Mookie Betts Is Looking Every Bit Like the AL MVP

Since his first appearance on the MVP ballot three years ago, the question has notMookie Betts been if, but when Mookie Betts will take home one of the most coveted honors in Major League Baseball. Betts’ sophomore campaign in 2015 yielded a .291 batting average, 18 home runs, 77 runs batted in, and lots of optimism for this promising young outfielder.

In the following season, Mookie started turning heads and looked as deserving of the MVP as any. He drastically improved his numbers and played his way into his first All-Star Game as a starting outfielder. He also took home a Gold Glove, a Silver Slugger, and finished as the runner-up for American League MVP, falling just 45 points short of Mike Trout. His numbers regressed slightly in 2017 after batting a career-best .318 in 2016, but still returned to the All-Star Game and finished 6th in MVP voting. His play to begin the 2018 campaign has Mookie Betts emerging as a favorite to take home MVP honors at last.

Mookie Betts 2018 MVP?

Over the first eight games of the season, the Boston Red Sox were working on the best start in the history of the franchise. Mookie Betts’ bat, however, was nowhere to be found. After recording only one RBI on a lone solo home run in that eight-game span, Betts has since flipped the script entirely. In 31 games, the 25-year-old right fielder has swung his way into the league-lead for home runs (13), batting average (.360), runs (36), and slugging percentage (.825). This power surge has fueled Boston’s offense and helped the Red Sox maintain their top-two 25-10 record. It has also landed Mookie Betts in the history books.

On May 2nd, Betts returned to the starting lineup after hamstring tightness held him out for two games. Boston’s red-hot leadoff hitter picked up right where he left off. Betts hit three home runs for the second time this season, this time on a trio of solo dingers. The Red Sox’ 5-4 win against the Kansas City Royals was Betts’ fourth 3-HR game in his career, passing Ted Williams (3) for the most in franchise history.

No Signs of Mookie Monster Slowing Down

Just days after rejoining the lineup, Betts exited Sunday’s game when a throw from first base struck his right shoulder as he was heading to second base. This latest setback did not slow him down either, as he reprised his leadoff role in Boston’s next game on Tuesday. And he didn’t just return, he notched two hits against Yankee ace Luis Severino, including a clutch RBI triple that tied the game before the Yankees went back up for good.

Mookie Betts is on pace to hit over 60 home runs and drive in over 130 runs, out of the leadoff spot no less. He also leads the league in extra-base hits (26) and total bases (94). And with a spotless fielding percentage to top off his exceptional start to the season, he continues to prove himself as one of the most complete 5-tool players in Major League Baseball, and the early leader in the clubhouse for the American League MVP.

All Star Brock Holt Back in Sox Lineup

2015 All Star Brock Holt rejoined the Red Sox last week after taking time to recover from a concussion. The left fielder sustained his injury in early May after attempting to catch a line drive. Having Brock Holt back in the lineup couldn’t come at a more important time as Boston slips into third place. But what were his thoughts before rejoining Boston last week? I got to talk to Holt in late June in Pawtucket where I asked him how he felt.

“I’m feeling better,” Holt told me before a June 24th game against the Scranton/Wilkes Barre RailRiders. “It just feels good to be backBrock Holt back out here playing.” Like Holt, the Red Sox Nation has been eager to see the 2015 All Star get back in a uniform. But in recent years concussions like the one Holt sustained have been taken much more seriously. Recent studies show how much damage the brain sustains from concussions. These studies persuade doctors and trainers alike to be more cautious about rehab. This is why Holt took so long to get back to playing. Concussions can be scary for anyone, but not Holt.

“I wouldn’t say [it was] scary but it was just a weird thing to go through. Physically I felt fine. From the neck down I felt fine. From the neck up I didn’t. I knew something was wrong. It’s something you need to get right before you start playing again. You don’t want it to linger.”

Red Sox Have Brock Holt Back in the Lineup

As Holt begins to transition back into playing, he’s already thinking about getting back to left field. “I’ve played outfield for the last few years now. It was a challenge at first. We do a lot of practice taking balls off the wall (Green Monster). It’s difficult to play left because of the wall but there’s also not a lot of room to cover. You kinda learn it. If a ball hits high off the wall it’ll bounce. If it’s lower then you don’t know where it’s gonna go. Line drives bounce harder. We do a lot of pregame work but it’s a tough wall to play.”

