No Offense, Didi Gregorius, But You’re No Xander Bogaerts

Yankees Red Sox Baseball

New York Yankees' Didi Gregorius, right, reacts beside Boston Red Sox's Xander Bogaerts after hitting a double during the fourth inning of a baseball game in Boston, Friday, Sept. 6, 2019. (AP Photo/Michael Dwyer)

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The Yankees and Red Sox claim the most storied rivalry in modern baseball history. The Sox won it all in 2018, but the Yanks were right on their heels all the way. They both employ some of the game’s biggest stars, both in the field and on the mound. Arguably their greatest similarity entering this season, was the presence of star shortstops with 5+ years of service time, with the specter of free agency looming in 2020.

The Yankees’ Didi Gregorius was slated to miss a sizable chunk of this season recovering from Tommy John surgery on his throwing elbow, while his Red Sox counterpart, Xander Bogaerts, celebrated Opening Day by signing a six-year, $120M extension that takes effect in 2020. Their 2019 salaries are quite similar; the 29-year-old Gregorius is earning $11.75M, the 26-year-old Bogaerts $12.0M. Many evaluators have looked at the two as possessing similar talent levels.

Gregorius is a nice player, no doubt, and his quick recovery has greatly aided his club. Bogaerts, however, is on a totally different plane. Let’s break it down a bit by putting their batted ball profiles under the microscope.

Both players have benefited from their home parks. Gregorius broke the 20-homer threshold in each of the last three seasons, and has already hit 14 in less than a half year in 2019. Virtually all of these homers, however, have been hooked down the line to the pull side.

He has never posted anywhere near league average fly ball or line drive authority; this season, his average fly ball velocity of 88.5 MPH is over a full standard deviation lower than league average. Ditto his 2019 average liner velocity of 91.3 MPH.

His average grounder authority has bounced higher this season to 88.3 MPH, over one-half standard deviation higher than league average. Overall, based on his exit speed/launch angle mix, he “should” be posting a Projected Production level of 86, not far below his current 92 OPS+ mark.

Gregorius regularly hits a tons of pop ups (6.1% pop up rate is over a full standard deviation above league average), and flirts with being an extreme grounder puller and the over-shifts that such a designation brings. In 2016-18, his Projected Production levels regularly fell far short of his actual OPS marks (70 vs. 97, 77 vs. 106, 91 vs. 124).

I’d make the argument that his best offensive years are clearly behind him, though his floor may be rising and stabilizing. Then there’s Bogaerts.

As previously stated, he also gets a boost from his home park. Fenway means a lot of extra doubles. Currently, Bogaerts is batting .400 AVG-1.164 SLG (140 Unadjusted Fly Ball Contact Score) on fly balls, but “should be” hitting just .366 AVG-1.046 (115 Adjusted). On liners, he’s hitting .734 AVG-1.053 SLG (135 Unadjusted Liner Contact Score), but “should be” hitting .643 AVG-.872 SLG (98 Adjusted). Like Gregorius, Bogaerts hits his grounders very hard (89.6 MPH average, over one standard deviation above average), giving him an even higher floor.

In 2019, Bogaerts has posted a career best 92.1 MPH average fly ball authority, almost one-half standard deviation above league average. And there is more in the tank. The biggest difference between these two players might be the three-year age difference. I can say with some degree of conviction that Bogaerts hasn’t yet experienced his career year.

Bogaerts’ Projected Production figures, like those of Gregorius, are lower than his actual OPS+ marks from 2016-19 (99 vs. 111, 84 vs. 95, 128 vs. 134, 125 vs. 139). He possesses the desirable high fly ball rate/low pop up rate combo for which power hitters strive. He sprays the ball to all fields on the ground, keeping fielders at their positions and leaving holes open.

Gregorius’ floor is high for a shortstop; Bogaerts’ is considerably higher, high for any position. Gregorius’ ceiling is his 2018 season, which was made possible in part by Yankee Stadium. Bogaerts’ ceiling is ahead of him, and will be made even better by Fenway Park.

Bogaerts’ new deal will prove to be a bargain. The only glimmer of a risk factor I see in his profile is a drop in average liner velocity this season. As long as he doesn’t become fixated on launch angle, he’ll naturally become a long-term MVP candidate.

Both players are quality shortstop defenders, and I would give Gregorius’ glove and arm a slight edge. That said, he’ll be overpaid in dollars and - especially - years if he’s extended the same contract terms received by his Boston peer.

Offensively, in a neutral environment he’s not much different that Freddy Galvis. An OBP hole who can pull a mistake for distance. In six years, he’ll be 35 and doing his Alexei Ramirez impression. In six years, Xander Bogaerts will be 32 and perhaps just beginning to descend from lofty heights highlighted by some individual hardware along the way.

