Why is Xander Bogaerts A Defender To Watch in 2023?
Bogaerts just signed an 11-year, $280 million contract with the Padres, for whom he’ll play shortstop, thus moving Fernando Tatis Jr. to the outfield.
Bogaerts is coming off the best defensive season of his career. He finished with a positive Defensive Runs Saved for the first time.
|Season||DRS at Shortstop|
What got better?
The last two seasons in particular, Bogaerts has been far better in his weakest area – fielding balls hit to his right. From 2017 to 2019, he made 41 fewer plays than expected on balls hit that way. He’s cut that to -3 combined in 2021 and 2022.
Additionally, of the 35 shortstops who got to the most balls on their forehand in 2022, Bogaerts had the second-highest rate of turning those into outs (94.9%), trailing only Carlos Correa (95.5%).
As noted in The Bill James Handbook 2023, Bogaerts ranks as the player with the highest injury risk in 2023 by our injury tool’s projections. Bogaerts played in 150 games last season, but left four games early due to injury (hamstring, back) and was taken out of the starting lineup four other times due to lingering back or hamstring issues.
Also, since 2021 Bogaerts has the second-highest number of sliding, diving, and jumping plays, with 150. Bodily sacrifice is one factor that impacts our injury projections. Given that Bogaerts has recorded an out on 10 of his last 72 dives, keep an eye on whether he changes his approach in that regard in 2023.