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Wednesday, 09 April 2014 20:11

Boston Red Sox Prospect Analysis: Mookie Betts

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In the 2011 MLB draft, the Red Sox were applauded for their first round picks. They selected: Matt Barnes, Blake Swihart, Henry Owens, and Jackie Bradley Jr. All four of these men were considered great picks as Barnes dominated the Big East, Swihart was considered the best catcher in the draft, Owens drew comparisons to Randy Johnson, and Bradley led the Gamecocks to a national championship in 2010. After that point in the draft for rounds two through ten, the Red Sox drafted mainly high schoolers with a few exceptions. Boston selected: Williams Jerez (HS), Jordan Weems (HS), Noe Ramirez, Mookie Betts (HS), Mickey Pena (JuCo), Cody Kukuk (HS), Senquez Golson (HS, did not sign), Travis Shaw, and Cody Koback. The high schoolers selected by Boston in these rounds were considered raw, but had high ceiling potentials. Of these players the Red Sox drafted, Jerez has yet to surpass short-season A ball, Weems is repeating low-A for the third time, Cody Kukuk is repeating low-A Greenville, and Mookie Betts is the starting second baseman for the Portland Sea Dogs. Based off of this, it appears as though Mookie Betts has the best shot at playing in the MLB out of any players drafted out of high school on that list. Let’s take a look and see what he can do. Betts, 21, had a breakout year in 2013 between low-A Greenville and high-A Salem in 127 games batting .314 with a .417 OBP while swiping 38 bases in 42 attempts. He also supplied some serious power clipping 15 homeruns along with 36 doubles and four triples.  Not only was this impressive, but his numbers in high-A Salem were better than those in Greenville. In 51 games with Salem, Betts batted .341 while boasting a .414 OBP along while swiping 20 bases in 22 attempts while clipping seven homeruns.  These numbers that Betts put up last season are comparable to those of Byron Buxton in high-A Fort Myers in 2013. Buxton who is one year younger and the top prospect in all of baseball, hit .326 in 57 games while getting on base at the .415 mark. Also, he swept 23 bags on 31 attempts while smacking four homeruns. Overall, the numbers Betts and Buxton put up similar numbers despite Buxton being the number one prospect in all of baseball according to MLB.com. Betts on the other hand, is ranked at number 62, and just seventh in the Boston Red Sox organization.

So far this season, Betts picked up where he left off and has impressed in his first 5 games. So far Betts has amassed nine hits in 19 at-bats while picking up three walks, smacking a homerun and three doubles. Although this is a small sample size, Betts has shown no signs of slowing down and by keeping it up, he continues to prove that last season was not a fluke. Also, it is worth noting that Mookie Betts has only played second base so far this season. This hurts his stock in the Red Sox organization because at the big league level the Red Sox have Dustin Pedroia who is an All-Star caliber player locked up until 2021. With this in mind, let’s see what kind of numbers Mookie Betts will put up this season. On offense, expect Betts to flourish once again in the 2014 season. He has outstanding plate discipline so there is no reason to think that he will strike out much more than he walks. Potentially, he could even walk more than he strikes out if all goes well. With this being said, expect Betts to hit over the .300 mark with an OBP near .400. Although these are high expectations, in theory he would only need to hit .293 at most for the rest of the year to do this. This math was done assuming Betts sees 500 at-bats this season. What I did was take his hits and at-bats so far this season and subtracted them from the amount of hits and at-bats he would need to bat .300 in 500 at-bats so that is where that number comes from. If he does not see 500 at-bats which is the likely case, he could hit for an even lower average for the rest of the year and still bat .300.

For power, Betts could hit 15 homeruns again this season, but at 5ft9 156lbs, this is actually remarkable. This is because the average player is pushing 200lbs and hits with significantly less power than Betts. Although Betts likely will never develop into a tremendous power hitter, he could be a guy who hits in the high teens for homeruns who can push upwards of 20 in a good year.

On the base paths, do not expect Betts to slow down. He stole close to 40 bases last season at a high success rate, so he should swipe a large amount this year. Keep in mind he is no longer in the South Atlantic League so it will be more difficult to steal, but he could reasonably get around 30 stolen bases.

In the field, expect Betts to play a solid second base for the Portland Sea Dogs. He is not a gold glove caliber defender, but is not bad nonetheless. His arm on the other hand, could use some work. Originally a shortstop, Betts made the switch to second base as a pro, and looks to be sticking there long term. It would certainly help his success in the Red Sox organization if he played elsewhere defensively, so do not be surprised if he sees some late inning reps at shortstop and in center field as well. Both of those by the way, are the positions he played in high school. Whether or not he has success there in the pros is still to be determined, but it is at least worth a shot for him to try those positions out. To recap, Mookie Betts will have a strong season this year in Portland. He is an all-around impressive player who definitely has what it takes to play in the Majors someday. Whether he becomes an MLB regular for Boston will depend on two things, they are: keeping up what he has been doing, and finding a suitable defensive position that would help him make the team. Odds are, Betts would be best suited as a utility man since Jackie Bradley Jr, Xander Bogaerts, and Dustin Pedroia all play the positions he can play and will be here for a long time. Follow me on Twitter @CLNS_Tom