Xander Bogaerts’ Shoulder Fracture Adds to His Rough Season

Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

Xander Bogaerts‘ first season as a second baseman hasn’t gone as planned. He’s struggled mightily at the plate thus far, and while he’s fared better defensively, on Monday he suffered a fracture in his left shoulder while diving for a ball. He could miss a couple of months, leaving the Padres — who despite going just 27-26 thus far currently occupy the third NL Wild Card spot — to fend without him.

The injury occurred during the first game of Monday’s doubleheader in Atlanta. With the bases loaded in the third inning, Bogaerts ranged to his left to try to stop a Ronald Acuña Jr. grounder. He dove in time to get his glove on the ball, but he landed hard, and awkwardly. He immediately began writhing on the ground and could only wrist-flip the ball to shortstop Ha-Seong Kim, who saw the play to its conclusion — a run scored, though Bogaerts’ stop probably prevented a second one from doing so as well — and motioned for help.

“As soon as I caught the ball, I heard, like, cracks. Four cracks,” Bogaerts told reporters. “At that point, I was like, ‘Something’s wrong.’ I didn’t feel exactly like something shifted. I just felt, like, cracks.”

Four cracks! In another telling, it was “a couple,” but with an important detail: “I didn’t feel anything come out and then go back in. The only thing I remember hearing was a couple cracks.”

Presumably Bogaerts was explaining that he didn’t feel as though he’d suffered a soft-tissue injury. While initial x-rays were negative, a subsequent diagnosis confirmed a fracture in his left shoulder, and while the Padres didn’t offer further specificity, the San Diego Union-Tribune’s Kevin Acee reported that the fracture is in his shoulder socket. That would suggest a glenoid fracture, particularly given the traumatic nature of the injury, but such injuries usually involve tears of the labrum, and the Padres have since confirmed that Bogaerts did not suffer a tear, nor will he need surgery. By comparison, when Red Sox shortstop Trevor Story dove for a ball and dislocated his left shoulder on April 5, he suffered a glenoid rim fracture and tore his posterior labrum, both of which were addressed with season-ending surgery. Under the Knife’s Will Carroll pointed out that given the combination of a lack of soft tissue damage and an initial report that Bogaerts’ shoulder was stable, the process of elimination points to the scapula as the fractured bone.

That’s the good news, but the bad news is that Bogaerts is still expected to be out two to three months according to Acee. Bogaerts expressed the belief that he’d be back sooner, though his words read more like an athlete’s bravado than an informed update. “Two to three months, no,” he said. “Nah, nah. I understand we want to be smart, but I’ll be back before that. I don’t like the sound of all those months.”

For the 31-year-old infielder, the injury is just the latest unexpected turn in a season that hasn’t lacked for them. During spring training, the Padres convinced Bogaerts — who signed an 11-year, $280 million contract with the team in December 2022 and spent the following season playing shortstop — to switch places with the defensively superior Kim, the team’s primary shortstop in ’22 and its Gold Glove-winning second baseman last year. It’s too early to get a true read on the returns defensively, but the prorated metrics suggest it might have cost them a couple of runs thus far:

Padres’ Middle Infield Swap Meet
2023 Position Innings FRV DRS UZR AVG/1200
Kim 2B 856.2 5 10 2.6 8.2
Bogaerts SS 1285.2 2 -4 -0.2 -0.7
Padres Total 12969.0 19 40 26.2 2.6
2024 Position Innings FRV DRS UZR AVG/1200
Bogaerts 2B 379.0 3 -2 -0.7 0.3
Kim SS 442.1 1 1 -0.5 1.4
Padres Total 4143.0 1 2 0.5 0.3
All data through May 22.

It’s worth noting that Manny Machado’s early-season absence at third base could have influenced Kim’s positioning and play, but we’re really squinting at small samples. On a team-wide basis, the Padres’ prorated metrics show a similar gap — they were further above average last year than they are now — but in terms of turning batted balls into outs, they’re basically unchanged; this year’s .704 defensive efficiency (tied for third in the NL) is on par with last year .702, which ranked third as well.

On the other hand, it doesn’t take much to see that Bogaerts hasn’t been himself at the plate. Despite playing much of the 2023 season with a nagging left wrist injury that required spring and midseason cortisone shots and forced him to adjust his swing, he hit a respectable .285/.350/.440 (120 wRC+) with 19 homers and a career-high 19 steals in his inaugural season as a Padre. This year, however, he’s slipped to .219/.265/.316 (71 wC+) with four homers and four steals. As to what’s going wrong, he’s not hitting the ball very hard, producing a career-low exit velocity and his lowest hard-hit rate since 2017. That said, he’s hitting the ball in the air more often, and he’s pulling it more often:

Xander Bogaerts Batted Ball Profile
Season GB/FB GB% FB% Pull% BBE EV Barrel% HH%
2021 1.07 40.0% 37.4% 45.6% 423 89.6 9.7% 43.0%
2022 1.46 46.4% 31.8% 39.9% 446 88.1 6.5% 39.5%
2023 1.53 50.4% 32.9% 40.2% 492 87.6 6.1% 34.3%
2024 1.27 44.6% 35.1% 48.0% 148 86.2 6.8% 30.4%

Pulled or no, the lack of oomph on those fly balls is really costing him:

Xander Bogaerts Fly Balls
Season BBE EV Dist Barrel% HH% AVG xBA SLG xSLG wOBA xwOBA
2021 101 92.7 319 24.8 53.5 .306 .282 .980 .906 .506 .480
2022 94 90.7 298 20.2 37.2 .315 .256 .843 .708 .460 .407
2023 111 91.3 313 22.5 37.8 .262 .268 .822 .817 .423 .427
2024 38 89.6 294 15.8 31.6 .135 .206 .324 .496 .190 .319
SOURCE: Baseball Savant

That gap of nearly 20 feet owes something to cooler spring temperatures that prevent the ball from carrying as far as it does in the hotter months, but still, it’s left its mark on Bogaerts’ production.

