In the second half of the abysmal 2014 season, the Boston Red Sox called up second baseman Markus Lynn “Mookie” Betts. The 21-year old was one of very few bright spots of that forgettable season. The kid raised many eyebrows as he batted .291, drove in 18 runs and stole seven bases in just 52 games. But the Sox already had a quality second baseman in veteran Dustin Pedroia, a former MVP and Rookie of the Year.
Red Sox management had a simple solution to this dilemma. Move Mookie to the outfield. The kid had great speed, a strong and accurate throwing arm and great defensive instincts. The move turned out to be a good one as he very quickly became a fine outfielder.
In the 2015 season, Mookie began to make a name for himself. He put together a very solid full season ending with a .291 average, 18 home runs, 42 doubles, 77 RBI and 21 steals. In 2016, Mookie took another huge stride towards greatness, truly one of the very best players in the entire league as a 23-year-old kid. In only his second full MLB season, he batted .318, scored 122 runs (2nd in MLB), recorded 214 hits (2nd in MLB), smacked 42 doubles, 31 home runs, drove in 113 runs (5th in MLB) and stole 26 bases. He finished 2nd in WAR ( 9.6) only behind Mike Trout’s 10.6 mark.
This incredible season landed him second in the MVP race behind the aforementioned Mike Trout. He started for the 2016 AL All Star team and won both the Golden Glove and Silver Slugger award. This impressive season launched him into elite player status. His name began to be mentioned with Mike Trout, Manny Machado, Nolan Arenado and Kris Bryant in conversation about the elite young players in the MLB. Some talked about him as the new face of baseball.
From elite to beat? Not so fast…
The 2017 season arrived and expectations for Mookie were through the roof. The mouths of Red Sox fans watered in anticipation and excitement. The city eagerly waited for the start of the season to watch Mookie put together another MVP-level season. However, here we are in mid/late August and Mookie is batting just .265 with 18 home runs and his OPS (.787) is down .110 points from last year. With no love lost for Mookie from his fans, many are concerned that he may have peaked last year, considering this to be a down year.
I would like to help those concerned individuals feel a little better about this so-called down year and show you why Red Sox Nation is so blessed to have this guy. Mookie needs just three more steals and two more home runs to become a 20/20 guy this year. He leads the AL batting average with runners in scoring position at a .382 clip. he has 76 RBI (while predominantly batting lead-off). To put into perspective that’s only four fewer than Aaron Judge. Not only is Mookie well above average in many offensive statistics this year, but he has also been phenomenal defensively as his Defensive Wins Above Replacement rating is at 2.54, 2nd in the MLB behind only Andrelton Simmons.
Betting on Mookie
Yes, Mookie may not be putting together another MVP type season like last year. But he is certainly an extremely valuable asset to say the least. His numbers are so far off his capabilities but he still ranks towards the top of the league in a wide variety of categories, proof that he is an exceptional player. I am nothing but excited to see what kind of bounce-back season this young man can put together. Fear not, Red Sox Nation. We are fortunate to have this guy, an All Star starter even with a ‘down year.’ While the kid’s numbers may be down, the quick hands, blazing speed, relentless attitude and patented snarl are here to stay.