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Red Sox’ Xander Bogaerts Is Baseball’s Top Prospect

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ST LOUIS, MO - OCTOBER 27: Xander Bogaerts #72 of the Boston Red Sox throws the ball to first base in the eighth inning against Yadier Molina #4 of the St. Louis Cardinals during Game Four of the 2013 World Series at Busch Stadium on October 27, 2013 in St Louis, Missouri.

Xander Bogaerts (Photo Credit: Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images)

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By Rich Arleo

CBS Local Sports, as part of our “30 Players 30 Days” spring training feature, is profiling one young player from each Major League Baseball team leading up to opening day.

Xander Bogaerts, Infielder, Boston Red Sox

2013 season (minors): 116 G, 444 AB, .297 BA, 15 HR, 67 RBI, 7 SB, .865 OPS

2013 season (majors): 18 G, 44 AB, .250 BA, 1 HR, 5 RBI, 1 SB, .684 OPS

The Red Sox 2013 World Series celebration may just be winding down. But with an influx of young talent ready to crack the big league roster in 2014, the future may be even brighter.

Xander Bogaerts is not only the Red Sox’ top prospect, but widely regarded as the top prospect in baseball. Even though he’s just 21 and has only a handful of plate appearances in the majors, he already has something that takes many players years to get – a World Series ring. Bogaerts actually played a big role in the Sox’ championship run, starting all six games at third base in the Fall Classic. He looked a bit overmatched at times – and rightfully so – with his first look at big league pitching. Bogaerts had five hits in 21 at-bats in the World Series and struck out eight times, though he did drive in two runs and score two more.

Now the multitalented infielder is slated as the probable starting shortstop for the 2014 season, with the team unlikely to bring back Stephen Drew. There’s still a slight chance the team brings back Drew and moves Bogaerts to third instead, but recent comments from GM Ben Cherington make that scenario unlikely.

Bogaerts’ minor league career was relatively short and sweet. The Sox signed the right-hander out of Aruba in 2006, and he really came into his own in 2011 for their Single-A affiliate. Bogaerts showed tremendous pop for a middle infielder, slugging 16 home runs in 72 games that year. He had similar success in 2012, showing off that power, along with a great batting eye, as he flew through High-A and Double-A. Bogaerts did the same in Triple-A before a late-season promotion last year.

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In four minor league seasons he has a .296 average, .373 OBP and and impressive .862 OPS, with 54 home runs, 81 doubles and 16 triples in 378 games. He doesn’t have much speed for a middle infielder, but can swipe a few bases here and there and has the power and quickness to leg out doubles and triples consistently.

On the defensive side, Bogaerts is fine. He isn’t going to wow with the glove at this point, though he could continue to improve in the future. When he first joined the organization in his teens he struggled in the field and committed at least 21 errors in each of his first three years. But he has improved to the point where he shouldn’t be a liability at shortstop, which could force a move to third base.

No matter where he ends up on the field, his real contributions will be at the plate. Bogaerts has middle-of-the-order potential and could be a mainstay there for years to come. For now he’ll likely hit near the bottom of the order, as he did in the postseason. But a hot start could change that fast. Look for Bogaerts to emerge as one of the best hitting shortstops in baseball in the years to come.

Next up: Wil Myers, Tampa Bay Rays

Check out the entire 30 Players 30 Days series.

Rich Arleo is a Marist College alum who has been a professional writer and editor since graduating in 2010. Find him on Twitter, Facebook and Google+ for more of his sports musings.

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