One of the biggest things that came out of the 2013 World Series for the Boston Red Sox was the arrival of Xander Bogaerts.
With every at-bat and play in the field, Bogaerts showed all of the characteristics that people had been projecting for him during his minor league days.
The recently turned 21-year-old showed all of the maturity, natural instincts and ability that scouts had projected for him. The fact that he was able to do it on a stage as large as the playoffs and World Series only made it more spectacular.
More so than his hitting, his ability to work the count, know the strike zone and take walks really impressed. His patience spoke volumes about his readiness to play in the major leagues at such a young age. He didn't seem overwhelmed by the moment at all.
In fact, he looked to be right at home.
Bogaerts looks like something special—like something the Red Sox haven't had since Nomar Garciaparra came to Boston in 1996.
Now the question is whether he can become the next Garciaparra: a homegrown superstar who burst onto the scene and injected life into the Red Sox lineup and fanbase.
Garciaparra got a taste of the majors in '96 at the age of 22, collecting 87 at-bats and posting a .241 average with four home runs and 16 RBI.
Bogaerts managed to collect 19 hits in 78 at-bats in 2013 during the regular season and postseason. Most impressive were his deep at-bats; he worked the strike zone to the total of 11 walks and 22 strikeouts.
When Garciaparra came back for his first full season, he was the best player on the Red Sox and one of the best in the league. He won the Rookie of the Year, a Silver Slugger award and an All-Star spot and also placed eighth in the ballot for MVP. It was an amazing year for the young shortstop who hit 30 home runs and knocked in 98.
It also made Nomar a household name throughout New England.
His rookie season sets the bar high for Bogaerts as he potentially enters his first full season in Boston. The minor league numbers show that Bogaerts just might be able to put up comparable numbers, even if he enters the 2014 season a full two years younger than Garciaparra was in 1997. Garciaparra hit .289 during his first stint in the minors, while Bogaerts hit .296 in almost twice as many at-bats. Bogaerts has also shown good power, hitting 54 homers with an OPS of .862.
Bogaerts is likely to go into camp next spring with an opportunity to win the third base or shortstop job. Much of his immediate future depends on whether veteran shortstop Stephen Drew returns to Boston next season or signs with another team.
Either way, the Red Sox are hoping that Xander becomes a household name next year in Boston, just like Nomar.
Statistics courtesy of Baseball Reference.