Despite the shortened season, you could argue that 2020 was Xander Bogaerts ’ most productive fantasy baseball campaign. In 56 games, he slashed .300/.364/.502 with 11 home runs, 28 RBI, 36 runs scored and eight stolen bases. He was on pace for 23 stolen bases, which would have easily been a career high for the talented shortstop. What’s crazy to think about Bogaerts’ 2020 season is that since he entered the bigs in 2013, he’s hit 11 home runs and stole eight bases in a single season just twice in his career. He did back in 2016 across 157 games and in 2018 across 136 games. In 2020, it took him just 56 games to do so!
Overall, his batted ball profile didn’t change too drastically in some areas. His average exit velocity of 89 miles per hour was slightly down from the last two years, and his 8.6 percent barrel rate was actually the second-best mark in his last six seasons. One area where it did change, however, was his launch angle, and not really for the better.
His launch angle of 8.7 degrees was the lowest mark of his past three years and his 46 percent ground ball ratio was high compared to recent seasons. His batted ball profile from 2020 was eerily comparable to 2017, when he hit just 10 home runs across 148 games. However, compared to 2017, his 18.6 percent HR/FB ratio helped pad those power numbers a bit. Can he offset that for a second year? It could be tricky, but he has a lot of good hitter parks in his division, so that certainly helps. Furthermore, back in 2017, his average exit velocity on fly balls and line drives of 90.8 miles per hour pales in comparison to the 94-95 mile per hour marks he’s posted between 2018-2020. More impactful contact on fly balls and line drives helps offset the increased ground ball rate.
Bogaerts struggled to lift offspeed pitches last season. In fact, they hit him with offspeed stuff more than ever before, and his launch angle was very, very low. Sure, he still managed to hit two of them over the fence, but those were his only two extra-base hits against these type of pitches, and his .301 xSLG is far from ideal. And, as you might expect, his average exit velocity against breaking stuff was way down as well. Also, look at it against fastballs, too. Food for thought…
Not all power is created equal, and Bogaerts’ definitely came in waves. 14 of his 18 extra-base hits came in 95 at-bats in August, which more than made up for his slow start. At the tail-end of the season, the power was less impressive, but the batting average stayed high, so consider it more of a “rob Peter to pay Paul” situation.
His contact rate dropped below 80% for just the second time in past six years, and his 2020 rate of 78.9% is second lowest of his career. The graph below shows that his contact rate dropped, despite swinging more, but less out of the zone!
When you look solely at the contact rates, one would figure it would be down across the board, which they were. Less contact out of the zone actually is a net positive all things considered. However, his contact in the zone was actually a career low. Now, those rates aren’t too far off from recent seasons, but they were down from 2019, so keep that in mind.
Boston ran more in 2020 than they did in 2019, which breeds confidence for a solid total in 2020. He was 12-for-16 in stolen base attempts between 2018 and 2019, but was a dazzling 8-for-8 last season. His 2020 pace sets him up for about 23 stolen base attempts in 2020, whereas his 16 attempts across the prior 293 games sets him up for about nine stolen base attempts. Where does he end up in 2021? Well, a reasonable expectation is somewhere in the 8-10 range.
At the end of the day, Bogaerts’ bat is there and he can flat out hit. Something like 30 home runs and eight SBs is not out of the question for the shortstop in 2021. His home run total from 2020 gives him 32.5 over 600 ABs, so there’s reason to believe he gets back to 30+ in 2021. The money in fantasy is to be made with his legs. If he runs, he’s an easy steal, but if he doesn’t run, he’s just a decent power guy with a good average. If you can live with some volatility in terms of his stolen bases totals, 30 home runs and a good batting average is more than worthwhile in its own right for being the eighth shortstop off the board in NFBC formats.