It's time for Red Sox to give Mookie Betts a try

Rob Bradford
June 22, 2014 - 4:30 am

The Red Sox are 75 games into the season. Why is that so important? Because we are now officially deep enough into 2014 to make clear decisions as to what is going to work, and what isn't. If some of the key Red Sox were producing to last year's levels, the conversations might be different. You could carry Jackie Bradley's bat. You might be able to supplant A.J. Pierzynski with a more defensive-minded backstop. Heck, Grady Sizemore could even still be given some rope while returning to the majors. But the reality is that these Red Sox have to put their best foot forward -- whatever that may be -- yesterday. There simply aren't going to be a whole bunch of changes on this team even with the mandate to act now. Mike Napoli (he of the .196 batting average with runners in scoring position) is at first base. Dustin Pedroia (3-for-32 with runners in scoring position and two outs) is at second. Stephen Drew (hitting .158 with a .200 on-base percentage) mans shortstop. Xander Bogaerts (the worst on the team with runners in scoring postion, .141) will be riding out his current slump at third base. And even though Pierzynski is totaling just a .659 OPS, the narrative is that his subpar ability as a receiver has to be overlooked because of his offensive potential (particularly against right-handed pitching). David Ortiz is doing his David Ortiz thing (despite a .249 batting average), leading the team with an .820 OPS. In the outfield, Daniel Nava has shown signs of life. Brock Holt is changing the way we look at baseball. And Jonny Gomes allows for a much-needed threat vs. lefty pitching. That brings us to Bradley and Mookie Betts. Prior to the Red Sox' loss Saturday, Sox manager John Farrell offered unsolicited praise for Betts, the infielder/outfielder who is rocketing through the minors while offering the organization its greatest positional hope. "I don't have a real update on that as of yet," Farrell told reporters when asked about Andres Torres' progress. "I know Mookie Betts is swinging the bat well." The manager then added, "I'm not suggesting anything, other than we recognize and watch what he's doing daily. The fact that he's in Triple-A, he's clearly on the radar." Radar shouldn't even be needed anymore. There should be an arrival. According to a scout who has seen Betts quite a bit of late, the 21 year old, "has impressive plate discipline and surprising pop," going on to qualify it by comparing the Triple-A performance to what Bradley produced with the PawSox last season. Betts is currently hitting .319 with an .875 OPS and five steals with Pawtucket. Regarding his work in his newfound home in the outfield, another scout said Betts has been getting turned around a bit on fly balls in the outfield, but his speed has been making up for the miscues. So, why leap ahead and call-up Betts well before anybody projected when presenting a timeline earlier this season? He is what is best for this team. Bradley most likely will be a good major leaguer. He just isn't one right now, and the Red Sox can't afford to hit this period of the season with such an offensive liability. With last season's bats? Maybe. But Bradley has become a player who they can only match up against pitchers without decent fastballs, while hoping his defensive acumen will make up for one of the worst offensive showings of any regular position player in the majors this season. (A quick note on Bradley: he is actually hitting .348 when putting the first pitch in play, just .146 after falling behind 0-1.) At this time last year, the lowest OPS of any regular was Drew's .681. That is just about 1oo points higher than what Bradley is toting (and better than half of this season's team). Betts impressed the Red Sox coaching staff in spring training with his poise while playing with the big leaguers, and his ability to make contact. His speed is another bonus, allowing Farrell to ease back toward the way he likes to play, with aggression on the basepaths. He is a right-handed hitter who has shown the ability to hit any sort of pitchers (having actually drawn all 10 of his walks in Pawtucket off of righty hurlers). Shane Victorino could return soon, but judging by his recent physical setbacks more answers need to be explored. Betts isn't a savior, but he does represent a much-needed step in the right direction. The Red Sox could use a bunch of those kind of steps right about now. [poll id=84]