Red Sox believe Mookie Betts could make switch to outfield quickly

Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

There's likely no place at second in Boston for Betts, but there are other positions.

Dustin Pedroia is the Red Sox second baseman. He's likely going to stick there for a long time, too, as he's just 30 years old and fields his position fantastically in large part due to his instincts and positioning rather than just straight-up athleticism. That means the keystone is not in the future of one of the Sox' top prospects, Mookie Betts, but that doesn't mean the Sox are in a rush to push him off of the position. According to Fox Sports' Ken Rosenthal, Red Sox officials believe Betts can transition to the outfield quickly once the process begins.

Betts is in the outfield during Double-A Portland's batting practice -- that much wasn't a secret. What's new information, though, is how the Sox feel he's doing chasing down BP fly balls. Rosenthal's club source stated that "He looks so good out there our staff doesn't feel he would need much time to get ready if needed." That's an encouraging sign, given Betts hasn't played in the outfield officially as a professional, but maybe not necessarily a surprising one given he was a shortstop before becoming a second baseman and he has enough range and quickness to cover the whole right side of the infield.

Whether the plan is for Betts to play in right or left is unknown, but chances are good he would end up in a corner unless Jackie Bradley Jr.'s bat just never comes around. There are potential issues with either corner: left field at Fenway Park would probably be a waste of Betts' potential range and athleticism. Right field, especially at Fenway, would benefit more from someone who can cover the ground it's believed Betts should be able to, but his arm isn't suited well for the position. That's not to say he shouldn't go there: the Red Sox have succeeded pretty well in the last decade with some ranging, no-arm outfielders patrolling Fenway.

Why aren't the Sox just pushing Betts to the outfield now, though? Non-prospect Shannon Wilkerson is the current center fielder in Portland and left field tends to be split between a couple more non-prospects in Peter Hissey and Derrik Gibson, so the space is there. Maybe they would prefer he focus on moving up the organizational ladder before he starts transitioning on defense -- if he's shown he can mash at Triple-A once he gets there, maybe that's the time they have him start to focus on another position. Or, maybe they would prefer he move to the outfield starting in spring training, when the major-league coaching staff and players can assist in the process. If he can make the switch as quickly as they believe he can, then spring training would suffice for a transition.

There might also be a desire to just leave him at second base until it's clear he's needed in the outfield. The only way Betts ends up at second in Boston is if Pedroia is out with an injury for a significant chunk of time. If that were to happen, they might push Betts all the way to the majors rather than mess around with a Ryan Roberts recall, since the only other non-Betts options in the upper minors are glove-first spring training invite Heiker Meneses and Brock Holt, whom they seem to like as a utility infielder. Rather than bounce Betts back-and-forth between positions while he develops, just leaving him at second until time forces their hand makes a lot of sense in this scenario.

That's just a thought, though: the Sox might be inclined to keep Betts in the minors even if a major injury to Pedroia were to happen this summer, instead going with Holt and whatever they can pick up in a trade instead. Whichever hypothetical you prefer, it's clear they aren't in a rush to move Betts off of second, but it doesn't seem like they have reason to be worried about the lack or urgency either.

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