While the 2019 season has largely been a disappointment for the Boston Red Sox, a few players are posting career seasons.
The expectations placed on the defending champions coming into the season seemed reasonable, as most mainstream sports media outlets had them pegged for around 95 wins and a Wild Card berth. Fans, and members inside the organization, felt that the Red Sox prediction was highly underwhelming.
Of course, it hasn’t been due to one player as the Red Sox have been plagued by injuries, inconsistencies, and disappointing outputs from the likes of Chris Sale and the remainder of the pitching staff. Additionally, the likelihood of making the postseason is slipping further and further away from Alex Cora‘s club.
Not all has been bad in Boston, as the offense, even with noticeably down years from reigning MVP Mookie Betts, and Silver Slugger, J.D. Martinez, has been among the most high octane in all of baseball. The aforementioned Betts and Martinez have not preformed at the elite offensive levels of 2018, but are still having productive seasons. Breakout seasons from Rafael Devers and Christian Vazquez have been a joy to watch. Rookie, Michael Chavis, is the AL rookie home run leader, and utility man, Brock Holt, is having his best offensive season.
Despite other breakout campaigns, shortstop, Xander Bogaerts, has shined the brightest and is making a legitimate case in the AL MVP conversation.
In a recent poll taken from front office executives and and MLB insiders, Bogaerts came in second place in the AL MVP voting through the end of July on MLB (behind the Angels Mike Trout). While the season has been a disappointment, the offensive production and overall play from Bogaerts has not gone unnoticed by the rest of the league. Now, the longest tenured player on the active roster has taken his game to an elite level in 2019.
It’s sometimes easy to forget that Bogaerts is only 26 years old as he made his debut with the Sox as a teenager in August of 2013. As a former number one overall prospect, the Red Sox shortstop has hit his stride, collecting multiple Silver Slugger awards and earning a trip to the All Star game. He finished thirteenth in MVP voting in 2018, driving in over 100 runs for the first time in his career, but was was overshadowed in a lineup that saw historic seasons from Betts and Martinez. The Red Sox would sign him to a 6 year / $120M extension prior the start of the 2019 season, an extension that was looked at as “team friendly” by many MLB insiders, and that looks like an absolute bargain just four months into it.
The progression of Xander Bogaerts has been steady, but coming in to 2019 the spotlight has always seemed to find others. His 2018 performance overshadowed by Betts and Martinez. His ranking among AL shortstops usually coming in behind the likes of Francisco Lindor, Carlos Correa, Didi Gregorius and Andrelton Simmons. While he’s certainly proven to be the best among all of those players in 2019, he’ll likely find himself behind Mike Trout in MVP voting, despite having his finest all around season. Perhaps if the Red Sox were more firmly in playoff contention his eye-popping .310 / 25 / .955 slash line would garner more attention, but Trout himself is proof that that the MVP award can be won while sitting home in October. His 25 home runs are already a career high, and his 87 RBI are among the best in the American League. he’s second to Trout in Offensive WAR, while tied for the AL lead in doubles (38) with teammate, Rafael Devers. Xander is top 5 in Batting average (.310), OPS (.955), hits (137), runs (90), and total bases (250), while placing in the top ten in OBP (.390), walks (59) and home runs (25). In addition to those gaudy offensive stats, Bogaerts range and advanced defensive metrics grade him out as better than league average for the second consecutive season.
Can Xander Bogaerts win the AL MVP? It seems that in a generation where Mike Trout doesn’t exist, he’d be a lock for the award. If the Sox can fight back into contention, and Xander can build on his already amazing season, he’d have to get serious consideration. Regardless of how the season plays out, Red Sox fans should enjoy watching the evolution of their shortstop, while Xander Bogaerts himself, continues to play in the shadows.