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Is Xander Bogaerts an All-Star?

The improvements the 22-year-old shortstop made during the offseason are putting him in the All-Star conversation.

Jim Rogash/Getty Images

At this point last year, Xander Bogaerts looked as if he was well on his way to a great rookie season. He was hitting .300/.391/.443 with four home runs, 15 RBIs, 15 doubles, with a .371 wOBA (which measures a hitter's offensive value, .320 considered average) through 55 games and 233 plate appearances. While the defense was subpar, Bogaerts was, at the very least, contributing at the plate.

But then Bogaerts moved off shortstop following the signing of Stephen Drew and the offensive production evaporated. Bogaerts skittered to the end of 2014, concluding the year hitting .240/.297/.362 while flailing the bat any time an outside slider came his way. The defense at third base was not any better, and when the Red Sox traded Drew to the Yankees, Bogaerts continued to struggle at shortstop.

Through 55 games in 2015, the offensive output for Bogaerts has ticked back up noticeably; the 22-year-old is hitting .297/.342/.400 with two home runs, 21 RBIs, eight doubles and a .326 wOBA through 55 games and 205 plate appearances and has been picking up as of late. During the seven-game homestand, Bogaerts hit .440 (11-for-25) with three extra-base hits, four RBIs and four runs.

But what's most notable for Bogaerts is the improved defense. In 2014, Bogaerts posted a -3.7 UZR/150 at shortstop, which measures runs above average defensively per 150 defensive games. Bogaerts' defense this season has flipped around 180 degrees; so far in 2015, Bogaerts' UZR/150 is 6.4. To put that in context, Drew's UZR/150 in 2013 was 6.7. Where last year he was ahead of only Yunel Escobar (and a couple ticks worse than Derek Jeter, oof), this season he's posted the seventh best dWAR (4.5) in baseball among qualified shortstops. In the American League, Bogaerts is tied for the second-highest.

Third base coach Brian Butterfield has worked extensively with Bogaerts to improve the young shortstop's defensive ability. Butterfield identified Bogaerts' feet as the area that needed the most improvement.

"I’ve always looked at shortstop as an up-the-funnel, moving-forward-type position. Going from the back of the diamond to the front of the diamond," Butterfield said to WEEI last August. "You’re going up the funnel to attack the ball while third base is more of a side-to-side, even front-to-back, back-to-front, in order to get the better hops. I call it a zig-zag position at third base. At shortstop, the demands are greater, so you better attack the ball, especially on guys that can run, you better attack the ball and not let it bounce too many times, and get it in the air quickly."

The progress is evident.


and this...

... doesn't happen for Bogaerts in 2014; the ball either scoots under his glove or is booted.

It's an indisputable fact that Bogaerts has made remarkable strides defensively. He, however, has made some pretty big improvements at the plate as well. So far this season, Bogaerts is not hitting for a whole lot of power (just a .103 ISO compared to .123 ISO in 2014), but he's significantly cut down his strikeout rate from 23.2 percent to 13.4 percent by figuring out the outside slider that was his kryptonite in 2014.

From 2014:

From 2015:

Bogaerts' performance this season places him among Top-5 in WAR among shortstops so far this season at 1.4 WAR, trailing only Brandon Crawford, José Iglesias, Jhonny Peralta and Adeiny Hechavarria, placing him smack-dab in the middle of the All-Star conversation.

As of June 9, Bogaerts sits below the Top-5 in the American League for the starting shortstop position, standing more than three million votes behind leading vote-getter Alcides Escobar (0.8 WAR). So unless the whole island of Aruba (population 102,911) each votes 30 times or Taylor Swift tweets to vote that all Swifties should vote for Bogaerts which stages a remarkable comeback, it doesn't look like Bogaerts will be starting at shortstop for the American League in Cincinnati on July 14.

With that said, Bogaerts' performance so far this season places him among the top-2 shortstops (in regards to WAR) in the American League, trailing just Iglesias.

Beyond just the fan vote, Bogaerts can be voted in by his fellow players or chosen by American League manager Ned Yost for the All-Star roster. There's still a long way to go until the All-Star game and Bogaerts could still fall into a major slump — Bogaerts hit .135/.176/.250 in June in 2014 — but the Aruba native has made significant strides, both offensively and defensively, that should make Yost and players around baseball take a couple of extra seconds when they come across Bogaerts' name on the All-Star ballot.