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Mookie Betts has received ample attention from the baseball blogosphere in recent years, as he’s the embodiment of many sabermetric fantasies. He displays patience at the plate. He doesn’t strike out much. He hits for average. He hits for power at a premium defensive position. He is above average defensively. He’s also dangerous on the basepaths. All of that resulted in a five-win season as a 22-year-old.

As such, Betts ranked as the 12th-best fantasy outfielder in 2015—ahead of guys like Andrew McCutchen, Carlos Gonzalez, and Justin Upton. It may have not been his rookie campaign, but it still proved to be a beautiful full-season debut for the Tennessee native. For fantasy purposes, though, it’s important both to breakdown his past performance and to project his future performance. After all, the Fantasy Team is most interested in preparing y’all for upcoming fantasy drafts.

WHAT WENT RIGHT IN 2015?
In short, a lot. He hit .291/.341/.479 with 18 homers and 21 homers, scoring 92 runs and knocking in 77 baserunners. He provided value in categories across the board, something that is coveted in the early rounds.

What impressed me most about Betts, though, was that he experienced failure. Media outlets saddled the youngster with arguably unfair expectations, so when he spun his wheels with a .246/.304/.389 slash line at the end of May, it would’ve been understandable for him to press and to extend his slump throughout the entire season. But Betts did not. He rebounded in a big way, hitting .315/.361/.525 from June 2nd to October 4th. It shows a lot when young players face adversity and deal with it midseason. Perhaps it was simply the law of averages—he did have a .258 BABIP through the first two months—but I gravitate toward young players who are tough-minded and persistent. Betts had every chance to crash and burn in 2015, and refused to do so. I dig that.

Moreover, young players often struggle against advanced secondary pitches at the big-league level. They feast on mistakes and fastballs throughout the minors. In the majors, though, opposing pitchers possess a level of stuff, command, and consistency that simply isn’t present in the minors. It’s understandable that young players have trouble adjusting—and some never successfully do so.

Betts absolutely demolished the most-common offspeed pitches in 2015 (courtesy of Brooks Baseball):

Pitch

Count

BAA

SLG

ISO

BABIP

Four-seam

1046

.274

.513

.239

.272

Sinker

451

.241

.362

.121

.252

Change

162

.382

.529

.147

.433

Slider

424

.378

.622

.245

.429

Curve

218

.368

.553

.184

.433

Cutter

200

.225

.367

.143

.244

Whether it was a changeup, slider or curveball, Mookie Betts lit it up a year ago. That bodes well for his future batting averages, as well as his power production. If anything, we could point to his struggles against sinkers and cutters, but it’s difficult to parse why he’d perform worse against sinkers than four-seamers, or worse against cutters than sliders. There are reasons, to be sure, but it’s also conceivable that we’re talking about nothing but small sample sizes throughout the entire chart. Still, with the data available to us and the power (which isn’t as likely to be dependent on BABIP), it paints an encouraging picture from the 2015 season.

WHAT WENT WRONG IN 2015?
Three bad months. Betts was feast or famine in many ways, and the easy explanation appears to be his BABIP. He hit below .260 in three months—April, May, and July—and didn’t have a BABIP above .261 in any of those months. That’s far different than his minor-league numbers, and even his major-league numbers. Then again, maybe it wasn’t just bad luck. His infield-fly percentages were over 10 percent in each of those months, as opposed to 4.8 percent and 6.9 percent in June and August, respectively. Perhaps poor contact was the culprit, rather than simple random variance. It’s probably a combination of the two, if we’re being honest.

It’s tough to nail down too many other areas of struggle, though. It’s surprising that he only swiped 21 bags when he had 40 in 2014 and 38 in 2013, but that seems nitpicky. His walk rate dropped from his minor-league norms, but that should be expected in the majors. I dunno, he was a five-win player and a top-15 fantasy outfielder at just 22. I don’t think too much went wrong.

WHAT TO EXPECT IN 2016
Betts lost the leadoff role for a brief time to Dustin Pedroia, but he led off in 37 of the team’s last 39 games. It’s safe to assume that he’ll occupy the one-slot for the Red Sox in 2016, which bodes well for his run and stolen-base totals. He’s a safe bet for 90-plus runs and 20-plus steals, which, by itself, is extremely valuable in fantasy circles. Throw in a quality batting average, and he becomes a top-25 option.

The question is whether the 18-homer power is legit. He finished the season with 15 homers in 2013 and 16 homers in 2014, so it seems reasonable that he could be expected to provide 15-plus long balls on an annual basis. He also posted an average velocity of 91.16 mph on balls put in play., which ranked 49th among 345 players who put at least 100 balls in play, so that also suggests the double-digit power expectations are reasonable. Add in the friendly home park—where he compiled a .887 OPS compared to just a .756 OPS on the road—and it all seems to shape up quite well.

This all paints a rosy picture—too rosy of a picture for my taste, but I’m having trouble cobbling together a counter argument—but it’s going to cost a pretty penny on draft day. Betts is currently being drafted as the sixth-overall outfielder. That honestly feels right if this is really what he is. And I don’t have much to say against it, other than it all feels too easy, but I suspect it often does for the stars of the league.

THE GREAT BEYOND
He’ll always be in the shadow of guys like Mike Trout, Bryce Harper, and Giancarlo Stanton, but Betts has a real chance to be a perennial top-10 fantasy outfielder for the foreseeable future. If he refines his approach against big-league pitchers and taps into a bit more power, he could be even more, but we gotta pump the brakes somewhere.

Betts is a potential 15/25 gold mine in the coming years. Only four players did that a year ago—Charlie Blackmon, A.J. Pollock, Jose Altuve, and Lorenzo Cain—and they were all top-20 players overall. So, yeah, Betts has a chance to be decent. If you’re into that kinda thing.