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Xander Bogaerts has been a factor on the field and beyond

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MLB: New York Yankees at Boston Red Sox Paul Rutherford-USA TODAY Sports

Chances are when you look back on what’s shaping up to be a historic Red Sox season, Xander Bogaerts likely won’t be the first, second or even third guy who comes to mind. I get it. When you look at what J.D. Martinez, Mookie Betts and Chris Sale are doing this season, it’s physically impossible to say that anyone on the Red Sox has been more instrumental to success than those three guys. However, I think Bogey deserves a little more credit than he’s currently receiving and I hope he gets it at some point.

His recent offensive surge just shores up my case, so thank you for that. Since August 3, Bogaerts is hitting .338/.432/.603 with 11 total extra-base hits, three home runs, 19 RBI and just eight strikeouts over 81 plate appearances. His 1.113 OPS over the last 14 days is eighth best in the league and the best among the Red Sox. He has put together a really great stretch at the plate and he’s been extremely consistent in the field — which can’t be said for some of his prior campaigns. Before Friday’s game, Fangraphs had him ranked seventh in the league in Def at 9.4. He’s never finished a season ranked higher than 19th in that stat.

Bogaerts has also been unbelievable in clutch situations. His OPS with runners in scoring position is astronomically high at a league-best 1.207. To put that number into perspective, Bogie posted an OPS of .814 with RISP in 2015, which was his second best season in this statistical category. He has 25 extra-base hits with runners in scoring position, per Alex Speier of the Boston Globe, which is already the most by a Red Sox since Manny Ramirez in 2005.

Despite the games he missed with a cracked bone in his left ankle, Bogie has already topped his previous career high with 60 extra-base hits and he’s just three home runs away from another career high — with 19 currently. Bogaerts is second in the AL among shortstops in Fangraphs’ WAR rankings at 4.5 — behind only Francisco Lindor (6.5).

It still just doesn’t feel like he’s getting the love he deserves. Beyond his on-field performance, what he has done to transform into an effective vocal leader is simply being overlooked. I know I’ve mentioned this before — with J.D. Martinez as my focus last time — but I just don’t think the importance of leadership can be overlooked, especially when it felt like everyone harped on a lack of leadership so much last season. It’s pretty clear to me that Bogaerts has developed into a vocal leader in the clubhouse this year and that’s the main reason I think he’s a little undervalued.

The Athletic’s Jen McCaffrey said it best when she wrote about his increased role in June: “Bogaerts is the point man, the infield liaison and leader on the field for a team that has been without its veteran signal caller Dustin Pedroia.”

In fact, Bogaerts told McCaffrey that Pedroia’s injury is the exact reason why he has stepped into a role that has been occupied for awhile.

“I think it’s something I’ve always done, but in the beginning it was something that I was a little afraid of because Pedey was there and he’s the guy. But I feel like now that he’s injured, he’s out, I’ve kind of got to step up and help the infield,” Bogaerts told The Athletic.

Xander is one of the longest tenured, homegrown players in Boston right now but for some reason, I never expected him to occupy the role he currently does. At 25, he’s transitioned into a solid veteran seamlessly. And at just the right time. The Red Sox are heading toward what could be tense times in regards to contracts. He will be the first of Boston’s young core to hit free agency — followed closely by Betts and Jackie Bradley Jr. If Bogaerts can prove his worth as a leader, there’s a good chance that’s taken into account by the front office when it’s time to make some decisions.

Either way, you have to enjoy what he has done this season. Maybe he performs better when he’s a little overshadowed by his MVP-caliber teammates, I don’t know. Whatever it is that’s gotten into him, I am absolutely here for it and I hope it never goes away.