Fifteen games into the season, Xander Bogaerts has already experienced things in the Major Leagues that he has not dealt with in his career before. Bogaerts, a historically slow starter in April, hit /.412/.524/.529 in the first five games and was spraying line drives all over the field. For once, it appeared that Bogaerts would shake off his historically cold starts, something he attributes to the chilly New England weather he is not accustomed to.
But then things started to slow down.
Bogaerts did not record his first RBI until last night, when he drilled a single off White Sox pitcher John Danks to score Dustin Pedroia. While the RBI is a slightly overrated stat due to the amount of chance and circumstance related to it, Bogaerts is still only hitting .071 with a .188 OBP and .071 SLG with runners in scoring position, a sign that the RBI drought had a lot to do with his performance at the plate.
In addition, Bogaerts is currently in the midst of his first slump in the majors. In the last ten games, Bogaerts is currently hitting .194 with zero extra-base hits and ten strikeouts in 43 plate appearances.
And to the put the cherry on top, Bogaerts had a pretty major social media blunder that likely led to him deleting his Twitter account (something he hasn't seemed particularly interested in, considering his one tweet since December).
So the last couple of weeks hasn't been great for Xander Bogaerts. Regardless, there is little reason to be concerned with Bogaerts lack of production so far this season.
One incredibly encouraging sign is that Bogaerts has not changed his approach at the plate. Despite the lack of production, Bogaerts does not appear to be pressing at the plate. Bogaerts has continued his relaxed approach at the plate and continues to see a lot of pitches. At the moment, Bogaerts currently sits ninth in the majors in pitches per plate appearance at 4.44. Since 1988, one major league rookie has posted a rate that high over the course of a full season: Reggie Willits of the Angels in 2007 (4.4 P/PA).
This patient approach has translated to Bogaerts' on-base percentage. Despite his low average in the last ten games, Bogaerts continues to take walks. In 43 plate appearances, Bogaerts has five walks resulting in a .326 on-base percentage. Bogaerts has reached base safely 25 times in the 15 games this season. Since 1920, Ted Williams is the only other 21-year-old to reach base more than Bogaerts in the Red Sox's first 15 games of the season (32 times on base: 21 H, 10 BB, HB according to Red Sox stat guru Jon Shestakofsky). So while Bogaerts isn't hitting the ball as well he can right now, he continues to take walks at the plate.
A major thing to consider with Bogaerts' slow start is that the Aruba native has slumped in April before. In fact, Bogaerts privately was surprised with his quick start at the plate through the first five games of the season considering his tendency to slump in April. Just last year, Bogaerts hit .171 for the Portland Sea Dogs through the first nine games. By April 22, Bogaerts raised his batting average to .300. So while he started slow, Bogaerts heated up as soon as the temperature began to rise.
But most importantly for the Red Sox and Bogaerts' development is the 21-year-old's ability to make adjustments quickly to his game. Bogaerts' fielding error during Tuesday night's game encapsulated the rawness in the shortstop's defensive ability. Despite his weaknesses, Bogaerts has shown the ability to build on his weaknesses in the past. Just last August, a scout told me, "He needs to work on his plate discipline and needs to cut down on his strike zone. Pitch recognition still needs some work so I think he'd be exposed by big league secondary stuff."
By October, Bogaerts was laying off crucial, borderline strikes from Cy Young award winner Max Scherzer to draw crucial walks in the ALCS. Seemingly in three months, Bogaerts turned his plate discipline from one of his biggest weaknesses at the plate into one of his biggest strengths.
Considering his range, his athleticism and his work ethic, Bogaerts has the potential to become a much better defensive shortstop through work with Third Base Coach and infield aficionado Brian Butterfield. Butterfield is widely regarded around the game as the best infield coach in baseball and considering both Butterfield and Manager John Farrell's public endorsement of Bogaerts' defense, it seems likely that he won't be moved off the position soon (Sorry, Stephen Drew).
So while nobody with a good head on their shoulders was calling Xander Bogaerts a bust 15 games into the season, some are concerned about the Aruban's struggles early in the season.
There is not reason to worry. And while there is no possibility now for the Carter Bays and Craig Thomas to go back and fix the ending to How I Met Your Mother, there is still a long season ahead for Xander Bogaerts to fix his mistakes. History indicates that in regards to his weaknesses, the Xandy-man can fix them.