impressive is his ability to add protection for J.D. Martinez. When the Red Sox let Hanley Ramirez go, it appeared that there would be little protection for the Sox slugger. It would only be a matter of time before pitchers would intentionally walk JD, or pitch around him in favor of letting a different hitter beat them. In this case, Xander has answered the call. He’s hitting .359 with RISP and a scalding .615 with the bases loaded. Bogaerts is making pitchers think twice before walking Martinez – and when they do – he’s making them pay.

It’s not a wild realization that Xander has been overshadowed by the future AL MVP in Mookie Betts and Triple Crown challenger, JD Martinez. However, it’s important to realize just how good Bogaerts has been. He’s underrated on a national level, but has been a huge part of this Red Sox team.

The Red Sox shortstop is set to become a free agent in 2020 and Dave Dombrowski will have a huge decision to make, but Bogaerts has stated his case to be rewarded handsomely for his performance in Boston.

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