The case against Xander Bogaerts as a No. 2 hitter

In offering up a projected Red Sox lineup earlier this Spring, I was chastised by a reader for placing Xander Bogaerts in the lower half of the order (specifically behind Pablo Sandoval, which I have since begun to balk on).

I puzzled over the rebuke for a few minutes, because, honestly, in my mind I’d set aside the Silver Slugger-winning campaign because his second half had been utterly sub-par. But the reader was right.

Really, Bogaerts wasn’t great to close out last year.

His batting average fell 35 whopping points over the second half of the year and his on-base fell 32 points. His slugging percentage fell 63 (SIXTY-THREE) points during the same time span.

It was unsettling.

Those numbers loomed so large in my mind, I had set aside that first half — when he was truly extraordinary.

So far, that’s how he has been — more or less. He was stronger in the first half of 2015 than the second too. 2014, well, he was still arriving.

The question is, though, what if he doesn’t rebound?

All the talk this morning was of slotting Andrew Benintendi into the No. 3 slot behind Pedroia and Bogaerts.

And I don’t like it. Nothing about it. I don’t like Benentendi at No. 3 (maybe eventually, but too much responsibility this year). And I don’t like moving Mookie Betts to No. 4.

And Bogaerts is batting .246 in 109 games as a No. 2 hitter during his career (with an on-base of .314), according to FanGraphs.com. Compare that to his career average of .286.

He’s batted .326 as a No. 3 (.186 games), .358 in 17 games as a No. 5, .218 in 47 games as a No. 6, .203 in 56 games as a No. 7, .338 in 44 games as a No. 8, and .276 in 10 games as a No. 9.

Let’s toss out the minimal exposure slots — No. 5 and No. 9.

He’s been at his best at No. 3 and  No. 8.

For whatever reason, No. 2 just hasn’t been a great fit.

So what, then?

I like the idea, of Pedroia, Benintendi, Betts and Hanley in order, in theory. But that forces Bogaerts well down the line — probably too far.

The analytical thinking of late is to have your best hitter at No. 2. I don’t believe that would be Benintendi. At least not yet. And it’s not Bogaerts either.

So what about Pedroia, then Betts, Bogaerts (remember, .326 as a No. 3), Ramirez, Sandoval and then keep some solid bats in the lower portion of the order? What if you utilize Benintendi’s speed and athleticism at No. 9, where he’d be followed by a fearsome top four but protected in a year when he’ll still be learning the league?

Obviously, Benintendi is not a career lower-half hitter. But just in this one year?

It’s at least worth considering.

 

 

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