As the disappointing 2014 season wears on, Boston Red Sox fans are scrambling for answers, looking for the quick fix that will get the team back on the right track. Something that comes with the territory of being a bottom-feeding club in Boston.
One possible name thrown out there has been prospect Mookie Betts.
A fifth-round pick in the 2011 MLB Draft, the 21-year-old Tennessee kid has exploded on the scene over the past two seasons. After hitting .314 with a .923 OPS, 15 home runs, 65 RBIs and stealing 38 bases in 2013, Betts has hit .343 with a .961 OPS, 28 extra base hits, 36 RBIs and stolen 22 bases between Double- and Triple-A.
In a system full of bright young stars, Betts is among the brightest. But can he help the big club in 2014? Can he join the varsity and inject a youthful spark into the team, like Jacoby Ellsbury in 2007, Will Middlebrooks in 2012 or Xander Bogaerts in 2013?
One can make the case that Betts could add his name to that list of youngsters who came up and made an impact in the middle of the season. He’s built himself into a rhythm, and likely has the I-can-put-the-world-on-my-shoulders confidence, as he should. Betts has put together two great seasons, making an impact at all three minor-league levels.
But banking on Betts riding up 95 from Pawtucket on a white horse and saving Boston’s 2014 campaign could be dangerous thinking. Jumping the gun and taking a leap of faith on Betts could add to the list of woes in 2014, and potentially hinder what looks to be a bright future.
Judging by Betts’ performance Tuesday afternoon in Pawtucket, a 4-3 PawSox win over the Louisville Bats in extra innings, the kid still needs more seasoning after 290 plate appearances above Single-A.
Yes, Betts did manage to reach base once again, something he has managed to do in all eight games since being called up from Double-A Portland, with an RBI-single in the seventh inning. But holes were shown as well.
For example, his performance at the plate with runners in scoring position, an area the Red Sox have struggled mightily in 2014. Betts had an aggregate five runners on second or third, spread out between three of the five at-bats he had on the day. Just one was picked up, when he singled in Shannon Wilkerson in the seventh. He came to the plate in the second inning with the bases fully occupied, but grounded into a fielder’s choice to end the inning. He had Wilkerson and Garin Cecchini on second and third, respectively, in the eighth and the game tied at three. A base hit would have likely given the PawSox a two-run lead. But Betts popped out to first harmlessly in foul territory on the second pitch of the at-bat.
His approach with two strikes was alarming.
In his first at-bat of the afternoon, Betts took a 2-1 offering from Louisville starter Brett Marshall for a strike to even the count at 2-2. He then swung at a bad pitch inside, flying out to center field. At the plate in the second with the bases loaded, he fell behind 0-2 before grounding into a fielder’s choice to end the inning.
He fell behind 0-1 in the eighth before popping out on the second pitch, getting little of the Jumbo Diaz offering.
There’s no doubt that Betts is capable of being a very good major-league player. He’s shown signs of it since beginning his professional career in 2011. He’s shown flashes of it since being called up to Pawtucket last week. He showed flashes of it today.
But there’s issues that must be addressed before the prospect is ready to face major-league pitching.