Everyone loves Mookie Betts, myself included. But everyone has also been very quick to point out Betts’ apparently ‘blocked’ path to the Major Leagues. Most Boston fans probably love Dustin Pedroia just a little bit more and they know that he’ll be around for a long time. So, where does that leave Mookie?
Well, Boston Brass decided that Betts will see time in the outfield in order to expand his versatility and (hopefully) find him a permanent residence. Betts, until earlier this season had played only two positions in his entire professional career, shortstop and second base. Now, Betts is manning a position, centerfield, which he hasnt played since his high school days. In addition to center, Betts will also get some reps in both left and right in an effort to keep him flexible.
Betts is an outstanding athlete, who had impressive range at second and other decent defensive abilities. His athleticism and speed should play well in the outfield, and it isnt a question that his bat will likely carry him should he maintain his current pace. But, with Jackie Bradley theoretically in for the long haul, Shane Victorino around for another year and potentially Garin Cecchini settling in the outfield, there may not be a home for Betts out there either.
Furthermore, I detest the designated hitter as the Red Sox currently employ it. I love David Ortiz and all, but all he does is hit, there’s no other value there except for his clubhouse leadership/presence. Recently, it looks like there has been some kind of a shift away from ‘primary’ designated hitters. Okay, there are teams that use one guy, like the Red Sox, the Tigers or the White Sox but, I don’t think it is anywhere near as common as it could or even used to be. A lot of designated hitters have at least the positional flexibility to play first base or even right field.
But then, you have your Athletics and your Rays who basically use whoever they fancy on any given day. Whoever’s bat they need to get in the lineup is in the lineup. Basically, they have the ability to give any one of their guys a day out of the field, without losing any of the production. Now, say Dustin Pedroia needs a day off. You either lose his bat, or start him at DH and lose Big Papi’s. Neither situation is ideal.
So, now, what to do with Mookie.
Here’s my answer. Ben Zobrist plays for the Rays, and yes, we all hate the Rays. But, the Red Sox and statistics love versatility. Heck, the Sox are working Brock Holt out at first and in the outfield for versatility’s sake. Zobrist on the other hand is the definition of versatility, having seen time at every position outside of pitcher and catcher in his nine major league seasons. Say all you want about small sample size and everything, but hey Zobrist played every position in 2009, a year when he was eighth in the MVP vote.
Zobrist is a pretty average defender, so Mookie has him there, and Mookie probably has enough athletic ability to handle every single position on the diamond (disregarding pitcher and catcher). In Zobrist, I’m talking about a guy who doesnt hit over .300 and yet, the guy is the MLB’s leader in WAR since 2009 according to Baseball-Reference.com. This year alone, Zobrist has seen time at four positions, including designated hitter.
Zobrist has had two years in which his WAR was above eight. Not to shabby if you ask me. Just imagine Mookie Betts, the .300+ hitter, with the defensive ability to play all over the place. That’s a really special player. That’s a player who makes tens of millions of dollars on the open market. Granted, Mookie might flame out. The size might become an issue (though he may always be able to play above his height thanks to his athleticism) or some other problem may arise. Above-eight WAR players are exceedingly rare and who knows if Mookie can even reach those lofty heights. But if Zobrist can do it sub-.300, I have every reason to believe that Mookie can too.