Monday was one of the most exciting days in quite some time for fans of Red Sox prospects, as Xander Bogaerts joined the team. If you want the full story on Bogaerts and his potential, Ben Carsley did a great job summing it up here. My mind has been churning all week about what sort of impact Bogaerts might have in a full season.
Depending on how much he plays, Bogaerts might lose his rookie eligibility this season. From the MLB rules, “A player shall be considered a rookie unless, during a previous season or seasons, he has (a) exceeded 130 at-bats or 50 innings pitched in the Major Leagues; or (b) accumulated more than 45 days on the active roster”. He will be just under the 45 day cap, but he might accumulate enough at bats to put him over the limit.
While I was thinking about what Bogaert’s rookie campaign might be like, I read an interesting piece by Jonah Keri on the top late season call ups in MLB history. I did my own search on Baseball Reference and came up with a list of the top five rookie seasons in Red Sox history ranked by WAR.
*Hanley Ramirez 2006-SS .292/.353/.480 .833 OPS, 17 HRs, 51 stolen bases, 4.9 WAR
I’m throwing Hanley into the mix here because he was the last Red Sox prospect I remember that was considered elite. He was of course traded to the Marlins before the 2006 season, and then took the National League by storm at the age of 22. Bogaerts doesn’t have anywhere near the same speed as Hanley, but displayed more power in the minors. Ramirez’ highest home run total in the minors over a season was eight, while Bogaerts had 20 last year over two levels.
#5 Johnny Pesky 1942-SS .331/.375/.416 .791 OPS, 2 HRs, 12 stolen bases, 5.5 WAR
I always remember Johnny Pesky as the oldtimer who was always at Spring Training and was Ted Williams‘s best friend, but he was a pretty outstanding player in his own right. His rookie season wasn’t even his best year, as he came back in 1946 after three years serving in the military and put up a 6.5 WAR season, helping the Red Sox make the World Series. All told, he accumulated over 30 WAR during eight seasons with the Red Sox. I also found out from his Baseball Reference page that he didn’t finish his playing career with the Red Sox, which I didn’t know.
#4 Nomar Garciaparra 1997-SS .306/.342/.534 .875 OPS, 30 HRs, 22 stolen bases, 6.6 WAR
It will be tough going for Bogaerts to match some of the rookie seasons that Red Sox shortstops have had. Number five if you create a list of Red Sox shortstops only would be Rick Burleson in 1974 with a 2.7 WAR. Nomar remains the top of the class, though, with his standout 1997 season. Young Nomar was quite the player, as he turned in four straight seasons with over six WAR value.
#3 Ted Williams 1939-RF .327/.436/.609 1.045 OPS, 31 HRs, 107 walks, 6.7 WAR
Having Ted Williams third on this list was probably the biggest shock of this project for me. He was twenty years old when he put up the monster numbers listed above. That of course got me curious to look and see the highest WAR number for a twenty year old player. The leader? Mike Trout with 10.9 WAR last year.
Ted Williams‘s Baseball Reference page is amazing by the way. His career OBP (.482) is higher than anyone in baseball this season. He won the Triple Crown twice, and missed it by one category two other times. In his Triple Crown seasons, he also led baseball in walks, OBP and slugging percentage. He also lost three entire seasons in the prime of his career plus two partial seasons due to military service in World War II and Korea.
#1 Carlton Fisk 1972-C .293/.370/.538 .909 OPS, 22 HRs, 7.3 WAR
Fred Lynn 1975-CF .331/.401/.566 .967 OPS, 21 HRs, 10 stolen bases, 7.3 WAR
For sheer offensive performance, William’s numbers win out here. WAR, however, makes adjustments for defense, baserunning, and positional value. Those put Fisk and Lynn, who played outstanding defense at difficult positions, ahead of Williams. Lynn won both the Rookie of the Year and MVP awards after his remarkable 1975 season, and both players were the core of the team that came oh so close to winning the World Series that year.
As you can see from the list, Xander Bogaerts would have to have a truly remarkable rookie year to crack this top five. All of Red Sox nation should try to keep expectations in check, but it’s hard when a prospect shows this much talent at such a young age.