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May 1, 2014

Prospects Will Break Your Heart

What Did I Miss: Mookie Betts

by Jason Parks


I was first introduced to Mookie Betts on a baseball field back in 2012. It was the New York-Penn League, and the setting was pleasant even if most of the talent would eventually need to buy a ticket to participate in a major-league game. Betts was small and thin, and I didn’t pay much attention to him other than to highlight his name because he was drafted relatively high in the 2011 class and that alone is enough to justify a deeper look in the late-round mecca that is short-season ball. That was my first offseason to rank prospects, and Betts didn’t sniff the Red Sox top 10 list, and I don’t recall his name coming up in the discussion for the “On the Rise” candidates either. We ranked Bryce Brentz over Betts, if that gives you any indication how far off our radar Betts was at the time.

After a strong start in Low-A in 2013, Betts was promoted to High-A Salem, where I was in the right place at the right time to watch his first Carolina League experience. At the time I was too busy salivating over Blake Swihart’s skill set and pissing on Brandon Jacobs’ profile to appreciate Betts, whom I considered a catalytic player of limited upside based on that initial series, but I was intrigued enough to keep regular tabs on his performance through a scout friend who had him in his coverage area that season. What I saw at the time—in the obviously small sample—was a player with more than enough athleticism to stand out, but the strength dilemma and overall profile gave me initial pause and no doubt influenced the utility profile I bestowed upon him. His range at second stood out the most, as he seemed to cover the entire right side of the infield by himself, with silky actions to go along with the bag-to-bag range. In infield drills the arm played fine, and in game action the arm looked even more impressive on the double-play turn, as he put more than enough mustard on the ball while coming across his body with a runner barreling into his mix. Betts could play second base, but I wanted him to be a shortstop because I love shortstops and I prefer shortstops, and I judged him for the positional assignment like I judge vegetarians for not eating bacon.

Betts finished the 2013 season strong, and carried over his Carolina League triumphs by turning even the most pessimistic heads in the prospect-heavy Arizona Fall League, where the bat started looking more like a future major leaguer than a guy just beating up on lower-level arms. With all this information at my disposal, Betts still failed to crack the Baseball Prospectus 101 but he did find a home on the Red Sox top 10 list, coming in at number eight, behind Henry Owens (a player I’m not very high on), Swihart, and Allen Webster. Betts has rewarded my lack of faith by physically assaulting the Eastern League to start the 2014 season (which I was able to witness), hitting over .400, showing over-the-fence pop, and stealing bases at a productive clip. While I'm not unique in the scouting miss, his strong production accompanied by strong scouting reports has magnified my miscue, as Betts is looking like a lock for the mid-season top 50, a distinction I wouldn’t have even considered possible based on my initial looks at the player.

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Related Content:  Boston Red Sox,  Scouting,  Minor Leagues,  Prospsects

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<< Previous Article
Premium Article PECOTA Takes on Prospe... (05/01)
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Prospects Will Break Y... (04/30)
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