How often does the hotshot rookie generate tons of hype, just to disappoint fantasy owners who expected the player to be a force from the get-go? It seemingly happens all the time. Owners then give up rather quickly on said player and move onto the next big thing. And that’s exactly when the former top prospect breaks out. It’s precisely why the post-hype sleeper term was coined to begin with. Will Xander Bogaerts follow this path?
Perhaps it’s unfair to already label him a potential post-hype sleeper. He just completed his rookie year so he has just one full season under his belt. Typically the label is reserved for players with a couple of years of MLB experience to give fantasy owners as many opportunities as possible to jump off the train. There is still probably a fair bit of hype surrounding Bogaerts as one disappointing rookie year is unlikely to convince the majority of owners to give up hope already.
But it sure was a rather discouraging season. Let’s discuss the bad, shall we? After posting relatively strong walk rates in the minors, including marks above 10% at two levels in 2013, Bogaerts’ plate patience disappeared. He walked just 6.6% of the time, which usually corresponds with a player who swings a lot and gives him few opportunities to take a free pass. This wasn’t the case, however, as Bogaerts’ Swing% was actually right around the league average. That’s a bit odd, but does suggest that a better walk rate is in his future.
Sticking with plate discipline metrics for the moment, the majority of his was surprisingly close to the league average. On its own, that doesn’t tell us a whole lot, but because he posted just a .294 wOBA, it suggests that he wasn’t truly a disaster at the plate in terms of what he swung at and how often he made contact.
His strikeout rate was well above what he was accustomed to posting in the minors and more appropriate for a major power source, of which he was not. There is a sliver of good news though relating to that strikeout rate. His SwStk% was barely above the league average, hinting at a mark moving forward. Getting back to his power, he severely lacked it. Although he had the fly ball rate to boost his home run total, his low HR/FB rate meant that he failed to take advantage of it. And his batted ball distance was just 269 feet, which ranked a mere 222 among 298 batters on the leaderboard. Bogaerts really hasn’t shown immense home run power since 2011 at Single-A, so it shouldn’t be totally shocking that he socked just 12 long balls this year. Of course, power tends to peak a bit later and so there’s no need to panic about his future potential just yet.
Throughout his minor league career, Bogaerts generally enjoyed inflated BABIP marks. While BABIP does not translate perfectly and it is certainly higher in the minors with weaker defenses, the Major League and minor league marks do positively correlate. But Bogaerts was pretty deserving of his .296 BABIP, which was just a touch below the league average. His batted ball profile tilted slightly toward fly balls, but was otherwise nearly identical to the league average. That fly ball tilt should have led to a lower than average BABIP and that’s exactly what happened. Without a change in batted ball distribution, he’s unlikely to come anywhere near some of his gaudy historical BABIP marks from the minors.
Aside from struggling at the plate, Bogaerts was weak defensively as well. He posted an impossibly bad -29.4 UZR/150 at third base, along with a less scary, but still poor, -3.7 mark at shortstop. Given his defensive issues, there’s no guarantee he sticks in the Majors all of 2015 without a step forward offensively.
A purchase of Bogaerts on draft day represents blind hope that a top prospect will automatically improve, despite little in his statistical profile suggesting that he’ll be a whole lot better than replacement level in 12-team mixed leagues. But depending on his cost, it won’t necessarily be a bad decision to make that purchase, and his Steamer projection looks both reasonable and worthy of mixed league attention. Just know that there was little bad luck involved in his first full year, he was legitimately feeble at the plate and although improvement should be expected, it’s obviously not guaranteed.
Mike Podhorzer is the 2015 Fantasy Sports Writers Association Baseball Writer of the Year. He produces player projections using his own forecasting system and is the author of the eBook Projecting X 2.0: How to Forecast Baseball Player Performance, which teaches you how to project players yourself. His projections helped him win the inaugural 2013 Tout Wars mixed draft league. Follow Mike on Twitter @MikePodhorzer and contact him via email.