There's a good amount of subjectivity regarding baseball prospects. With the evaluation of talent being in the eye of the beholder, finding consensus is often difficult. Even Jim Callis and Jonathan Mayo at MLBPipeline.com don't always see eye-to-eye. They'll be discussing their viewpoints regularly in a feature called Pipeline Perspectives. Submit a topic for them to debate.
No position is as loaded with prospects right now as shortstop, and it's not particularly close.
The 2012 First-Year Player Draft produced Carlos Correa (Astros), the No. 1 overall pick, as well as Addison Russell (Athletics) and Corey Seager (Dodgers) in the first round. The year before that, Francisco Lindor (Indians) and Javier Baez (Cubs) went back-to-back at Nos. 8 and 9 overall. The international market has yielded gems such as Raul "Adalberto" Mondesi (Royals), Alen Hanson (Pirates) and Luis Sardinas (Rangers).
That previous paragraph likely includes several future All-Stars and Gold Glove Award winners, perhaps even some home-run champions and MVPs as well. But it doesn't mention the best shortstop prospect of them all: Xander Bogaerts of the Red Sox.
Bogaerts may not be as slick a fielder as Lindor, Jonathan Mayo's pick as the top shortstop prospect. But Bogaerts is a quality defender who can stay at the position and his offensive ceiling seems nearly limitless. Since signing for $410,000, he has repeatedly blown away expectations and timetables.
The general baseball public is just getting to know Bogaerts as he helped the Red Sox get to the World Series. Not bad for someone who turned 21 on Oct. 1 and had just 50 big-league plate appearances prior to the postseason.
Bogaerts drew two walks in the late innings of the American League Division Series clincher against the Rays, scoring the winning run and an insurance tally in a 3-1 victory. He went 3-for-6 with three doubles and three walks in the AL Championship Series against the Tigers, starting the final two games at third base and sparking crucial rallies in both contests.
Bogaerts has forced unexpected midseason promotions in each of his three full seasons in the Minors, batting .296/.373/.489 along the way. With his bat speed, the strength in his 6-foot-3, 185-pound frame (with more to come) and mature approach, he projects to be a future 30-home run hitter. Bogaerts also should hit for at least a solid average, and it's amazing how much progress he has made with his plate discipline in the past year.
After he finished 2012 by drawing one walk in 23 Double-A games, the Red Sox wanted Bogaerts to show more patience at the plate. He responded by easily setting career highs with 63 walks in the Minors and fearlessly worked counts in the AL playoffs.
"You think back to the conversation last winter -- Spring Training -- with him," Red Sox executive vice president and general manager Ben Cherington said. "The player development people [said] if there was one part of his game that he needed to develop a little, it was his discipline at the plate. He said, 'OK, I'll do that.' And sure enough, he did it. And he did it at Double-A, he did it Triple-A, and he's doing it at the playoffs. It's pretty impressive."
While the majority of his playing time in the Majors has come at third base, that's no knock on Bogaerts' defense. It's simply a reflection of Boston's immediate needs. Starting shortstop Stephen Drew is headed for free agency, and Bogaerts could take over for him in 2014.
The knee-jerk reaction is to look at Bogaerts' size and think he'll be too big to stay at shortstop for the long term. But he's a good athlete with the actions and arm strength to make the plays there. He's an average runner who enhances his range with good instincts.
The future is bright at shortstop. And no one has a brighter future than Bogaerts.