Having Brock Holt back in the lineup is already paying off. He hit a homer in a July 4th game against the Texas Rangers. The home run was his fifth hit in three games. In addition to his home run, Holt threw a runner out at home from left field that ended the fourth inning for the visiting Texas Rangers.

Will having Brock Holt back be enough to overcome their deficit in the American League East? One thing is for sure. It won’t hurt!

Xander Bogaerts is the Best Shortstop in Baseball

Xander Bogaerts is the best shortstop in the league and is overlooked by many. He came up in the Sox system and people marked him as a guy who had a 30 homer bat. The power hasn’t been there up to this stage in his career but even if he doesn’t develop into a power hitter, Bogaerts is as good as it gets in the batters box in baseball. While teammate Jackie Bradley Jr. has a 27 game hitting streak, some may not know that Bogaerts hasXander Bogaerts best shortstop the second longest hitting streak in baseball at 16 games.

Bogaerts has recorded a hit in 28 of his last 30 games and leads the American League in batting average at .346. During his hit streak he is hitting .403 with five doubles, three homers and four RBI’s. The most impressive part of the streak is the three homers. While Bogaerts was tabbed as a guy who had power potential down on the farm, that power has never shown at the big league level.

Is Bogaerts the Best Shortstop?

Many said Bogaerts could eventually develop into a 30 homer bat at a shortstop position where that type of power is very hard to come by. To put it in perspective, the last time a shortstop hit 30 homers in a season was in 2011, done so by Troy Tulowitzki and J.J Hardy. If Bogaerts ends up hitting 30 homers in multiple seasons, he may end up being one of the best offensive shortstops ever to play the game. Still 23 years old, Bogaerts could end up hitting in the 20-25 homer range at best. I do not see that happening until at least 25 years old though as he continues to evolve as a major league hitter. If the power doesn’t develop, what is Bogaerts potential?

Sox fans may remember a guy named Derek Jeter. When watching Bogaerts hit all I can think of is Jeter. They both spray the ball all over the field and are extremely tough to get out. The most homers Jeter hit in a season was 24, done so in 1999, his fifth season in the big leagues. Bogaerts is in his fourth season this year and will likely finish around 15-20 homers. Jeter got off to a faster start in his major league career than Bogaerts but Bogaerts figured it out last season having a better third season than Jeter had.

The comparison to Jeter may come off as far fetched but having the luxury of watching both of them play has been awesome and they are both very similar hitters offensively. Bogaerts still has a lot of time to cement his own legacy in the game and his great season last year followed by his torrid start this season should have Sox fans excited as we may have the new Jeter wearing number two in a Sox uniform.

Could Ortiz Match Williams In His Final At-Bat?

Few Hall of Famers can say that their final Major League at-bat was a memorable one. Mickey Mantle popped out to Red Sox shortstop Rico Petrocello in 1968, who by then was merely a shadow of the player he once was. Babe Ruth, playing his final year for the Boston Braves in 1935, grounded out, a less than stellar ending to a career that had all but turned into an embarrassment (A pinch runner often took Ruth’s place in his last season because he had become too heavy to run). Even our own Carl Yazstrezemski’s final at-bat was uninspiring as he popped out in the bottom of the seventh against the Indians in Ortiz Match Williams1983. Many in the Red Sox Nation are hoping that David Ortiz won’t go the way of Mantle, Ruth, and Yazstremski when he takes his last at bat this season. In fact, I’m hoping he’ll leave the game the same way Ted Williams did, but in the post-season instead  of the regular season.

Ted Williams, a.k.a. the Splendid Splinter, bid adieu to baseball on September 28th, 1960 when he hit a solo home run to center off of Baltimore’s Jack Fisher in the bottom of the eighth, giving the Sox the edge in a 5-4 win. No other Hall of Famer had ever homered in his last at-bat, and none to date have done it since (as far as I know). But that was in a year when the Red Sox weren’t playoff contenders (they finished 7th in the American League with a 65-89 record). So if the Red Sox make the playoffs this season after a two-year hiatus, Ortiz might not only leave the game in a memorable way of his own, but might do so at Fenway Park during the World Series, perhaps with a home run of his own.

