The Boston Red Sox have apparently come to an inevitable conclusion in this 2014 season that their hottest prospect was going to have to change position if he wanted to see the major leagues. Second baseman Mookie Betts, who is leading the Eastern League in batting with a .383 average (coming into today’s game), played center field for the Portland Sea Dogs, the Red Sox’ Double-A affiliate.
Betts, 21, has been tearing up the minor leagues since last season began after not showing a lot in his first two pro seasons after being a fifth round draft pick in 2011. Betts had solid numbers playing for Lowell in the New York-Penn League in 2012, hitting .267/.352/.307 with 20 stolen bases but, as you can tell from that slash line, he didn’t hit for much power, producing only a .040 ISO with eight doubles, one triple and no home runs.
Last season, however, something clicked with Betts and he started getting far more power out of his 5-foot-9 frame. Betts began the season in Class-A Greenville and finished in High-A Salem, combining for a .314/.417/.506 line with 36 doubles, four triples and 15 home runs, showing a massive uptick in power to go with his already excellent speed, swiping 38 bags.
The jump to Double-A doesn’t appear to have affected Betts at all; the Tennessee native is hitting .383/.452/.591 with 18 steals and six home runs already in 177 plate appearances and . Incredibly, his walk rate is up and his strikeout rate is down from his numbers in High-A Salem last year and he could be on a fast track to Triple-A Pawtucket within the next month.
So where’s the problem? The Red Sox are extremely well stocked for prospects in the infield. With Will Middlebrooks and Xander Bogaerts already in the bigs and Garin Cecchini hitting well in Triple-A Pawtucket, the left side of the infield is set for the Boston Red Sox.
Of course, anyone even passingly familiar with the Boston Red Sox’ lineup will know that another diminutive second baseman, Dustin Pedroia, is a fixture at the position and one of the club’s most important pieces. He’s signed until 2021 with $96.5 million remaining on his contract. To make this story short, Pedroia isn’t going anywhere and if Betts continues to do what he’s been doing in the minors, he’s going to have to find somewhere else to play. Sure, there’s another top prospect in his way in center field in Jackie Bradley, Jr., but, since the Sox are fairly convinced that Betts isn’t going to take time away from Xander Bogaerts at shortstop and his arm isn’t strong enough for third, center field it will have to be for now.
Mookie Betts, meet center field.