Have you noticed how terrible Disney Princess stories are? Take The Little Mermaid, for example. Bratty, entitled girl has everything under the sea, literally, yet sings about how she “wants more!” Guess what? She gets more – and it leads to happily ever after.
When does this happen in really life? The art of narrative came about to learn how to appreciate the unseen, love what you have, find beauty in the mundane.
Narrative is supposed to make you see life the way Laura Winslow came to see Steve Urkel. Appreciate the greatness you have, instead of yearning for something mythical that has not yet been revealed – and may not exist. The grass is not always greener on the other side, they say.
Yet still, we baseball fans never learn. The stories of Phil Plantier, Sam Horn, Delmon Young, Tim Beckham, Brien Taylor, Drew Henson, and Todd Van Poppel have taught us nothing. “Aberrations,” we say. “But our guy is can’t miss,” we argue. “Keith Law/Jason Parks love him” we argue.
“Bench the incumbent” we demand of our team’s management.
In the case of the Boston Red Sox, the current can’t miss prospect knocking on the door is Xander Bogaerts – and Lord, is he a beauty? A legitimate SS prospect who is hitting AAA pitching to the tune of a .286/.372/.462 with 19 XBH in 227 plate appearances during his age 20 season(!!!).
When you have a prospect that good, that close to the Majors, you know what you do with him? Call him up! Heck, trade Stephen Drew (if anyone will take him!) if you must. Bogaerts is going to be the SS of the next decade for the Boston Red Sox. Move over, Nomah, there is an actual Hall of Famer on his way.
That, my friends, is the emerging narrative whispered from the scribes, yelled on twitter, emerging in chat rooms. But, is it helpful? Would the Red Sox actually improve were they to move Bogaerts into the lineup at SS?
First of all, Stephen Drew is far better than you realize. Start with the 109 OPS+ from a short stop. He is now an above league average hitter. His dreadful start, while still finding his footing from a catastrophic ankle injury, likely helped contribute to the narrative that he stunk. But the truth is that he has a solid .338 wOBP from a shortstop, a 2.4 fWAR, and an exceptional .314/.417/.529 in the second half so far (arbitrary end point alert!). Further, all major defensive metrics have Drew adding value to the team with his glove. This is huge from a key defensive spot like short, and a massive improvement after a few years of Mike Aviles (Am I right???).
So, it is time to be honest. Bogaerts may end up being amazing (let’s hope), but he is unlikely to improve on what has been a very under appreciated season from Stephen Drew. Frankly, I don’t think it would be the end of the world if we offered him another one year contract. I like him. You should, as well.
But, you may say, Bogaerts could play third! He could be our Manny Machado! Well sure, he could, and God knows we need third base help (insert obligatory unless Will Middlebrooks figures it out, blah, blah, blah)
But let’s remember a few things: Manny Machado is a better defender than Bogaerts. Few would rationally argue otherwise. Also, lest we romanticize Machado beyond reality, he hit .262/.294/.445 after his call up last year (51 games/202 PA) and has slumped down to .295/.325/.453 this season. Sure that isn’t a Red Sox 3b butcher job of 2013 (Will Middlebrooks. Jose Iglesias sans BABIP, Brock Holt, Brandon Snyder, woof), but it is, well, roughly the same OPS+ that much of Boston is complaining about from Stephen Drew. So, much of Machado’s robust WARs (5.3 bWAR, 4.8 fWAR) are based on elite defense.
Bogaerts will not replicate that defense. Sorry. Therefore, if Bogaerts followed the basic path of Machado from last year, we could expect roughly .5-1 win above replacement from Bogaerts. That is, let’s be honest, modest. Of course, if Middlebrooks continues his 2013 pace of being worse than a replacement player, Bogaerts could be worth two wins at third.
But, more questions remain. With Jose Iglesias traded and Drew not signed for next season, is a marginal gain at third base really worth losing valuable developmental time for Bogaerts in AAA against similar prospects smattered with AAAA players? Bogaerts is currently fielding his position (the one we eventually want him to play in Boston), honing his craft at the plate, all while finishing his age 20 season. I’ll leave the conclusions for someone smarter than I, but there is an argument to be made, similar to the one we yelled about early in the season regarding Jackie Bradley, Jr., that the next six years matter more than the next few weeks.
You may notice that even with Will Middlebrooks in Boston (for better or worse), Pawtucket keeps sliding Bogaerts in at SS. It seems that Boston wants him to develop there for the long term, rather than take reps at third for the short term. In the short term in Boston, we have a very good SS relative to the current competition, in Stephen Drew.
If there was a gun to my head, I would give WMB a week to 10 days to prove he is ready for the big leagues. If he is not, roll the dice with Bogaerts at third, hoping the cup of coffee in the bigs preps him for a long career in Boston at SS. But, Bogaerts has no business at short for the 2013 Red Sox, no matter how much you love him.