Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
With Xander Bogaerts in the major leagues hopefully for good, there’s a legitimate argument to be made that Mookie Betts is the most exciting player in the Red Sox farm system. A fifth round pick in 2011, Betts broke out in a big way last season as he slashed .314/.417/.506 between Single-A Greenville and High-A Salem as a 20 year old.
Breakout years are all well and good, but any prospect can put up a great season in the lower levels of the minors. Few, however, can do it with as few flaws in their game as Mookie Betts. Not only did Betts reach the coveted .300/.400/.500 slash line, he also walked more than he struck out (and by no small margin as he walked 81 times to only 57 strikeouts). Betts also put his prodigious athleticism to good use as he showed excellent instincts on the base paths as he stole 38 bases and was only caught 4 times.
Despite such a great year, however, many wondered if Betts was just a one-year wonder and would regress going forward. Obviously, it’s still very early in the season but Betts has proven that wrong early on; in his first 13 games, he has slashed .453/.492/.717 with Double-A Portland. If Betts can continue to hit, he’ll obviously find a place on the Major League roster. The only question is where he fits into the future of the Red Sox.
Last season he converted from shortstop to second base and reportedly showed improved defensive instincts and generally profiled better at the keystone. However, the Red Sox have a pretty solid second baseman of their own in Dustin Pedroia, who looks to stay at that position for quite a while after signing an 8 year/$110MM deal last summer.
There are some who expect that Betts will move to the outfield, where he can put his excellent speed to good use. Given the Red Sox stacked infield going forward (some combination of Bogaerts, Will Middlebrooks, and Garin Cecchini will anchor the left side with Pedroia at second and potentially either Middlebrooks or Cecchini at first base), it’s possible that that’s where Betts profiles best for the future.
If Betts continues at his current pace, he’ll be in the market for a promotion before too long and one step away from the majors, he will likely begin to gain experience at multiple positions. Some have suggested that Betts could act as a Ben Zobrist-esque player that fills in adequately all across the diamond without ever really having a set position. However, regardless of where Betts plays, his bat and athleticism look like they could soon carry him to a very successful big league career.