2 reasons Padres fans shouldn't panic about Xander Bogaerts, 1 reason they should

Xander Bogaerts has not been good at the outset of the 2024 season.
San Diego Padres infielder Xander Bogaerts
San Diego Padres infielder Xander Bogaerts / Denis Poroy/GettyImages

The San Diego Padres, as a team, have gotten out of the gates slowly. Until their previous series win against the Cincinnati Reds, San Diego hadn't won a series in three tries, including a four-game set versus the last-place Colorado Rockies.

One of the biggest culprits holding the Friars back this season has been Xander Bogaerts. The Padres' major offseason acquisition a little over a year ago, Bogaerts has yet to really live up to mega-deal he signed.

But while the initial response from fans is to panic when highly-paid players fall short of expectations, the Friar faithful need to be a little more patient with Bogaerts. There are some positive numbers that suggest the sky isn't falling, and perhaps Pads fans just need wait out Bogaerts' current slump.

2 reasons Padres fans shouldn't panic over Xander Bogaerts slow start, 1 reason they should

Xander Bogaerts is playing above-average defense at a new position

While fans like to believe that every single baseball player should be able to compartmentalize what happens on the field and keep it separate from what happens in the batters' box, that's not always the case. In fact, one could argue that there are times when the two go hand-in-hand.

Bogaerts had a position change sprung on him the moment he touched down in Arizona earlier this year. A career-shortstop, the Padres decided it was time for Bogaerts to move to second base while inserting Ha-Seong Kim at short.

The move, quite honestly, couldn't have worked out better for Bogaerts. The 31-year-old took to the keystone like a duck to water and has 3 outs above average (OAA) according to Baseball Savant. That puts Bogaerts among the 92nd percentile a year after he posted 3 OAA all season while playing shortstop. Bogaerts' defense has not suffered this season -- in fact, it has improved.

Xander Bogaerts is not swinging and missing hittable pitches

Another aspect of Bogaerts' game that hasn't taken a hit has been his knowledge of the strike zone. Bogaerts has always been viewed as a disciplined hitter, and that hasn't changed in what his now his second season in San Diego.

Last year, Bogaert's 16.5% strikeout rate was among the best in the game and his 20.4% whiff rate was also quite impressive. Fast-forward to this season, and you'll see very similar numbers. Bogaerts is only striking out 18.4% of the time. While that's a touch more than it was in 2023, it's still better than league average. The right-handed hitting infielder also has a 16.9% whiff rate, which is among the best in baseball.

And while Bogaerts is only hitting in the low-.200s with an OPS below .600, his expected batting average suggests that he's has been a bit unlucky during the early-going. This is not the same type of situation the Houston Astros have with Jose Abreu where he's swinging and missing at everything, Bogaerts just needs a few things to break his way.

One reason to be concerned? Xander Bogaerts is not hitting the ball hard at all

But, when it comes to concerning stats, there is one that sticks out. As a matter of fact, it's been a concern for some time with Bogaerts, and yet the Padres still decided to sign him to an 11-year, $280 million deal prior to the 2023 season.

Bogaerts has not been hitting the ball hard. Nope, not one bit. While 85.3 mph might sound hard to you and me, that average exit velocity ranks among the bottom 10% in Major League Baseball. Furthermore, Bogaerts' hard-hit rate is just 25.2% and his barrel rate is only 4.9%. Both of those stats rank in the 28th percentile or lower.

What this tells you is that when Bogaerts is making contact, which we've seen is rather often, the ball is not leaving the bat in a hurry. With almost 50% of those batted balls landing on the ground, opposing defenders are just scooping up Bogaerts' tappers and weak-rollers then throwing to first base for the out.

But don't look too shocked. This has been a trend for Bogaerts since before he signed with the Padres. Bogaerts' average exit velo in 2022 with the Boston Red Sox was only 88.1 mph, which is good enough to land in 35th percentile. His barrel rate that year was just 6.5% and his hard hit rate was below league average.

So while Pads' fans have a right to be upset with Bogaerts' lack of power, this isn't necessarily a new thing. It was trending that way before he signed in San Diego, only got worse last season, and now it's a major problem for a player who's supposed to be a key cog in the middle of the lineup.

Padres fans are hopeful that this slow start is forgotten once the calendar flips to July and August, because if Bogaerts' numbers are still looking the same at that time of year, AJ Preller may not be able to sleep.

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