We continue our discussion of the World Team for the 2012 MLB Futures Game with the corner infielders. First base and third base aren’t typically the most exciting players on the diamond, but both the World Team and the US Team feature some of the most exciting ones around.
There has been plenty of controversy with the Red Sox at the third base position of late with Will Middlebrooks and Kevin Youkilis, culminating with Youkilis being traded to the Chicago White Sox. Despite his incredible start in the big leagues and impressive all-around ability, could Middlebrooks simply be a placeholder at the third base position for Xander Bogaerts?
Bogaerts, just 19 years old and already at High-A, was signed by the Red Sox out of Aruba in 2009. He’s a slim 6’3″, 175 with about as much upside as any third base prospect you’ll find. Bogaerts currently plays shortstop, but since the World Team is loaded with shortstops, expect to see Bogaerts play his future position of third base in the Futures Game. Bogaerts looks comfortable in the batter’s box and he’s an absolute natural. Bogaerts has a smooth swing with a short stride. He lifts his front foot up a little bit, puts it down and plants it, and then swings with incredible bat speed. But it’s not just the bat speed- Bogaerts gets incredible lift in his swing. Bogaerts has above-average present power with plenty more to come. Bogaerts has a solid approach at the plate with good pitch recognition, and he has become more patient at the plate as well. When it’s all said and done, he could have 35-homer power while hitting for a solid average and getting on-base at a good clip. Defensively, Bogaerts just doesn’t have the range for the shortstop position despite a great arm and a quick release, but once he moves to third base, he has the ability to be a plus defender. So far in 2012, Bogaerts has posted a .295/.375/.500 line with 15 doubles, 11 homers, 45 RBI, and 3 of 6 steals in 70 games. He has struck out 62 times compared to 28 walks. Defensively, he has posted a .945 fielding percentage with poor range. Bogaerts still has places in his game where he needs to grow, but he has the potential to create another third base logjam for the Red Sox.
A player who has been up and down as a prospect has been Venezuelan infielder Wilmer Flores, who will turn 21 on August 6th and was recently promoted to Double-A. Flores has bulked up to 6’3″, 190, and a long time shortstop, Flores has now converted to third base basically full-time. Flores shows good bat speed as part of a compact swing, and Flores is able to spray balls all over the field with flashes of power. Flores is adroit at making contact, but he gets into trouble when he swings at pitcher’s pitches and puts the ball into play weakly. Flores has improved his patience up to a reasonable level and will never strike out very much, and he has the ability to be a good all-around offensive player. Defensively, Flores lacks any speed but has good instincts and a decent arm, and while he will never be elite, he has the ability to handle third base. So far in 2012, Flores has posted a .301/.343/.475 line in 64 games at High-A and 4 at Double-A with 15 doubles, 10 homers, and 48 RBI. He has struck out 34 times compared to 18 walks. Defensively, he has posted a decent .942 fielding in 63 games at third base, but with sub-par range, and he has also seen some time at second base. Flores’ bat makes him an intriguing prospect for the
Rays Mets even though he is no longer a shortstop.
And we close this part of our World Team Futures Game analysis with first baseman Jesus Aguilar, who joins Francisco Lindor on this team as a member of the Cleveland Indians organization. Aguilar, signed out of Venezuela, will turn 23 on June 30th and is currently at High-A. Aguilar is a big, powerful 6’3″, 255, and power is his game. Aguilar possesses enormous strength and hits for big raw power. His swing is more bases on his strength than pure bat speed, and he seems like a player who will be susceptible to strikeouts. Aguilar has made huge strides with his plate discipline in 2012, and even while he isn’t hitter for as much power as he did in 2011 (23 homers), his game took a big step forward. Aguilar isn’t a great athlete, but he has worked hard to improve defensively and will be at least a passable defender. So far in 2012, Aguilar hasn’t been flashy but he has shown steady improvement, posting a .300/.385/.481 line with 17 doubles, 7 homers, 33 RBI, and a .993 fielding percentage at first base in 68 games. Aguilar has big power and has made significant strides to improve his all-around game.