The Red Sox, according to an industry source, will call up Xander Bogaerts from Triple-A Pawtucket on Monday. The shortstop will become the first 20-year-old to make his big league debut with the Red Sox since right-hander Jeff Suppan got his summons in 1995, and the first Red Sox position player age 20 or younger to arrive in the big leagues since outfielder Dwight Evans made his big league debut as a 20-year-old in 1972.
In 60 games with Triple-A Pawtucket, Bogaerts was hitting .284 with a .369 OBP, .453 slugging percentage and nine homers. He's spent most of his time at his natural position of shortstop, but he's also seen action in nine games at third base. On a team that has struggled against lefties, Bogaerts offers the possibility of a notable boost, given that he was hitting .298 with a .452 OBP, .474 slugging mark, 16 walks and just seven strikeouts in 73 plate appearances against southpaws.
As recently as Saturday, multiple team sources said that there had not been a decision to call up the highly regarded prospect, a consensus top-five prospect in the game. Indeed, the organization had been engaged in a lively debate not just about the question of when to call up Bogaerts, but whether to do so at all in 2013.
The conversation was similar to the one that prevailed with outfielder Jackie Bradley Jr. at the start of the year. Given the possibility of transitional challenges in introducing Bogaerts to the big leagues, something that would measure expectations for productivity, the idea was explored that the team might be best served going forward this year with its current roster composition. Moreover, given that Bogaerts has little experience at third and none at second, there was some thought that he could benefit from more of a defensive apprenticeship in the minors.
There were also, as with Bradley, long-term implications for keeping the 20-year-old in the minors. If Bogaerts was kept down for the rest of the year, of course, it would make it feasible to gain an extra year of service time from him before he reaches free agency. If Bogaerts is never sent down, then in theory, he'd be a free agent after the 2019 season -- at a time when he will have finished his age 26 season, with the entirety of his the age band that typically designates a player's prime in front of him.
If the Sox did not add Bogaerts to the big league roster this year and then sent him to the minors for at least 20 days next year (he'd have to be added to the 40-man roster this winter to prevent him from getting taken in the Rule 5 draft), the team would guarantee control over his services through at least his age 27 season.
However, given the fact that the Sox have experienced a recent downturn, the feeling was that the club could benefit from an injection of life right now. Bogaerts represents that, in a way that no other addition can at this time. The team feels like his addition to the roster will put it in the best position to finish strong down the stretch, with an eye towards winning the AL East and making a postseason run.