Winning the World Series for Boston with a home run is a LONG shot for Ortiz, and many factors would have to align perfectly in order for there to even be a chance of that happening (If Ortiz pulled that off I’d push to have the Baseball Hall of Fame’s five-year waiting period waived so he could be inducted right away). But if the Sox reach the playoffs, then Ortiz will have a chance to reclaim his role as a clutch hitter (he did hit five home runs and batted .400 in fourteen playoff games in 2004, including a game-winning home run in Game 4 of the ALCS). So if Price and Bucholtz throw the heat, Bogaerts hits over .300, and Betts and Bradley Jr. keep playing like the Gold Glove winners that they are, then I think it will be safe to dream about what Big Papi will do in his final at-bat. Whether it will be with a home run or not remains to be seen. But when we’re talking about Big Papi, anything is possible!

Former Sea Dogs Shine for Sox on Opening Day

Opening Day

The Boston Red Sox put on an impressive Opening Day show against the Philadelphia Phillies at Citizens Bank Park on Monday, with many former members of the Portland Sea Dogs contributing in big ways.

Dustin Pedroia, a 2005 alumni of the Sea Dogs, didn’t waste any time Opening Day getting the scoring started when he crushed a first inning, one-out pitch from Cole Hamels over the left field fence for a solo home run.

22-year old Mookie Betts, who was the starting second baseman for the Sea Dogs against the Reading Phillies to begin last season, started in center field and went 2-4 with a long solo home run off Hamels to lead off the third inning.

Pedroia launched another home run to left field with one out in the fifth, showing that for the first time in a few seasons, he may be completely healthy. He added a brilliant defensive play in the bottom of the seventh inning, scooping up a ball on a short hop and firing to second base to force out Grady Sizemore and save a run from scoring.

Sea Dogs Hall of Famer, Hanley Ramirez, who spent 2004-05 with the Double-A club, followed suit in the fifth with a long home run of his own to left field.

Ramirez added his second home run in the top of the ninth inning, a grand slam, giving him five RBI’s on the day to go with two hits, a walk and two runs scored.

Clay Buchholz, a 2007 Double-A All-Star for the Sea Dogs, took a huge step in the right direction in showing he is ready to take over as the ace of the staff. Buchholz fired seven shutout innings, allowing only three hits and a walk while striking out nine. The tall right-hander seemed in complete control of his full arsenal of pitches, throwing 66 of 95 of them for strikes.

Mookie Betts Continues to Impress with Inside-the-Park Home Run

mookie betts

Another day at the ballpark, another headline for Mookie Betts.

Betts continued his remarkable Spring Training run on last Sunday afternoon (March 22nd) against the Philadelphia Phillies at JetBlue Park in Ft. Myers, FL. The 22-year old infielder-turned-outfielder put up yet another multi-hit performance, going 2 for 2 with a RBI.

In 11 Grapefruit League games, Betts is hitting .471/.471/.853 good for an astounding 1.324 OPS, with nine extra-base hits and two RBIs.Mookie Betts

One of his more memorable Spring Training moments came Sunday afternoon when Betts launched a ball to deep center field, and was able to come all the way around the bases on an inside-the-park home run as Phillies’ center fielder Odubel Herrera struggled to locate the ball after attempting to catch it over his shoulder.

“I just thought it was going to be a double,” Betts shared with BostonGlobe.com. “When I was getting close to second I figured I might as well go three. When I was going three, Butter had the decision to send me home. I kind of went with the flow.”

With a good mix of power and speed, Red Sox’ manager John Farrell sounds more than confident having Betts hitting lead off come Opening Day.

“He’s obviously driving the ball consistently. He gives you a threat even as the game begins,” Farrell told the Globe. “He’s an exciting player. He’s always on time hitting-wise. He’s equipped to hit different types or pitches from righthanders and lefthanders.”

Betts is even receiving praise from some of his veteran teammates, such as left fielder Hanley Ramirez.

“He’s been doing well with the communication, moving me around. I like that, a young guy taking charge,” he told BostonGlobe.com

“He reminds me of myself in [2006] in Miami,” Ramirez told NJ.com.

With the spring performance he has put up so far, along with the high praise from his coaches and teammates alike, 2015 is shaping up to be a break out campaign for the Nashville, TN native, Mookie Betts.