In a testament to the depth of Boston’s farm system, Mookie Betts entered the 2014 season as its seventh-best prospect. Despite starting the season at Double-A Portland and despite fewer than 200 minor league games to his credit before Opening Day, Betts finds himself at Yankee Stadium today.
Just 21, Betts made the metereoic rise to the majors because of two factors: he slashed .345/.437/.520 at two levels, and Boston’s offense is in unexpected doldrums.
Boston’s been held to three or fewer runs in 11 of its past 13 games. Outfielder Grady Sizemore, the Opening Day starter, has already been released. None of their other primary outfielders has an OPS higher than Jonny Gomes‘ .696, and infielder Xander Bogaerts, expected to provide some pop, is 6-for-63 since June 8.
Clearly, the Red Sox need a spark.
One of the best hitters in minor league baseball, Betts has few flaws in his game. He's a prototypical leadoff hitter who walks more than he strikes out and steals bases at an outstanding rate.
He's learning to play the outfield on the fly, but he should be at least average out there eventually and could be better than that. He has the athleticism and range to play the outfield, and he’s played the outfield in 18 of his past 24 games as the Red Sox clearly wanted to make sure he could manage the shift prior to a call-up.
With his combination of outstanding skils and excellent tools, he's turned himself into one of the best prospects in baseball. Despite his size (5-foot-9, 156), he has the bat speed and hand-eye coordination to produce extra-base power, and he has 33 extra-base hits this season.
WHAT TO EXPECT
If his Triple-A transition is any barometer, and that’s tough to judge, Betts might have a brief blip as he gains his bearings in the triple-deck stadiums of the majors. His defense might suffer as he adjusts to the higher, brighter stadium lights.
Some scouts have tagged his hit tool with a 70 on the 20-80 scale.
It’s unlikely Boston is bringing up Betts for a cameo; the release of Sizemore cleared a space for Betts. As far as fantasy owners, his position versatility helps, especially as many leagues will let you put him at second base immediately. He has shown a proficiency for stolen bases, with an 87-percent success rate in his minor league career (88 of 101). He’s one of the most promising callups will see this season, both for immediate fantasy impact and long-term production. The fact that he’ll qualify as a second baseman in many leagues (because he’s played so much second base in the minors) will be an added asset.