It's so easy to get excited by prospects. The future is inherently exciting, and as baseball fans - and sports fans in general - the next big thing is always a topic of conversation. There is a reason that people pay attention to professional sports drafts, even in a sport like baseball when the players who are picked are typically at least two or three years away from making any sort of impact at the major-league level. There's something special about following a player's path to stardom. This is evident by how sad many are that Jacoby Ellsbury will probably be leaving this winter. It makes sense to let him walk, but as a homegrown player who built himself into the player he is today, it'll be tough to see some other fans reap the benefits of all that time.
Because of this attachment to the next big thing, though, people can become impatient. They see and hear about a big-time prospect, and they want to see what he can do as soon as possible. This phenomenon showed itself this spring with Jackie Bradley Jr., and it's starting to happen again with the best prospect in the system, Xander Bogaerts.
On Sunday, the All-Star festivities kicked off with the Futures Games, featuring some of the best prospects across all levels of the minors. The Red Sox had three players in the game, headlined by consensus top-ten prospect Bogaerts. He continued to feed the brilliant reputation that he has built by showing off his advanced approach at the plate, and feel for the game. After the game, Ben Badler of Baseball America named Bogaerts as his best prospect in the game, for those reasons among others. That performance, which was shown on national television, was seen by a number of fans who had never seen him play before. After witnessing that type of play and hearing so many experts praise him has led to many suggesting he needs to be promoted to help the big-league squad right now. People are already dreaming of a left side of the infield led by Bogaerts and Iglesias leading us to the playoffs this year. He's exciting, and it's easy to get carried away with excitement, but let's not get ahead of ourselves. It's not time for him to help our team yet.
As great as Xander Bogaerts has been, it's easy to forget that he's just 20 years old, and won't turn 21 until after this season is over. It's incredibly impressive how advanced he is at this age, but that doesn't mean he's all done growing as a player. He's gotten 119 plate appearances since being promoted to Pawtucket, and he's hit extremely well given the fact that it was his first taste of this level of pitching. He has seven home runs, and is hitting .260/.353/.462. He has walked in 12.6 percent of his trips to the plate, while showing power as well with his .202 ISO. One thing it would be nice for him to improve would be that batting average, though bad luck is likely a part of it. He's suffering through a .263 batting average on balls in play, and somehow has no doubles despite his seven home runs. These things should come soon, but they should give him time to get those things.
Photo Courtesy of Jim Rogash
Another issue with calling him up so soon is where to put him. They already have Iglesias at shortstop for the moment, and he has surprisingly shown that his bat can't be taken out of the lineup right now. In addition, Stephen Drew should be returning from injury shortly after the break. When that happens, the starters for the left side of the infield will be back at full-strength. Though there are some who are pushing some narrative that Drew has been a trainwreck this year, he's actually been fine. His batting average is weak, but he's supporting it with a strong walk rate, and more power than most expected from him. Add that to extremely solid defense, and he's been at least an average shortstop. In Drew's absence, Brock Holt(!) has shown he can hold his own in a backup role.
Then, there's the issue of Will Middlebrooks, who is also hoping to make his way back to Boston soon. Though his .253/.314/.489 (.239 BABIP) isn't dominating, there are clear signs of improvement. The biggest criticism of the young third baseman has been his approach at the plate. During this stint in Pawtucket, though, he has the highest walk-rate he has had at any level, and the lowest strikeout-rate.
Assuming Middlebrooks works his way back, that left side of the infield is suddenly very crowded. Now, Bogaerts would have no clear role, and would likely be subjected to the bench much of the time. This would be just about the worst possible move for his development. Despite the fact he's so advanced, he needs to have consistent at bats until Pawtucket's season is over. That isn't going to happen if he's in the majors with so many other options who also need their at bats. On top of that, Bogaerts doesn't have much experience at all at any position besides shortstop, and he'd assumedly have to bounce around the diamond a bit in Boston. Asking him to learn a new position on the fly while adjusting the big-league pitching is way too much to put on someone like Bogaerts.
Seeing Bogaerts in action against the other top prospects around the league, and excelling on that stage, was beyond exciting. It's easy to get carried away and want him to join the team right now. It's just not the best thing for anyone, though. The Red Sox seem to be okay at that position, and they can venture into the trade market and find someone to fill a hole if they need to. In September, the rosters will expand, and he may finally get his shot at his debut and a few games to get a taste of the big-leagues then. Xander Bogaerts is the biggest piece for the future of this franchise, though, and rushing his development for such a minimal gain is the exact kind of undisciplined move that Ben Cherington has preached against, and he needs to stick to those guns.
Read more Red Sox:
- Andrew Bailey needs to be the closer for the Red Sox
- Red Sox pitching prospects in word cloud form
- What to expect from Red Sox prospect Brandon Workman
- It's time for change in the Red Sox rotation
- MLB Trade Deadline: How can the Red Sox fix their bullpen?