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Could Mookie Betts Save the Red Sox Outfield?

Last year top Red Sox prospect Xander Bogaerts took an expedited path to a late August call up to the majors.   At the age of 20 Bogaerts joined the Red Sox after only 73 career games at AA (where Bogaerts was nearly five years younger than the average player) and 60 career games at AAA.  Bogaerts only played ten total games at third base before being called up to man the hot corner in Boston.

As quickly as Bogaerts path to the Majors was, Red Sox prospect Mookie Betts may be on an even faster track to the big leagues in 2014.  Betts has played in only 257 total Games at the minor league level, but his numbers have been outstanding. Prior to his recent promotion to AAA-Pawtucket, Betts posted a remarkable .355/.443/.551 line in 253 plate appearances for AA-Portland.  Betts was a fifth-round draft pick in 2011 and no one could have ever expected the 5’9, 156-pound infielder would hit his way to becoming one of the best prospects in the Red Sox system.  With Pedroia and Bogaerts expected to lock down the Sox middle infield for years to come, Betts appeared to be blocked and far away from a major league assignment until the Red Sox decided to start playing him in the outfield this season.  Betts is currently splitting time between second base and centerfield at Pawtucket, where he is hitting .333 with a home run in his first 20 plate appearances.   With Jackie Bradley, Grady Sizemore, and Daniel Nava all struggling offensively, and Mike Carp and Shane Victorino on the disabled list, Betts could be the spark in the outfield the Sox are sorely lacking.

John Farrell’s sometimes questionable, tactical decision-making has seemed to carry over from last year’s post season to the lineup construction of the current team.  Farrell recently named Johnny Gomes his full-time starter in left field (despite a horrific .169/.247/.296 line against right-handed pitching this year).  Not only is Gomes poor against righties, he’s also a weak defensive outfielder.  Playing him every day supersedes any value gained from his impressive .303./.425/.486 line against lefties.   I wouldn’t be surprised to see Betts playing in the Boston outfield by August as he has virtually paralleled the minor league trajectory of Bogaerts last year.  With 81 minor league stolen bases and a career .406 OBP, Betts could be a nice option to hit at the top of the Sox lineup.  Betts has yet to make an error in the outfield this year and his bat could be a considerable upgrade over Bradley Jr. in center or Gomes in left versus righties.  The parity in baseball this season with so many teams hovering around .500 has weakened the trade market.  Most teams (aside from a select few) are still in contention for one of the two wild card spots, so trading for an additional outfielder could be costly and complicated.  Betts may be the Red Sox best option and as Bogaerts proved last year, rushing a prospect to the majors doesn’t always end in disaster.  With Sizemore and Gomes impending free agency, a summer call-up for Betts could be exactly what the Sox outfield is missing.