Boston Red Sox rookie third baseman Xander Bogaerts was dropped to seventh on John Farrell‘s lineup card for Tuesday night’s game against the Seattle Mariners after hitting in the two-hole for the past month. It comes with little surprise as the the 21-year-old Aruban is mired in the worst slump of his young career.
In 20 games in the month of June, Bogaerts is hitting just .152 (12-for-79) with a .491 OPS, five extra-base hits, three home runs and six RBIs. He has just five hits over his last 52 at-bats. Coming into the month hitting .304, Bogaerts has seen his average drop to .260.
Some have attributed the struggles to the move from shortstop to third base after the team re-signed Stephen Drew. It’s easy to see where a case can be made, as he’s hit .162 in 19 games since moving over to the hot corner, though he went a combined 4-for-8 with three extra-base hits, two home runs, and three RBIs in the first two games.
Positions aside, the slump Bogaerts is in isn’t foreign in the land of rookie hitters. In fact, it’s pretty common.
Looking at the rookie campaigns of MLB stars of recent years, you see one constant. It’s a series of ups and downs, a strong start followed by a drop off in the middle after the ‘book’ comes out on the hitter. New York Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter, Bogaerts’ childhood hero, is a great example of that.
Through 15 games of his rookie campaign in 1996, Jeter hit .340 (16-for-47) with a .912 OPS, one home run and eight RBIs. He followed that up with 33 games where he hit .228 (26-for-114) with a .647 OPS and just six extra-base hits.
Jeter got back on track in June before really taking off in July. From July 7 on, he hit .355 with an .876 OPS, with six home runs and 40 RBIs, scoring 63 runs. He ended up winning the AL Rookie of the Year as a result, and played an integral role in bringing the World Series trophy back to the Bronx after an 18-year layoff.
The Red Sox countered their rivals to the south with a star shortstop of their own in 1997 in Nomar Garciaparra, who followed much of the same script. He hit .352 with a .921 OPS, five doubles, three homers, and 12 RBIs in his first 19 games. He then hit .218 with a .647 OPS, three home runs and 14 RBIs over the next 33 games.
However, in his final 101 games from June 7 on in, Nomar hit .325 with a .941 OPS, 62 extra base hits, 24 home runs, 72 RBIs and scoring 88 runs. He was one of baseball’s best hitters over that final stretch, earning him ROY honors.
A decade later, another promising offensive shortstop arrived in Troy Tulowitzki of the Colorado Rockies. Like Bogaerts, he wore the No. 2 as homage to Jeter. Unlike Jeter, he struggled out of the gate, hitting .241 with nine extra-base hits in his first 34 games. Like Jeter, he eventually figured out the major league arms, hitting .305 with a .922 OPS, 21 home runs and 71 RBIs in his final 89 games of the 2007 season.
Meanwhile, the Red Sox had a rookie second baseman named Dustin Pedroia. Hitting .180 through his first 22 games, the then 23-year-old was on the verge of being sent to the minors. His swing was too big. His mechanics were out of whack. He was too small to play in the big leagues. The team needed a stack of telephone books for him to stand on when he conducted interviews with the media (slight exaggeration).
Pedroia got the last laugh, however, hitting .330 the rest of the way with 33 doubles, seven home runs and 43 RBIs en route to winning ROY honors. Like Jeter in 1996, the standout rookie campaign resulted in a championship.
The four players, all of whom went through what Bogaerts is currently going through, are current and former stars who represent the norm when it comes to rookie struggles. So don’t overthink this — Bogaerts is going to be special.