To describe Mookie Betts‘ performance at the AA level, only one word comes to mind: dominant. In 35 games with the Portland Sea Dogs Betts is tearing it up, batting .401 with twelve doubles, a triple, and six homers, all while boasting a .467 OBP. He has walked more than he has struck out (20:13 BB/SO) and has racked up 18 stolen bases. In total Betts has 59 hits in 147 at-bats, is batting .500 in 48 at-bats versus lefties and is batting .354 in 99 at-bats against right-handed pitchers. On defense, in 34 games at second base, Betts has a .977 fielding percentage, which is not stellar, but is far above average at the AA level. With this being said, numbers never lie, and Betts’ numbers are highly impressive.
Despite it only being mid-May, Betts has made it clear that he can play beyond the AA level. Given that the Pawtucket Red Sox do not have a second base prospect, it should only be a matter of days before Betts gets the call. So far this season players who manned second base for the Paw Sox include: Ryan Roberts, Mike McCoy, Justin Henry, Heiker Meneses, and Brock Holt. Of those players, all of them can play several positions around the field with the exception of Meneses who is now with the AA Portland Sea Dogs. Giving those second baseman playing time should not be a priority for Boston with the exception of Brock Holt, who primarily plays shortstop. Ryan Roberts is not on the 40-man roster anymore, Mike McCoy already had his time in the bigs and is really struggling in AAA this year, Justin Henry is not a prospect, nor is Heiker Meneses. With this being said, Mookie Betts would have no problem finding playing time as a member of the AAA club.
Obviously at the Major League level, Dustin Pedroia is the Red Sox second baseman and will be into the next decade. For Betts, this is a problem given he has not played anywhere else since 2012 and when he did, it was at shortstop, a position he struggled to handle at the professional level. Even though Betts was a shortstop in high school, the skills did not transfer over well to the pros. Luckily for Betts, he could make the switch to the outfield. Recently, Betts has been taking fly balls in the outfield during batting practice, but has yet to see action in the outfield in a game. According to Red Sox club official, “He looks so good out there our staff doesn’t feel he would need much time to get ready if needed.” With this being said, Betts could play a mix of outfield, second base, and potentially even shortstop at the next level. In the outfield, Betts projects as a left fielder first, then a center fielder, but lacks the arm needed for right field. In Pawtucket, there is definitely enough wiggle room to squeeze Betts in for some playing time in the outfield, especially over Alex Hassan and Corey Brown who only serve as emergency depth players at the Major League level.
In AAA, Betts should once again prove he is legit. A .467 OBP at any level is quite impressive, and should transfer over well to the next level. Do not expect Betts to hit .400 in AAA for the entirety of the season, but do expect him to put up realistically high numbers such as hitting .300, swiping 20 bags, etc. If all goes well, which it probably will, Betts could be in line for a September call-up at the end of the year. With his speed, Betts could be a valuable pinch runner for the big league club at the end of the year, especially since Boston has about a 50% success rate swiping bags this season, which is extremely low.
Looking past this year, depending on how well Betts performs in the outfield, he could potentially snag a role with the team next year, but is more likely to repeat AAA as the year starts. The key to success at the Major League level for Betts is not his offense since everyone knows he has what it takes offensively, but it is his defense that truly matters. It does not help Betts being blocked by Dustin Pedroia at his best defensive position at the Major League level, but given that both Jonny Gomes and Grady Sizemore are free agents after this season, Betts has a chance in the outfield if he can play the odd terrain of Fenway Park well enough. Odds are though, Betts will need time to work on his defense, but there will be a spot open for him when he is ready.
To recap, Mookie Betts has made a compelling case to why he deserves a promotion to the AAA level at this point in the season. Betts has exceeded expectations this season so much so, that he is the Red Sox number one prospect on several prospect lists now. Defense is the biggest “if” for Mookie Betts as he needs to start playing outfield and playing it well before he can play regularly at the Major League level.