I wrote my first Mookie Betts article for Fire Brand in June of last year after he had sustained his breakout performance at Low A in Greenville for a few months. I wrote at that time that his dream projection was “a high on base contact hitter with excellent speed and defensive capabilities but limited power”. He’s actually exceeded what I considered an optimistic projection, since he’s hit with surprising extra base power at every level.
At the beginning of May in 2013, Betts was hitting .157 for the Low A Greenville Drive. He had only 13 extra base hits in 325 at bats, and his only successes had been at getting on base and stealing some bags when he reached base. A little over a year later, he’s made the major league club in one of the most unbelievable prospect ascents in recent memory.
Each time he earned a promotion, he responded with a massive performance. After his promotion to High A Salem, he hit .385 for the month of August and propelled the Salem Red Sox to the Carolina League title. This season he started the year at Double A Portland with a ridiculous .430 average in April.
Since May 1st of last year, he’s hit .343 with 21 home runs, 64 stolen bases and 113 walks to 81 strikeouts. That’s with four different minor league teams, from Low A to Triple A, a dominant stretch that has propelled him into the majors before his 22nd birthday.
This stretch of play, equivalent to roughly one year of baseball, propelled Mookie’s rapid rise to the big leagues. This seems to be a unique time frame, for his promotion to happen so quickly. Prospect watchers were given advanced notice on Xander Bogaerts, who then spent almost three full seasons in the minors. By the time most people had heard of Mookie Betts, he was already near the majors.
Of course, the poor play by the team in general and the outfielders in particular certainly speeded up his promotion. The struggles of Jackie Bradley Jr. led to Mookie’s shift from second base to center field, defensive versatility that could help Mookie going forward.
Many envision his role as a super-utility type player like Ben Zobrist or 2014 Red Sox hero Brock Holt. On offense, he resembles a blend of two other diminutive second basemen, Dustin Pedroia and Jose Altuve. He’s speedy like Altuve, but he shows power and on base potential similar to Pedroia.
Even the best prospects face adjustments at the major league level (yes, even ones as great as Xander Bogaerts). Mookie’s success each time he faced a new level of competition makes me optimistic that he will continue to excel even as he faces premier opponents. The hope is that this major league cameo is only a precursor to a long major league career for this exciting prospect.