How Good Can Mookie Betts Be in 2015?
Boston's high-priced Cuban import Rusney Castillo, (you know, the guy who signed a seven-year, $72.5 million contract and hit .333/.400/.528 with 2 homers in 40 plate appearances last year) seemed like he would be the team's starting center fielder to start the season, which meant that Betts would probably have been sent down to the minors for at least at the start of the year or be a bench player for the first few months.
But that's not the direction the Red Sox went.
They chose... wisely.
Betts had himself a game for the ages against the Washington Nationals on Monday, going 2-for-5 with a homer, two runs scored, four RBI, and two stolen bases (both on the same play). He also robbed Bryce Harper of a homer. His day is capsulized nicely below.
Here he is stealing second and, seeing that no one was covering third because of a defensive shift, took third as well.
And then he did this very bad thing to a baseball.
It was Betts' first true breakout moment this year, even though he does have a hit in five of his six games played in 2015.
He is 8 for 35 on the season (small sample size warnings apply, of course), hitting .229/.282/.457 with two homers, eight RBIs, two doubles, and four runs scored. That comes off a decent 2014 season in which he hit .291/.368/.444 with five homers, seven stolen bases, and perhaps most impressively, a 9.9% walk rate and a 14.6% strikeout rate in 213 plate appearances.
Last year, Betts was worth almost two wins above replacement in just 52 games.
Oh, and remember that catch in center field shown above? He only started playing center field regularly last season.
Betts has been a star in the making for some time. He hit .335/.417/.503 with a Weighted Runs Created (wRC+) of 158 in 211 Triple-A plate appearances last season and put up a .335/.443/.551 slash line with a wRC+ of 177 in Double-A last year as well.
You can see why the Red Sox were reluctant to trade him this offseason despite the signing of Castillo.
Of course, there is still lots of season to be played, and one good game does not make a season. But our numbers like the second-year man to continue to improve, projecting him to hit .281/.355/.425 with 10 home runs and 21 stolen bases by year's end.
And given what we saw on Monday, there's reason to believe he'll either meet or exceed those expectations.
Go ahead, Mookie. Keep on baseballing.