Bogaerts eyes spot as Red Sox shortstop of the future


It's been some time since the Red Sox have had a prospect as highly coveted as Xander Bogaerts.

Casey Kelly, drafted as a shortstop-pitcher hybrid, was deal toff to San Diego as the centerpiece of the deal which brought theRed Sox Adrian Gonzalez.

Hanley Ramirez, similarly dealt -- for Josh Beckett and Mike Lowell -- also never got the chance to establish himself in Boston.

There are no absolutes about prospects, but the Red Sox areas excited about Bogaerts -- like Kelly (sort of) and Ramirez before him, a shortstop -- as any homegrown player in a long, long time.

The Sox aren't alone in their enthusiasm. Baseball America considers him the top Red Sox' prospect and could list him among the Top 10 prospects in the game when they compile their annual list next month.

Rival teams routinely inquired about him this past off-season, only to be summarily dismissed by GM Ben Cherington. Bogaerts, a native of Aruba, is as close to untouchable as any player in the Boston organization.

Named the Red Sox Minor League Offensive Player of the Year in 2012, Bogaerts hit .307 with 37 doubles, 20 homers and 81 RBI in 127 games split between Single A Salem and Double A Portland.

He'll likely be invited to big league spring training in a few weeks and will probably begin his fourth pro season at Double A again, but his time there is expected to be short. It would surprise few if Bogaerts made his major league debut later in 2013, after a requisite stop at Triple A Pawtucket.

"I can't control that stuff,'' said Bogaerts when asked about his career trajectory. "I can just work hard and play hard every day, wherever I'm at, Portland or Pawtucket. That's for the (front) office guys to make a decision on that. I can just control what I can control."

At 6-foot-3, there are some evaluators who wonder whether Bogaerts, at 20, is already too big to project as a major league shortstop. But Bogaerts, who took part in the Red Sox winter Rookie Development program earlier this month, believes he's athletic enough to handle the position.

"I'm working hard to try to stay at shortstop,'' said Bogaerts, "(watching) my weight. I don't have a problem with weight, as in getting fatter and stuff, but I'm just working hard to stay at the position. Wherever the organization wants me to be, whatever position, I'm open to it."

Shortstop, of course, has been a revolving door since the Red Sox traded Nomar Garciaparra in July of 2004. Since then, the Sox have utilized Orlando Cabrera, Alex Gonzalez (twice), Julio Lugo, Nick Green, Marco Scutaro, Mike Aviles and others to man the position.

Even now, there's something of a logjam. The team signed Stephen Drew last month to be the starting shortstop, but Jose Iglesias remains in the picture, and last summer, the Sox used their first-round pick to draft Deven Marrero, a shortstop, out of Arizona State.

Still, Bogaerts is widely viewed as the Red Sox shortstop of the (near) future.

"Shortstop is my position right now," said Boagerts with some diplomacy, "and that's what I'm working at to become better at. That's what the organization wants me to do right now."

He was made aware by some family and friends that his name had popped up in some trade talks this off-season, but never paid much attention to the rumors. That was just as well, since the Sox had absolutely no intention of moving him.

"I try not to worry about that stuff," said Bogaerts. "It might get you mentally distracted, so I leave that up to the (organization). It's great (to be wanted), but it's also good that the Red Sox said no. That's even better."

Talented thought he may be, Bogaerts is far from a finished product. He could use more discipline at the plate -- with just 44 walks in 532 plate appearances -- and his positional play needs refining.

"Defense and speed,'' he said with a smile when asked what he's concentrating on. "I work on my hitting a lot, but this year, I'm really focusing on my defense and speed. Last year, I worked on my defense and it was better. This year, it's speed. Hopefully, I can be a better all-around player so whatever the big league club needs, I can (provide).''

Having stolen just 10 bases in his minor league career, Bogaerts can't yet be classified as a true five-tool player. But he insists he has the athleticism to become a stolen base threat.

"Oh yeah, man . . . to be honest, yeah," he said, nearly blushing at his assertion.

So there's work to be done still and promotions to earn. But at 20, Bogaerts' future is seemingly unlimited.

"To be honest, I've always dreamed of being in this position," he said."The Red Sox had Hanley and I always wanted to follow his footsteps and I guess I'm right here, right where he was at. That's pretty amazing."

The difference being, of course, that Bogaerts is not going anywhere. Except, eventually, to Fenway.

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