Since general manager Theo Epstein boldly traded Nomar Garciaparra at the deadline in 2004, the Red Sox have seen a revolving door at shortstop. Epstein has since departed, but it appears that there will be stability at the position in the near future because of prospects on the rise.
Considering the plethora of shortstops Boston has fielded since Garciaparra – including Orlando Cabrera, Alex Gonzalez, Julio Lugo, Jed Lowrie and the current occupant, Mike Aviles – it is fitting that there is no clear-cut shortstop of the future. That is how well-stocked the Red Sox organization is at the position.
When he was signed as an international free agent out of Cuba in 2009, then 19-year-old Jose Iglesias was so advanced defensively that some scouts claimed he would be already one of the best shortstops in the Major Leagues. What has prevented Iglesias from sticking in the big leagues is his bat.
Now 22, Iglesias was 2-for-10 in a brief stint with the Red Sox last year and 2-for-6 for the parent club earlier this season. Iglesias has no power, and the Red Sox would be content if he developed into a Major Leaguer reminiscent of Omar Vizquel at the plate – the younger version of the defensive whiz who is still playing at 45 and has a career .272 average.
Heeding the organization’s instruction, Iglesias is showing a more patient plate approach in 2012. He is currently in a 7-for-41 (.171) slump over his last 10 games and is batting .241 with a .567 OPS overall.
Iglesias has a chance to open the 2013 season as Boston’s starting shortstop because he is so defensively advanced that he would be an asset for the pitching staff, even if he hit between .200 and .250. Yet, even if Iglesias wins the starting shortstop job for the Red Sox next year, it might be short term. The reason why? Xander Bogaerts.
Only 19, the right-handed hitting Bogaerts was signed as an international free agent out of Aruba in 2009. Ranked as Boston’s top overall prospect by SoxProspects.com and the organization’s second-best prospect by MLB.com, Bogaerts was No. 31 on Baseball America’s 2012 Mid-Season Top 50 Prospects List.
Last year, at the age of 18, Bogaerts was one of the youngest players in the South Atlantic League, and he had 16 home runs, a .260 average and a .834 OPS at Single-A Greenville.
This season, the Red Sox are giving Bogaerts another test, and he is thriving. One of the youngest players in the Carolina League (advanced Single-A), Bogaerts has a .294 average with 15 home runs, 62 RBI and a .862 OPS in 371 at-bats.
A Futures Game participant this summer, Bogaerts is batting .421 (16-for-38) with a 1.289 OPS over his last 10 games.
Scouts have compared Bogaerts to his favorite player, Hanley Ramirez, only Bogaerts does not have the questionable attitude of Ramirez.
Projected as a middle of the order bat in the majors, Bogaerts has the athleticism to remain at shortstop or move to another position, such as third base or left field. Since the Red Sox have 23-year-old rookie Will Middlebrooks at third, likely Bogaerts will remain at shortstop of move to the outfield. Regardless, he is part of the organization’s long-term plans whereas Iglesias could be used as a trade chip.
The depth at shortstop in the Red Sox organization extends beyond Iglesias and Bogaerts. Jose Vinicio, a 19-year-old signed out of the Dominican Republic in 2009, is opening eyes in the field and at the plate. This summer, a scout told Baseball Prospectus’ Kevin Goldstein that Vinicio has “a Jose Reyes starter kit.”
An exceptional defensive shortstop who is a switch-hitter with plus bat speed, Vinicio (who turned 19 on July 10) is one of the youngest players in the South Atlantic League, but he is batting .276 with three home runs, 30 RBI and 22 stolen bases. At 5-foot-11 and 150 pounds, Vinicio is still growing into his body, and the Red Sox believe his offensive tools will improve as he gets stronger.
Vinicio could be the prospect who bumps Bogaerts to an outfield spot, or that person might be Deven Marrero, Boston’s first round pick this summer out of Arizona State University, the same school that produced Dustin Pedroia.
In the field, the 21-year-old Marrero has plus range and a strong arm. Once considered a potential top 10 pick in this year’s draft, his stock dipped because he slumped from .313 as a sophomore to .284 as a junior, but the Red Sox did not hesitate to select him when they saw he was available.
At short-season Lowell in the New York-Penn League, Marrero is hitting .269 with 14 stolen bases in 145 at-bats.
In 2013, chances are Boston will have Iglesias at the Major League level or at Triple-A Pawtucket, Bogaerts at Double-A Portland, Vinicio at advanced Single-A Salem and Marrero at Single-A Greenville.
The Red Sox are counting on at least one of these prospects to end the shortstop carousel.