Does Mookie Betts Take The Red Sox Center Field Job And Run?
When interviewing Mookie Betts 16-months ago, the Nashville, Tennessee native joked about brain farts at shortstop and beamed about his first (and maybe last) professional home run. 31 round trippers later and the top-100 prospect is likely to receive a long look in center field after Jackie Bradley Jr. fell flat offensively. Having scouted Betts within a week of being promoted, is the 21-year old ready to flash the well-rounded set of skills displayed at the minor league level?
Standing 5-foot-9, 156 pounds, Mookie Betts presents as a player who swims in his uniform. At first glance, size is a concern as it’s difficult to project durability in slight framed players. However, the converted second baseman possesses excellent body control and fluid baseball movements. In game situations, he’s able to be aggressive on the field while minimizing risk of injury unlike an Adam Eaton or Bryce Harper who have a habit of finding outfield walls. If Mookie Betts can reach 170-175 pounds without losing a step or two, the 5th round pick will be able to withstand the rigors of a full MLB season.
On a fastball in on the hands, Betts whipped the bat head through the zone, smoking a line drive to center field. While most players will cheat and pull off the ball, resulting in a 6-3 ground out, the right-handed hitters elite bat speed and hand control allowed for much more. In another plate appearance, he fouled off multiple 1-2 and 2-2 pitches before managing a fly ball to right field to advance a runner to third base with 0 out. And while the box score reads F9, it was an impressive example of bat control. It’s the first (and probably last) future 70 hit tool scouted in 2014.
One concern with Mookie Betts is his walk rate fell off of a cliff at the MLB level in his initial call up. Like Marcus Semien, Billy Hamilton and countless others, MLB pitchers attack players with limited power projection, making them earn their proverbial stripes before becoming respected hitters. It will take time for Betts to command the strike zone at the game’s highest level, but his elite ability to barrel the baseball will result in enough pop to keep pitchers honest. As this happens, opposing pitchers will be less likely to attack the zone and force Betts to make them pay.
In batting practice, Mookie Betts possesses fringe average raw power. And while home runs don’t come in bunches, it’s easy to project the future top-of-the-order hitter as a 15-18 home run threat through his prime. Why? hitters with an innate ability to barrel baseballs hit more balls harder than the average player. The result is an unexpected amount of home runs — especially when the hitter is able to limit strikeouts.
New to center field, Betts’ routes are still rough around the edges. However, he has a strong first step and closes on batted balls well. A plus runner, he’s able to cover the gaps and nearly caught up to a ball in the right-center field gap he had no business coming close to. On a shallow fly ball, Mookie Betts charged, caught the ball off the knee and gunned a strike to home plate to throw out a runner.
With 34 steals in 42 attempts, Betts is a plus runner with the ability to steal 30-plus bases at the MLB level. Present speed has a positive impact on every aspect of his game and props up the profile.
Based on future MLB value, Mookie Betts sits alongside Gregory Polanco (Scouting Report) and David Dahl (Scouting Report) as the most projectable players scouted this season. Blessed with an up-the-middle athletic profile and electric hand speed, Betts is a future .300 hitting center fielder with defensive chops to boot. For comparison’s sake, Denard Span has been worth 3.2 WAR through 113 games while Michael Brantley has accumulated 4.9 WAR in 119. With Betts’ power expected to fall somewhere in the middle, the Red Sox top prospect has the ability to develop into one of the game’s finest.
Tool Present Future Projected Role Star level center fielder Hitting Ability 50 70 Power 35 50 Speed 60 60 Fielding Ability 45 60 Arm 50 50
Owning Mookie Betts
With the ability to hit .300 with 15 home runs and 30 stolen bases, the top-100 prospect has the potential to develop into an impact fantasy baseball bat with a broad set of skills. And while this is valuable, understand the drop in home runs across MLB has made them much more valuable in 5×5 formats, lowering Betts’ dollar value in auction leagues. This shift in 5×5 auction values was discussed in a previous ROTOscouting piece. So while coveting Mookie Betts is logical, flipping him for Miguel Sano at a low point makes sense too.
19 Aug 2014 / Mike Newman / 2
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