Fans lately have gotten used to the idea that players come up to the big leagues fully baked, and ready to rake. This didn’t used to be the case, but after seeing player after player come up to the big leagues and perform at high levels right away, a lot of fans get the mindset that if a player isn’t dynamite right away he may be a bust, and we know that to be foolhardy. But, Jeff Zimmerman of Fangraphs has done some good work dealing with player aging curves, so there’s something there, but we can’t make the mistake of applying it to everyone.

For Xander Bogaerts, he may just be in the middle of the long-awaited breakout season. He’s always been pretty good, but you always got the sense that there was something more there. We may be seeing the beginning of that right now.

Over the course of his first three seasons, from 2013-2015, Bogaerts put up a line of .281/.327/.392, a wRC+ of 96, and 4.8 fWAR. (Please note that the 2013 portion of that sample is quite small–50 PA.)  Coming up through the minor leagues, Bogaerts walked at right around a 10% clip, but after his promotion to the majors, as with a lot of young players, that didn’t translate all that well, leaving his OBP largely batting average-based. But, this season, things are starting to turn around for the young shortstop. Right now (as of May 9), Bogaerts is hitting .315/.376/.457 with a career high wRC+ of 132. Let’s dig deeper into this:

Walk rate    Contact rate   
2014    -6.6% 77.9%
2015 4.9% 81.4%
2016 8.5% 83.8%

Looking at the whiff rate map from Brooks Baseball, you can see in the images below that a lot of the areas where Bogaerts used to swing and miss have decreased (click to enlarge):

bog2013-14 bog16

If Bogaerts can continue with his offensive breakout, even if he does regress a bit–say to a wRC+ of 120)–then Bogaerts is a very valuable player as long as his defense holds up. A wRC+ of 120 would have led all qualifying shortstops in 2015, and if he can maintain his current performance, this could wind up being the 5-6 win season we’ve been waiting for.

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