I can sit here and tell you how great Jackie Bradley Jr.’s 29-game hit streak was, or I can also talk about how great Xander Bogaerts 22-game hit streak is. Instead, I want to draw attention to what Mookie Betts has been doing. There is a lot to talk about Mookie at the plate, and it doesn’t come with a very tall height.
Mookie Betts as a 5 foot 9 inch, 180 lb. right fielder, by common perception, should be a scrap hitter, especially while hitting at the top of the lineup for the Red Sox. However, besides having good speed, with 21 stolen bases last season and 8 so far this year, he is proving that size doesn’t necessarily tell a player’s power.
Last year Mookie had 68 extra base hits, with 42 doubles, 8 triples, and 18 home runs. This year he already has 23 extra-base knocks, and is projected for 79 by the end of the season. He already has 11 doubles, 3 triples, and 9 home runs. Prior to this weekend, he was on pace for 31 home runs this season, which is something that seems improbable for someone of his build at such a young age, but he is proving us all wrong by hitting extra baggers and home runs with regularity.
If Betts does, in fact, hit 30 home runs or more, he would be the third player in history that is 5’10” or under to reach this feat at the age of 23. The other players who have achieved this are Mel Ott and Willie Mays. That is a pretty special group of players to be named with.
This wouldn’t be his first offensive achievement for his size either. Last year, at 22 years old, his 68 extra-base hits marked him the ninth player to be 5’10” or under, and younger than 23, to have 60-plus extra-base hits. It was also the most by a Red Sox player in a single season before turning age 23 since 1940.
His success offensively last year was evident, but it’s also apparent that his power is only getting better. With 9 home runs already on the season, he has an HR/FB (home run to fly ball) rate of 13.6% compared to 8.2% last year, while his percentage of softly hit balls remain to be at a small portion of 15.7%.
With Mookie’s size, it is clear that this success is coming from a great swing. With quick bat speed and good plate discipline, he has shown that this may be an upward trend. However, despite all the good things that are coming offensively from Mookie, is this something that is wanted from a leadoff hitter? His OBP is rather low at .309, which since 2014 has only been decreasing.
It will be interesting to continue watching Mookie Betts at the plate and what his apparent power will turn into. Can he still bring the traditional characteristics of a leadoff hitter of getting on base and drawing lots of pitches, while keeping up with his slugging? Only time will tell, and what an exciting time that will be to watch.