Thank goodness Manny Machado's recent move from third base to shortstop in real life wasn't accompanied by a move from third to short on the 2016 Esurance MLB All-Star Game Ballot. The American League shortstop scene is complicated enough without Machado's involvement.
You've got Carlos Correa, the defending AL Rookie of the Year. You've got Francisco Lindor, last year's rookie runner-up. As you might have expected going into the season, they are both logging serious All-Star cases, and any click for those two is entirely defensible.
But guess who hit the midweek mark outpacing both of those guys in OPS? And in weighted runs created? And in both the FanGraphs and Baseball Reference's Wins Above Replacement calculations?
Xander Bogaerts, welcome to the star shortstop soiree. Nice to have you here.
Bogaerts is every bit as deserving -- if not more deserving -- of some All-Star love as last year's two robust rookies. By improving his power game and proving himself an asset on the basepaths, he has been a central figure in one of the league's most electric offenses.
Now in his third full Major League season, Bogaerts has a .335/.386/.497 slash for the Red Sox. He's increased his walk rate to kick the OBP up a notch (it was .355) last year, and his rise in slugging percentage, from .421 last year, is attributable to a 10-percent jump in the number of his hits that go for extra bases. He's homered three times this month.
"He might be driving the ball a little bit more consistently to the pull side," Red Sox manager John Farrell told reporters. "That doesn't mean we're asking him to hit home runs, but he's hit a number of different types of pitchers. And I think that's a sign of a really good hitter."
If you're scoring at home, Bogaerts has an OPS mark (.883) that is worlds away from that of last year's starting AL shortstop, Alcides Escobar (.602).
On the basepaths, he has swiped six bags and, more importantly, provided more value -- according to FanGraphs' calculations, which take into account a runner's ability not just to swipe bases but also to successfully tag up and to take extra bases -- than any AL shortstop other than Lindor. (The difference there was neglibile, with Bogaerts holding a 1.1 mark to Lindor's 1.2).
Here's how Bogaerts' midweek numbers stacked up with our other shortstop stalwarts (again, removing Machado from the conversation): Bogaerts: 141 wRC+, 2.2 fWAR, 2.0 bWAR, Correa: 132 wRC+, 0.7 fWAR, 1.0 bWAR, Lindor: 119 wRC+, 1.5 fWAR, 1.5 bWAR.
Look, don't take this as disparagement of Correa and Lindor. They each arrived last June and almost instantly established themselves as two of the best young shortstops the game had seen in years.
Did you see Lindor barehanded that slow roller off the bat of Danny Santana last week and make the perfect throw to first? How many shortstops can make that play?
And did you see Correa's monster shot over the Green Monster -- a blast that Statcast™ tracked as having an exit velocity of 111.6 with a projected distance of 458 feet? How many shortstops have that kind of pop?
Hopefully the AL roster can hold all three of these guys.
But as a function of him being around a while (he first caught national attention during the Red Sox's run to the 2013 World Series title), it's easy to forget Bogaerts is only 23 years old. And he's shown enough growth in his game to stick at this premier position despite the defensive doubts that surrounded him in '14.
So when you're making your choice at short in the junior circuit, don't leave Bogaerts out of the discussion.
And if 2016 results carry particular weight, don't leave him off your ballot.
Oh, and, for the record, you can't go wrong with Machado at third.