by Eric Stashin (aka The Rotoprofessor)
The Red Sox’ Mookie Betts broke out in 2013, hitting .314 with 15 HR and 38 SB across two levels of Single-A. Manning 2B, all assumptions were that the 21-year old wouldn’t reach the Majors until sometime in 2015 at the earliest. Of course, no one expected him to continue tearing the cover off the ball after being promoted to Double-A either.
In his first 138 AB all Betts has done is hit .399 with 5 HR (as well as 11 doubles and 1 triple), 21 RBI, 40 R and 17 SB. Needless to say, everyone needs to be paying attention at this point.
Obviously he’s not going to match that type of production, considering his .407 BABIP, but he’s proving that last season’s emergence across the board was no fluke. He has a tremendous eye at the plate, with a 7.6% strikeout rate vs. an 11.4% walk rate. Considering his career rates are 9.9% and 13.0%, respectively, even with a lot less work he still could push to hit .300.
You blend that with his new found power and speed? There’s a lot to get excited about.
The real question is where Betts could fit in Boston. While Dustin Pedroia isn’t going anywhere at 2B, both Xander Bogaerts and Will Middlebrooks have underperformed on the left side of the infield. While there may be questions about his defense, let’s not forget he was actually drafted as a shortstop…
Could Betts shift back there with Bogaerts going back to 3B? It’s not a major stretch.
Baseball America said this about his defense prior to the season:
“He shows a penchant for highlight-reel defensive plays at second base, and he has the athleticism and range for the Red Sox to consider shortstop and center field as possibilities. Betts’ arm is better suited for the right side of the infield.”
MLB.com, meanwhile, said the following:
“Betts began his professional career as a shortstop, but has shifted to second base, where his arm profiles better. He has soft hands and good range and should develop into a solid defender.”
So, the reason he’s better suited for 2B is his arm? That may not be the biggest concern for Boston. As of today Red Sox pitchers have induced 336 ground outs, placing them 26th in the league. On the flip side, they rank 10th in fly outs and 9th in strikeouts.
From an offensive standpoint, things aren’t rosy:
- 160 runs scored – 16th in the league
- .246 average – 21st in the league
- 11 SB – tied for last in the league
Think they can use a spark? As it is the AL East wide open (at 19-19 the Red Sox are in a three-way tie for second, 1.5 games out of first). They aren’t a team that is going to let the season slip away and Betts certainly could help immediately. While we can point to defensive questions, given the makeup of their pitching staff that simply shouldn’t be a concern.
If you are in a deeper format, now may be the time to start considering stashing Betts. Sure they could trade for a replacement or re-sign Stephen Drew, but they may not be able to acquire a player who could make the same type of impact as Betts. And why not try him at SS? It’s certainly not unrealistic and could come sooner than we think.
Sources – Minor League Central, Baseball Reference, MLB.com, Baseball America