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In the first game of the doubleheader with the Baltimore Orioles on Saturday, Xander Bogaerts booted a routine ground ball at third base that cost the Red Sox two runs, and he went 0-4 at the plate with three strikeouts. The game may have been the low point of the year for the 21-year-old shortstop turned third baseman, though the team bailed him out on this occasion with a walk-off victory.
Since June 2 when Stephen Drew became the full-time shortstop, Bogaerts’ batting average has dropped from .300 to below .250, which includes a slide that had him hitless over 27 at bats. His place in the batting order has dropped all the way to ninth, and an anonymous Yankees pitcher was even cited as saying that the projected superstar can’t handle the slider.
Despite his struggles, there’s no reason to be concerned about Bogaerts’ future. Baseball is a game of adjustments, and often times a young player will find success in the big leagues before needing to make those adjustments, such as Bogaerts’ .296 postseason batting average and strong start to this season.
Pitchers across the league have now recognized that Bogaerts is mechanically off at the plate, and mentally his approach is flawed as simple sequences of fastballs and sliders have him baffled. Yet there’s no reason for Bogaerts to return to the minor leagues to fix his problems, both because the Red Sox are desperate enough for offense that they need his bat in the major leagues when he eventually heats up, and because the opposing pitching in the minor leagues is not on par with big league pitching.
It is possible that Bogaerts began pressing upon the arrival of Stephen Drew, but realistically every player goes through something like this at various points in their career, especially early on, so it’s hard to say the Red Sox caused this situation. Stars separate themselves from the rest of the pack by proving that they can make adjustments, and now the time has come for Bogaerts to prove himself in this regard.
With the Red Sox on the verge of becoming sellers at the trade deadline, this season could prove to be the perfect opportunity for Bogaerts to develop with minimal pressure as he returns to form in the big leagues.