Editor’s Note: This is the first in a daily series profiling the top 25 prospects in the Red Sox farm system, starting with number one.
By Jeff Louderback
As Red Sox general manager Ben Cherington decides how to craft a contender for 2013 and beyond, he must contemplate what the team will do to fill openings at first base, shortstop and left field.
Chances are, the club will try to bring back Cody Ross, who can play the corner outfield spots. Since 22-year-old Jose Iglesias appears to need more offensive seasoning at Triple-A Pawtucket, perhaps Boston will keep Mike Aviles, who will be 32 next March but is under affordable team control. Cherington could pursue a stopgap solution at first base, like Mike Napoli, or make a significant trade for someone like Minnesota’s Joe Mauer. There is also the possibility that Boston could target someone like San Diego’s Chase Headley or Kansas City’s Billy Butler or Alex Gordon.
One player already in the Red Sox organization who whose presence will likely help shape what Cherington does this off-season is Xander Bogaerts, who is widely considered the No. 1 prospect in the the club’s farm system.
The 20-year-old phenom from Aruba who israted as the No. 31 prospect in baseball by MLB.com, was named Boston’s 2012 Minor League Player of the Year by the Red Sox organization.
Regarded as Boston’s top overall prospect by multiple media outlets, Bogaerts opened the 2012 season at advanced Single-A Salem as one of the youngest players in the Carolina League. He recorded a .302 average, 15 home runs, 64 RBI and a .883 OPS in 384 at-bats before earning a promotion to Double-A Portland. With the Sea Dogs, Bogaerts hit .326 with five home runs, 17 RBI, a .598 slugging percentage and a .948 OPS in 92 at-bats.
Bogaerts might have replaced Iglesiasas Boston’s shortstop of the future. While Iglesias is regarded as one of the best defensive shortstops to reach the majors since Omar Vizquel, he has no power and there are questions about how much he will hit in the bigs. Bogaerts is a defensively proficient shortstop who is projected as a middle of the order bat in the majors and a potential 30 home run guy.
Scouts believe that Bogaerts could be moved to third base or the outfield as he body continues to develop. Perhaps that will lead the Red Sox to move Will Middlebrooks to first base. Or, Bogaerts is moved to left field, that could lead Boston to trade a highly regarded minor league corner outfielder like Brandon Jacobs or Bryce Brentz. If the Red Sox choose to leave Bogaerts at shortstop, that would leave Iglesias expendable and obviously deter the club from targeting Colorado’s Troy Tulowitzski this off-season.
Next year, Bogaerts will likely open the season at Triple-A Pawtucket. If he continues to master advanced pitching, Bogaerts could make his Major League debut at some point in 2013.