As we continue into Spring Training, there is a battle going on in the Boston Red Sox outfield of who gets to play. There are 3 spots open but there’s also over half a dozen players who are more than capable of playing in each of those positions. Right now we are take our focus on an up and coming star who made a big splash last season. He’s got speed, he’s got the bat, he’s got the perfect mentality, and a pretty sweet name. Who is he? He’s Mookie Betts.
Name: Mookie Betts
Date of Birth: October 7, 1992
Place of Birth: Nashville, TN
School: John Overton High School in Nashville, TN
Drafted: Fifth Round (172nd Overall) in 2011 MLB Draft by Boston Red Sox
MLB Debut: 06/29/2014
Background Prior to 2014
Mookie began his professional playing career within the Boston Red Sox at the age of 18 with the Gulf Coast Red Sox in the Rookie League in 2011. He only played in one game, going 2-for-4 with 2 RBIs and a stolen base. It was in the 2012 season where Mookie first played a full season. He spent all of 2012 at the Short-Season A level with the Lowell Spinners. He ended up playing in 71 out of 76 games, going 67-for-251 with no home runs, 31 RBIs, 20 stolen bases, an on-base percentage (OBP) of .352, slugging percentage of .307, and an OPS of .658. He also split time between shortstop and second base on defense, having a .917 fielding percentage with 6 errors at short and a .969 fielding percentage with 9 errors at second.
In 2013, Mookie started the year in Low Single-A with the Greenville Drive. He played 76 games with the Drive, hitting for a .296 batting average with 8 home runs, 26 RBIs, and 21 stolen bases. On defense, Mookie just played solo at second base to record a .964 fielding percentage with 12 errors. He also was elected to the South Atlantic All-Star Game during that season too. Then on July 9, Mookie was called up to High Single-A to play with the Salem Red Sox. He ended up finishing the season there, playing in 51 games while hitting for a .31 with 7 home runs, 39 RBIs, and 20 stolen bases. Like in Greenville, Mookie played solo at second base, recording a fielding percentage of.979 with 6 errors.
Between both Low Single-A and High Single-A, Mookie’s combined numbers were .314 batting average (145-for-462), 15 home runs, 65 RBIs, 38 stolen basses, an OBP of .417, a slugging percentage of .506, and an OPS of .923. He also played in a combined 127 games at second base, recording a .971 fielding percentage with 18 errors. Mookie was named to Baseball America’s 2013 Second-Team Minor League All-Star at second base and was named the 2013 Red Sox Minor League Offensive Player of the Year.
To add more to his growth in 2013, Mookie ended up playing with the Surprise Saguaros in the Arizona Fall League along with Red Sox minor leaguers like Garin Cecchini and Travis Shaw. He played in 16 games with the Saguaros, going 16-for-59 (.271) with 1 home run, 3 RBIs, 8 stolen bases, an OBP of .368, a slugging percentage of .373, and an OPS of .741. Mookie also played 15 games in the field (1 at shortstop, 14 at second base) to have a field percentage of .986 with 1 error. Because of his stellar performance, Mookie was named the 2013 Arizona Fall League Rising Star.
Prior to the start of the 2014 season, Mookie began playing with the Portland Sea Dogs in Double-A. Since current Red Sox second baseman Dustin Pedroia was entrenched into the staring second base role, Betts began to learn how to play in the outfield. He spent 54 games playing with the Sea Dogs, hitting .355 with 6 home runs, 34 RBIs, and 22 stolen bases. On the defensive side, Mookie played 40 games at second base and had a fielding percentage of .980 with 4 errors. He also played 12 games at centerfield, the first time in his career playing in the outfield, and had a perfect 1.000 fielding percentage. Mookie was then called up on June 3, to play for the Pawtucket Red Sox at the Triple-A level. He played 45 games with the PawSox that season, hitting a team-high .335 (62-for-185), had 5 home runs, 31 RBIs, 11 stolen bases, a team-high OBP of .417, a slugging percentage of .503, and an OBP of .920. He mostly played in centerfield (33 games to be exact) with his time at McCoy Stadium, having a perfect fielding percentage of 1.000 with no errors. He also played 4 games in right field, having another perfect fielding percentage of 1.000 with no errors while playing that position, and 6 games at second base with a .964 fielding percentage with 1 errors.
Between Portland and Pawtucket, Mookie played in 99 games, hitting a combined .346 batting average (138-for-399) with 11 home runs, 65 RBIs, 33 stolen bases, an OBP of .431, slugging percentage of .529, and an OPS of .960. On the defensive side of the plate, Mookie played 46 games at second base with a total fielding percentage of .979 with 5 errors, played 4 games at right field for a perfect fielding percentage of 1.000 with no errors, and played 45 in centerfield with a perfect fielding percentage of 1.000 with no errors.
On June 9, 2014, Mookie was called up to the major league level on June 29, to play in away game against the New York Yankees. In his debut, Mookie when 1-for-3 with a hit, a walk, and a run scored in an 8-5 Red Sox victory. Afterwards, he spent most of July and into mid-August multiple call-ups to Boston and recalls back down to Pawtucket. Then on August 17, Mookie was recalled back to Boston to finish the rest of the season. Overall, Mookie played in 54 games at the major league level. His final numbers with the Boston Red Sox included a .291 batting average (55-for-189), 5 home runs 18 RBIs, 7 stolen bases, 21 walks, 31 strikeouts, an OBP of .368, a slugging percentage of .444, and an OPS of .812. In the field, Mookie played 28 in centerfield, 12 games at right field, and the final 14 games of the season at his natural position of second base.
I must say, Mookie impressed me with his plate discipline. When I saw him bat, he looked very poised and didn’t just hack away at every pitch that he saw. Rather, he waited for the right opportunity to swing and when he swung, he always made good contact with the ball. Second, the speed he possessed was astounding. He was able to beat out throws that would have normally other batters out. Not to mention he was able to rundown fly balls hit deep to center with such ease.
But what impressed me the most was his “Team-First” mentality. When you interview some players, you get a sense that they are more focused on trying to make the majors than anything else. With Mookie, he was very humble and excited to be at Triple-A. He understood it was a stepping stone to the ultimate goal of playing in Boston, but at the same time he was focused on trying to help his team win games and do all what he can for PawSox manager Kevin Boles.
Unfortunately things are somewhat cloudy for Mookie. As good as a hitter as he is as well as a good glove in the outfield, there is too much of a log jam to play him at the major league level. Already the outfield is chocked full of capable starters (Jackie Bradley Jr, Shane Victorino, Daniel Nava) and players who can come off the bench for a game or two (Allen Craig, Brock Holt, Bryce Brentz), and guys the Red Sox brought in recently (Hanley Ramirez, Rusney Castillo). Not to mention that Mookie’s natural position (second base) is currently being occupied by perhaps one of the more consistent players in the game right now (Dustin Pedroria).
The best thing for him right now is to start of the year in Triple-A Pawtucket. We have seen players who were brought up too quickly struggle at the major league level (Will Middlebrooks, Xander Bogaerts). It’s not the end of the world if Mookie starts off at Triple-A. Rather, it’s the best way for him to get many reps playing in live game action than just sitting on the bench. Also last year, Mookie kept playing out of his natural position (second base) and going into the outfield. If he gets more experience in the outfield in Triple-A, he will develop more defensive awareness and hone in his current skills to more conditioned for the major league level. That way if something does happen like an injury or a trade, the Red Sox have a “ready-to-go” player to go in and succeed.
Whatever the case maybe, hopefully it’ll benefit Mookie in some shape or form.
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