Red Sox's No. 1 prospect will see time at shortstop and third base
SAN FRANCISCO -- After several weeks of anticipation, top prospect Xander Bogaerts arrived in the Major Leagues on Monday, joining the Red Sox for the start of a six-game West Coast road trip.
Ranked by MLB.com as the top Minor Leaguer in Boston's farm system and the No. 6 overall prospect, Bogaerts could make his first start for the Red Sox on Tuesday night, according to manager John Farrell.
He spent Monday soaking in his surroundings and realizing the start of his dream.
"Very excited to be here, to be part of the team right now," said Bogaerts. "Since I signed, this is what you work hard to become -- a Major League player. So I'm really excited, a happy day for me, my family and also everyone back at home."
For Bogaerts, "back home" is Aruba. He hopes his family will be able to come watch him play when the Red Sox return to Fenway Park in a week.
Lauded for his five-tool package, Red Sox fans have been clamoring for weeks to see the 20-year-old Bogaerts get a chance with Boston.
Now the question is this: How much will Bogaerts play?
"He'll rotate through the left side of the infield," said Farrell. "As [general manager] Ben [Cherington] and I and others talk about our position players coming down the stretch here, we're trying to build in some scheduled down days, and Xander will provide that at shortstop with Stephen [Drew]. The reason we brought Xander was a right-handed bat to complement him. That's not to say a platoon situation by any means."
To make room for Bogaerts on the roster, the Red Sox optioned left-handed-hitting utility infielder Brock Holt back to Triple-A Pawtucket.
Bogaerts is primarily a shortstop. Drew is Boston's starter, and he had finally gotten hot at the plate before going 0-for-7 in his past two games.
The other option for Bogaerts is third base, where he has gotten some work, both in the World Baseball Classic and in the Minors. However, Will Middlebrooks homered Sunday night and is batting .462 in eight games since his return from Pawtucket on Aug. 10.
"I don't want to pin myself or pin Xander into an exact number of days and then all of a sudden there's a change," said Farrell. "But initially we'll look to find the best matchups and find a day when Stephen might need a day off his feet. It'll be at both [positions], but I can't say it's going to be 50-50. I don't want to say there's going to be two to four days a week. That's not what this is. Will Middlebrooks has done an excellent job since coming back to us."
Predictably, Bogaerts was riding a wave of adrenaline Monday and not all that concerned about playing time.
"I'm just here," Bogaerts said. "Whatever the Red Sox organization and the manager wants me to do, I'll be here. I'm just here to play and win games."
Playing in National League cities for the next six games, Bogaerts should at the very least get chances to pinch-hit when he isn't in the starting lineup.
"I've never done it before," said Bogaerts. "I don't have a problem with it. I'm just going to go up there and swing at strikes."
The one obvious time that Farrell can start the right-handed-hitting Bogaerts is at shortstop against left-handed pitching. The Sox face all righty starters in the three-game series in San Francisco.
Bogaerts was informed of his move to the Majors by Triple-A manager Gary DiSarcina.
"I was at the hotel playing dominoes with some of the teammates, just having a good time, and I was surprised with the phone call," Bogaerts said.
Bogaerts hit .284 with nine homers and 32 RBIs while compiling a .369 on-base percentage and a .453 slugging percentage over 60 games for Triple-A Pawtucket. He predominantly played shortstop, his natural position, but also saw action at third base in 10 games. He hit .311 with a .502 slugging percentage in 56 games for Double-A Portland earlier this season.
"He's had a very good year offensively," Farrell said. "He's still got some development to do on the defensive side that he's working through, as well as on the basepaths. But we're talking about a young, exciting offensive player -- a very good player all around that, at 20 years of age, is still developing. But we feel like he as a person and his abilities will give us a shot in the arm and make an impact here."
The shortstop will become the first 20-year-old to make his big league debut with the Red Sox since Jeff Suppan in 1995 and will be the first Red Sox position player age 20 or younger since Dwight Evans debuted in 1972 at age 20.
Though he's well aware of the hype that has surrounded him, Bogaerts has done his best not to let it have any impact on his development.
"If you start thinking about those things, I think that's when the pressure hits you," Bogaerts said. "If you start feeling it, you'd probably go insane. I try not to think about that stuff and just try to concentrate on baseball. That's really what I'm about."