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Positional Breakdown: Shortstop

A look at the most important position on the infield.

St. Louis Cardinals v Boston Red Sox Photo by Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images

Over the next eleven days, we are going to take a look at the Red Sox depth chart to break down each position both in the short-term and the long-term. We’ll look at projected starters, bench pieces, depth options, top prospects, sleeper prospects, other prospects, where the starter fits in the division in terms of projected fWAR using FanGraphs’ Depth Chart system and an overall view. Today we move over to shortstop.

Starter

Xander Bogaerts

The last couple of positions we looked at in this series had a little bit of ambiguity at the top spot on the depth chart with platoons getting in the way. That is clearly not the case here at shortstop. Xander Bogaerts is the guy here, and he is arguably the best player on the team. In fact, there may not be much argument at all at this point. I still think the defense is more average-at-best than good, but it’s not to the point where a move is imminent or even that you are longing for a better glove. He makes most of the plays he should, just lacking in the more toss-up kind of plays.

And, of course, he makes up for any deficiencies with the glove with his production at the plate. Bogaerts followed up his big 2018 breakout with an even better performance last year with a 141 wRC+. Along the way solidified his standing in the top tier of shortstops in the league. The Red Sox have some long-term concerns on the roster, but starting shortstop is not one of them. That is, unless he exercises his opt out after 2022. But even that is a few years away.

Bench

Yairo Muñoz, Tzu-Wei Lin, Jonathan Araúz

This is the same group as we mentioned yesterday at second base, so I’m just going to link that and move along if that’s okay with you.

MLB: MAR 03 Spring Training - Red Sox at Yankees

Depth

C.J. Chatham, Marco Hernández

Chatham has steadily moved his way up the system, and after spending time in Pawtucket last year and being placed on the 40-man roster, he’s right on the cusp of getting major-league time. Given the infield depth in front of him, he’ll need an injury or two to get that chance right away, but either way it’s coming sooner than later. It’s unfair to expect there won’t be an adjustment period, but in the meantime Chatham can fill in at either middle infield spot and make enough contact to make some impact at the plate, even if it’s minimal. Hernández, meanwhile, is also mentioned in the linked post above. He’s better at second base at this point, but he can still play shortstop when need be.

Top Prospect

C.J. Chatham

For the first time in this series, there is a little bit of a debate, at least in my opinion, for the best prospect in the positional group. I’m going to go with experience, safety and proximity here, but there’s a solid argument for Matthew Lugo as well. Chatham, though, as I mentioned above is right on the major-league doorstep and should at least be a solid bench piece at the highest level. The ceiling won’t blow anyone away, but there is a chance at a second-division starter here, which at shortstop is nothing to sneeze at. There’s not a ton of power and he could really do himself well to develop a little more patience to boost his OBP, but he makes a lot of contact and hits the ball well enough to turn that contact into hits at a high rate.

I think the most realistic role is that of a good bench player on a good team who can play above-average defense at either middle infield spot, but as I said if there is a little more coming in the on-base or power department, there’s a starter profile here. He’s also extremely handsome, a fact for which I don’t think he gets enough credit.

Sleeper

Antoni Flores

It’s a little weird to call Flores a sleeper considering his age and how he was rated just a year ago, but his 2019 performance at Lowell was legitimately concerning and it wasn’t just a small sample kind of thing. Flores’s pitch recognition did not carry over to his somewhat aggressive placement in the New York Penn League and he lost a bit of the athleticism that made him a good shortstop. There’s no guarantee he’ll stick at this position, and with Lugo likely to join him in Lowell splitting time between short and second is likely in his immediate future.

All of that said, it’s way too early write him off. The pedigree is still there and he is still young enough (he doesn’t turn 20 until after the coming season, if there is a coming season) that he’ll still be age-appropriate if he does indeed repeat his time in Lowell. If he can make a little more contact and be a little more nimble in the field, a move back to the top ten in the system isn’t out of the question. The concerns from last year shouldn’t be written off, but they also shouldn’t be used to completely define him.

Other Prospects

  • Matthew Lugo has been mentioned here a few times already. The 2019 second round pick has a ways to go but there is a good all-around profile here that could develop into a good starter.
  • Ryan Fitzgerald has a limited ceiling, but the former undrafted signee shows a good glove up the middle and has done nothing but hit in his first two pro seasons.
  • Grant Williams has hit some in the pros but if he makes it to the majors it will be because of his glove up the middle.
  • Brainer Bonaci has been a helium prospect over the last few months after a strong showing in the DSL. There’s a ton of lead time here, but he should make his Stateside debut whenever baseball starts back up

AL East Projections

  1. Xander Bogaerts, BOS (4.5 fWAR)
  2. Gleyber Torres, NYY (4.1 fWAR)
  3. Bo Bichette, TOR (3.6 fWAR)
  4. Willy Adames, TB (2.4 fWAR)
  5. José Iglesias, BAL (1.4 fWAR)

This is a hell of a group here. Iglesias is the worst in this group, and he is probably the best defensive player at this crucial position this side of Andrelton Simmons. It’s also a fairly young group, with Bogaerts at age 27 as the old man of the quintet. There’s no doubt that Bogaerts is the best here, but there is enough talent that it’s not unreasonable to think things could be different a year from now. Torres in particular has major breakout potential and could be the next big Yankees star. Bichette has star potential in his own right, though I think he’s probably another year or two away from that distinction. Adames, meanwhile, is more good than great, but is still very much above average and could be in All-Star discussions many times over the next decade.

Parting Thoughts

This a very solid group for the Red Sox, obviously headlined by their current starter and probably the face of the franchise right now. As I mentioned, Bogaerts has an opt out in a few years but right now there’s little reason to think he’ll be anywhere else any time soon. There is also solid down down the system with a safe(ish) prospect in Chatham in the upper levels and then some far away but talented lower-level guys like Lugo, Bonaci and Flores.