Bogaerts spent the first month of the season hitting leadoff, but when he addressed his slump after an April 19 0-for-4 performance, he refused to lean on that or last year’s wrist troubles as an excuse. “Let’s not look for no wrist issues. Let’s not look for no leadoff spot,” he said at the time. “The hits haven’t been falling, and it sucks when you normally get a lot of hits and now you don’t.”

Instead, Bogaerts expressed a belief that his issues were mechanical, and that his propensity to pull the ball wasn’t intentional:

“That’s really unusual, unlike me… It ain’t being pull-happy. It’s just rhythm, not (being) in sync.

“I’m aware that I’m hitting a lot of balls over there (left field). And I’m trying to hit it over there (right field), but I still can’t do it. So, that’s the frustration… Like, you want to do something and you feel like you’re not in a position to be able to do it, or your body doesn’t allow you to do it just by the way I’m putting myself in position as I’m going to take a swing. That causes the mistakes that I keep doing. It’s really, really hard for me to go the other way.”

Bogaerts had improved slightly since then, hitting .243/.269/.369 (85 wRC+) since April 20, but even that’s pretty cringeworthy. One additional clue may offer some insight: Per The Athletic, Bogaerts reportedly has dealt with hip discomfort and soreness, which he attributed to the position switch. Particularly given how essential hip rotation is to generating bat speed, I do wonder if that’s been a factor. Multiyear bat speed data would be helpful for comparisons, but the recently released data doesn’t offer much help beyond telling us that Bogaerts’ bat speed ranks in the 31st percentile. His splits by month (70.5 mph in March/April and 70.9 in May) don’t shed any further light.

Perhaps the time off will allow Bogaerts a reset that helps him rediscover his stroke. As for how the Padres will proceed without him, on a team whose lineup is made almost entirely out of shortstops, it’s not the steepest challenge to find one or two capable of filling in at second base. Since I wrote this in early April, the team has traded for Luis Arraez, who even before Bogaerts’ injury had made three starts at the keystone while Bogaerts DHed; he took the first three starts after Bogaerts’ injury. Arraez’s bat has heated up since the May 4 trade; he now has a .341/.382/.422 (134 wRC+) season line on the back of a .419/.449/.514 (184 wRC+) showing with San Diego, but his defense at second is questionable enough that the Padres prefer him as a DH. Last year with Miami, he had 4 DRS and 2.4 UZR but -7 FRV in 1,124 innings at second base, while this year in 332 innings he’s at -1 DRS, -2.1 UZR, and -6 FRV.

Starting Arraez at second opens up the DH slot for other players. Machado, who didn’t play the field this season until April 26 while recovering from October surgery to repair his extensor tendon in his right elbow, has been DHing every third or fourth game there lately.

Asked on Wednesday who would fill in for the injured Bogaerts, manager Mike Shildt had this to say:

“We’re still in the process of figuring that out… There are some things that we are thinking about that will come into play the next couple of days that we’ll explore. We have a lot of options between three or four different guys.

“We’ll be somewhat creative with that, relative to what we’re seeing, and the pitching. But we’ll also create some stability that we think people will like.”

The most likely options besides the lefty-swinging Arraez are hot-hitting righty Donovan Solano (.348/.423/.391 in 26 PA since signing with the team in mid-April), lefty Tyler Wade (.260/.341/.288, 94 wRC+), and lefty Jake Cronenworth (.263/.329/.453, 127 wRC+). Cronenworth was the team’s regular second baseman from 2020–22 before moving to first base. He’s a better fielder than Arraez, and he did play 35 games at second last year, so in a longer-term arrangement it might make sense to swap the two, as Arraez does have some first base experience; so does Solano, for that matter, but he’s less likely to play every day. On Thursday, with Reds righty Frankie Montas on the mound, the Padres rolled with Cronenworth making his season debut at second, Arraez at first, and Jurickson Profar at DH; lefty David Peralta, who signed a minor league deal with the team last week and was recalled from Triple-A El Paso to take Bogaerts’ roster spot, played left field in Profar’s stead.

For as tempting as it might be to suggest that the Padres could be better without Bogaerts given his slump, the reality is that his contract makes him a long-term fixture, and any real success that they have probably depends upon him recovering his form. Hopefully when he’s healed enough to begin working his way back, he’ll rediscover his old stroke.

Brooklyn-based Jay Jaffe is a senior writer for FanGraphs, the author of The Cooperstown Casebook (Thomas Dunne Books, 2017) and the creator of the JAWS (Jaffe WAR Score) metric for Hall of Fame analysis. He founded the Futility Infielder website (2001), was a columnist for Baseball Prospectus (2005-2012) and a contributing writer for Sports Illustrated (2012-2018). He has been a recurring guest on MLB Network and a member of the BBWAA since 2011, and a Hall of Fame voter since 2021. Follow him on Twitter @jay_jaffe... and BlueSky @jayjaffe.bsky.social.

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1 month ago

It’s been a rough season for Bogaerts. I was never a fan of the terms of the signing, but I also can’t see him continue to hit so far below his career averages and 2024 xwOBA (ditto for Machado and Tatis). Thankfully, the bench has some depth this year to absorb the loss; the team may even improve offensively and defensively in the interim. Hope he comes back healthy for the stretch run.