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Xander Bogaerts and Manny Machado: Baseball's most valuable shortstops

Xander Bogaerts and Manny Machado have been two of the most productive shortstops at the plate this season. Getty Images

The most valuable shortstops in Major League Baseball this season in terms of wins above replacement will take the field opposite each other on Wednesday Night Baseball (7 p.m. ET on ESPN/WatchESPN).

Xander Bogaerts of the Boston Red Sox is tied for first among all players entering Wednesday's game with 3.5 wins above replacement.

The Baltimore Orioles' Manny Machado is tied for fifth in WAR among all players, right behind Bogaerts, Jose Altuve, Starling Marte and Mike Trout at 3.4.

Bogaerts

The Red Sox shortstop has picked up where he left off last season.

Bogaerts ranked third in hits (196) and fifth in batting average (.320) among qualified players last season.

He leads the majors in hits with 94 this season. Bogaerts' .355 batting average ranks second behind that of Daniel Murphy.

If Bogaerts keeps up his current pace of 1.49 hits per team game during the course of the 162-game schedule, he will finish the season with 241 hits. The only player with at least that many hits in a season in the past 85 years is Ichiro Suzuki, who had 262 hits in 2004 and 242 in 2001 for the Seattle Mariners.

The biggest change for Bogaerts this season has been the arrival of power. He hit seven home runs in 654 plate appearances last season, the 124th-best home run rate in baseball (1.1 percent). He already has eight home runs in 288 plate appearances in 2016.

The power increase has coincided with a more pull-happy approach for Bogaerts. He spread the ball evenly in 2015, with 36 percent of balls in play to left field, 32 percent to center and 32 percent to right. This season that breakdown is 43 percent to left, 32 percent to center and 25 percent to right.

Bogaerts has a .479 batting average and an .802 slugging percentage on balls in play to the left side of the field this season. His hard-hit rate to the left side of the field is 28 percent, up from 11 percentage points last season.

Machado

Machado is playing shortstop regularly for the first time since 2012, when he was playing for the Double-A Bowie (Maryland) Baysox.

The Orioles shortstop is a year ahead of Bogaerts in terms of power progression. Machado's slugging percentage rose from .432 in 2013 and 2014 combined to .502 last season and .606 in 2016.

Machado leads shortstops in slugging percentage and hard-hit rate this year.

The Red Sox and Orioles shortstops have very similar profiles when it comes to the percentage of balls in play that are pulled versus hit to the opposite field. The biggest difference between the two in the power department, and a reason Machado ranks ahead of Bogaerts in slugging percentage and hard-hit rate, has come from the loft Machado has been able to achieve on his swings.

Machado has hit 79 fly balls, 45 line drives and 72 ground balls this season. Bogaerts has hit 18 fewer fly balls, eight fewer line drives and 45 more ground balls than Machado on the year.

Bogaerts has made up for a lot of that difference by slugging .405 on grounders alone this season. That ranks fifth in baseball. He slugged .394 in 1,151 total at-bats in 2014 and 2015.

Let's not forget the others

Bogaerts and Machado rank 1-2 in wins above replacement this season among shortstops, but not far behind is Cleveland Indians shortstop Francisco Lindor.

Lindor brings impressive offensive numbers and good defense. In 162 games played he has 19 home runs and 22 stolen bases. Lindor's 15 defensive runs saved since his debut June 14, 2015, are fifth-most among shortstops in that time.

Last year at this time, you might have thought Carlos Correa would be atop this list, but he's in a slump in his second season.

But if you consider Correa's numbers dating to last season (he is expected to play his 162nd game Wednesday), they may push him ahead of the others. Correa's debut was June 8, 2015. He's the only player in the majors with at least 30 home runs and 20 stolen bases since that date.