Coming into this season, there were few signs that second baseman Mookie Betts was headed for a breakout year. Drafted out of high school in the fifth round in 2011, he struggled at the plate for the short season Lowell Spinners in 2012. His first few weeks this season for the Low A Greenville Drive were no different, and he went into May hitting .157/.333/.286 with little power.
Suddenly, it all changed. He caught fire in May, putting up a ludicrous .356/.472/.663 line with 13 doubles, 6 home runs and eight stolen bases. The power was the most surprising part, as he had more extra base hits in May than in his minor league career to that point.
Some hot streaks are fueled by unsustainable BABIP numbers (I’m looking at you Jose Iglesias). Betts’ BABIP for the season is .295, a reasonable number for a speedy player. This suggests his success at the plate may be sustainable and not a fluke. His line drive percentage has increased from 15% in Lowell to 18% this season, so he just seems to be making more solid contact. Drafted out of high school, he is also still young for the level, one of the youngest players on the team.
Betts has continued to hit after his insane hot streak, and his season line now stands at .282/.407/.491. So now that he has burst onto the prospect scene, what can we expect from Mookie Betts going forward besides a great name?
The best skill he has shown at the plate so far is a patient approach. Even when he wasn’t hitting much at Lowell and at the beginning of this season, he was walking more than he was striking out. This trend has continued, and for his minor league career over 132 games he has 78 walks and 60 strikeouts. He also shows good contact skills at the plate, with a strikeout rate of only 11%.
Betts’ speed is also an asset. He stole 20 bases in Lowell and was only caught four times, and this season has 14 steals while only being thrown out once. His scouting report on SoxProspects.com also refers to him as a plus defender at second base.
His patience, speed and defense are all positives, but his size limits his upside. Despite the eight home runs so far this season, he’s listed at 5’9” and 156 pounds, and doesn’t have a frame that suggests he will add much weight. So he projects as more of a gap hitter than someone who will hit for a ton of power.
Players like Dustin Pedroia and Jose Altuve have shown that size at second base isn’t necessarily a limiting factor as long as you hit. You might even say they’ve lowered the bar for the position (yes that’s a height joke). Betts’ dream ceiling/projection would be a combo of those two players, a high on base contact hitter with excellent speed and defensive capabilities but limited power.
That’s the dream scenario, and one he may be unlikely to reach. He’s obviously a long way off from that projection, and will need to show that he can continue to hit at each and every level as he faces more advanced pitching. Still, it has been an exciting season so far for a player who wasn’t even on the prospect radar coming into 2013.