By Jeff Louderback
As usual, the Dominican Republic and Venezuela have well-stocked rosters for the World Baseball Classic, which is slated for March. Another team that should be exciting to watch is The Netherlands, partly because of Red Sox top prospect Xander Bogaerts.
The 20-year-old Bogaerts, a shortstop who is widely regarded as Boston’s No. 1 prospect and was ranked No. 7 on the Baseball News Source Top 10 Prospects List for 2013, will join Curacao native Jurickson Profar (The Texas Rangers shortstop who is 20 and is considered the best prospect in the majors) and Atlanta’s Andrelton Simmons, a 23-year-old shortstop from Curacao, in The Netherlands’ infield.
The WBC will be a good experience for Bogaerts since he will likely play another position since Profar will probably start at shortstop. An Aruba native, Bogaerts could play third or even the outfield, which is what could eventually happen in his professional career with the Red Sox.
A future middle of the order bat who has the athleticism to stay at shortstop, Bogaerts could be switched to the hot corner or left field as he grows bigger and stronger. Jose Iglesias, the 22-year-old defensive whiz from Cuba who has worked to get stronger this offseason in an effort to bolster his offense, is one of the best defensive shortstops in baseball right now, but it is uncertain whether he will hit enough to justify a regular lineup spot.
As for Bogaerts, he is defensively proficient, and there are no questions about his bat. Between advanced Single-A Salem and Double-A Portland last year (when he played the entire season at 19), Bogaerts batted .307 with 20 home runs, 81 RBI, a .523 slugging percentage and a .896 OPS in 532 plate appearances.
Likely, after the WBC, he will open the 2013 campaign at Portland and receive a mid-season promotion to Triple-A Pawtucket. Bogaerts could even make his Major League debut by September if he continues his current development path.