Dave Dombrowski lost his job in Boston this week, but among other things, he should be commended for locking up his star shortstop for the long haul at an attractive price.


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The Yankees and Red Sox claim the most storied rivalry in modern baseball history. The Sox won it all in 2018, but the Yanks were right on their heels all the way. They both employ some of the game’s biggest stars, both in the field and on the mound. Arguably their greatest similarity entering this season, was the presence of star shortstops with 5+ years of service time, with the specter of free agency looming in 2020.

The Yankees’ Didi Gregorius was slated to miss a sizable chunk of this season recovering from Tommy John surgery on his throwing elbow, while his Red Sox counterpart, Xander Bogaerts, celebrated Opening Day by signing a six-year, $120M extension that takes effect in 2020. Their 2019 salaries are quite similar; the 29-year-old Gregorius is earning $11.75M, the 26-year-old Bogaerts $12.0M. Many evaluators have looked at the two as possessing similar talent levels.

Gregorius is a nice player, no doubt, and his quick recovery has greatly aided his club. Bogaerts, however, is on a totally different plane. Let’s break it down a bit by putting their batted ball profiles under the microscope.

Both players have benefited from their home parks. Gregorius broke the 20-homer threshold in each of the last three seasons, and has already hit 14 in less than a half year in 2019. Virtually all of these homers, however, have been hooked down the line to the pull side.

He has never posted anywhere near league average fly ball or line drive authority; this season, his average fly ball velocity of 88.5 MPH is over a full standard deviation lower than league average. Ditto his 2019 average liner velocity of 91.3 MPH.

His average grounder authority has bounced higher this season to 88.3 MPH, over one-half standard deviation higher than league average. Overall, based on his exit speed/launch angle mix, he “should” be posting a Projected Production level of 86, not far below his current 92 OPS+ mark.

Gregorius regularly hits a tons of pop ups (6.1% pop up rate is over a full standard deviation above league average), and flirts with being an extreme grounder puller and the over-shifts that such a designation brings. In 2016-18, his Projected Production levels regularly fell far short of his actual OPS marks (70 vs. 97, 77 vs. 106, 91 vs. 124).

I’d make the argument that his best offensive years are clearly behind him, though his floor may be rising and stabilizing. Then there’s Bogaerts.

As previously stated, he also gets a boost from his home park. Fenway means a lot of extra doubles. Currently, Bogaerts is batting .400 AVG-1.164 SLG (140 Unadjusted Fly Ball Contact Score) on fly balls, but “should be” hitting just .366 AVG-1.046 (115 Adjusted). On liners, he’s hitting .734 AVG-1.053 SLG (135 Unadjusted Liner Contact Score), but “should be” hitting .643 AVG-.872 SLG (98 Adjusted). Like Gregorius, Bogaerts hits his grounders very hard (89.6 MPH average, over one standard deviation above average), giving him an even higher floor.

In 2019, Bogaerts has posted a career best 92.1 MPH average fly ball authority, almost one-half standard deviation above league average. And there is more in the tank. The biggest difference between these two players might be the three-year age difference. I can say with some degree of conviction that Bogaerts hasn’t yet experienced his career year.

Bogaerts’ Projected Production figures, like those of Gregorius, are lower than his actual OPS+ marks from 2016-19 (99 vs. 111, 84 vs. 95, 128 vs. 134, 125 vs. 139). He possesses the desirable high fly ball rate/low pop up rate combo for which power hitters strive. He sprays the ball to all fields on the ground, keeping fielders at their positions and leaving holes open.

Gregorius’ floor is high for a shortstop; Bogaerts’ is considerably higher, high for any position. Gregorius’ ceiling is his 2018 season, which was made possible in part by Yankee Stadium. Bogaerts’ ceiling is ahead of him, and will be made even better by Fenway Park.

Bogaerts’ new deal will prove to be a bargain. The only glimmer of a risk factor I see in his profile is a drop in average liner velocity this season. As long as he doesn’t become fixated on launch angle, he’ll naturally become a long-term MVP candidate.

Both players are quality shortstop defenders, and I would give Gregorius’ glove and arm a slight edge. That said, he’ll be overpaid in dollars and - especially - years if he’s extended the same contract terms received by his Boston peer.

Offensively, in a neutral environment he’s not much different that Freddy Galvis. An OBP hole who can pull a mistake for distance. In six years, he’ll be 35 and doing his Alexei Ramirez impression. In six years, Xander Bogaerts will be 32 and perhaps just beginning to descend from lofty heights highlighted by some individual hardware along the way.

Dave Dombrowski lost his job in Boston this week, but among other things, he should be commended for locking up his star shortstop for the long haul at an attractive price.


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I have been active in the baseball industry for about a quarter century (after beginning my career as a CPA), mostly as an Area Scout/Assistant Scouting Director/Special...