Red Sox rookie Xander Bogaerts made his Major League debut last week during a road trip, signalling his arrival as the latest impact infield prospect to arrive in recent years.
If the 20-year-old can live up to the hype placed upon him as Baseball America's No. 8 prospect heading into the season, Boston may have added a future star to their lineup in the midst of a pennant race.
As the pennant chase wages on, expect Bogaerts potential and impact to be weighed against two other young, future All-Star infielders starting for fellow American League contenders: Manny Machado of the Baltimore Orioles and Jurickson Profar of the Texas Rangers.
A quick look at the American League playoff picture allows the mind to imagine a scenario where the three phenoms could cross paths during October baseball, potentially changing the fate of their respective franchise in 2013.
Before we get there, let's break down how Bogaerts compares with Machado and Profar.
First and foremost, all three arrived in the big leagues as top 15 prospects in the game, according to Baseball America. Assigning higher value or potential to one or two over another is guess work.
If all three play to the potential they've shown thus far in their short time in professional baseball, future All-Star rosters will feature their names.
As of this moment, both Machado and Profar have one major thing over Bogaerts: experience.
Machado and Profar showed a readiness, combined with a need from their lineups, that got them called up before the age of 20. Historically, hitters who arrive in the big leagues that young turn out to be very, very good.
One or two years of extra seasoning may not seem like much, but it can represent a major difference between good and great young players.
In October, Bogaerts turns 21. He can turn out to be a superstar, but the one year difference between his call-up and that of Machado and Profar shouldn't be ignored.
Minor league statistics don't necessarily paint a clear and succinct picture of how players will do during their big league careers, but it's worth noting that Bogaerts numbers did exceed both Profar and Machado's during their respective trysts in minor league parks.
Taking into account that each league and minor league park can inflate or deflate numbers, here are following career minor league OPS marks for the three infielders:
Of course, thus far, Machado has been the AL All-Star, started every day for his contending team and out slugged Profar in the big leagues.
Walk-to-strikeout ratio, one of my favorite ways to measure the maturity of young hitters, was paced by Profar among this trio:
Moving forward, plate discipline and power should continue to develop for all three. It's defense that has Bogaerts slightly below both Machado and Profar when discussing all-around talent.
Machado didn't just seamlessly move from shortstop to third base to start his big league career last summer, he did it an elite level. In a flash, he helped transform the Baltimore defense on their way to an improbable postseason berth.
Profar, although still without a steady position, is able to garner enough regular at-bats for the Rangers, due largely to his ability to play different positions on the fly. From shortstop to third base to left field to second base, the 20-year-old super-utility man has become a weapon for Rangers manager Ron Washington.
With Bogaerts, it's his bat that will make him a star. That being said, his defense has improved enough to where shortstop can be a viable position for him until he outgrows it.
When reading reports from Baseball America about his bat, size and defensive progress, memories of a young Hanley Ramirez come to mind.
In June, this is what BA had to say about Bogaerts' improving defense:
"His defense has improved to the point where he could spend the early part of his career at shortstop rather than having to move to third base immediately, although as he fills out his 6-foot-3 frame it might not be long before he outgrows the position."
Three future All-Star infielders are manning important positions down the stretch for their teams in 2013.
If Baltimore decides to move Machado back to third base, Profar hits enough to unseat Elvis Andrus at shortstop in Texas and scouts are right about Bogaerts ability to play shortstop, the American League might have stumbled into this generation's versions of Alex Rodriguez, Derek Jeter and Nomar Garciaparra.
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