The rumbles are starting to grow larger and larger. Those rumbles are from the growing crowd of people who want the Red Sox to call up outfielder Mookie Betts. Betts, of course, is the latest Red Sox hotshot prospect. The second baseman/centerfielder has broken out in a major way over the last two years.
The 2011 fifth-round pick had a major 2013 season, hitting .314/.417/.506 with 15 homers, 65 RBIs and 36 doubles between Low-A Greenville and High-A Salem, and has skyrocketed his prospect stock this season, hitting .346/.433/.531 with eight homers, 46 RBIS and 21 doubles better Double-A Portland and Triple-A Pawtucket en route to staking claim as the top prospect in the Red Sox farm system.
Betts is clearly on the mind of the Red Sox brass. When asked about recent minor league outfield signing Andres Torres, Red Sox manager John Farrell went on a tangent about Betts.
"I know Mookie Betts is swinging the bat well," Farrell told reporters in Oakland. "I'm not suggesting anything other that we recognize and watch what he's doing daily."
It seems inevitable that Betts will make his major league debut for the Red Sox before the roster expansion in September. Betts' performance thus far suggests that he deserves a promotion to the big leagues. Betts has done nothing but hit, hit and hit. and with the release of Grady Sizemore, a spot on the 40-man roster is open and seemingly waiting for Betts.
Despite all of this, now is not the time for the Red Sox to call up Mookie Betts.
The cry for Betts is understandable, considering the team's considerable offensive struggles from the centerfield spot. As it currently stands, Red Sox centerfielders are tied with the Atlanta Braves (mostly B.J. Upton) for the lowest batting average among their peers. As a whole, Red Sox centerfielders are hitting .202/.298/.300 with two homers, 79 RBIs, 15 doubles and two triples. Basically, they aren't getting hits, aren't hitting for power and aren't getting on base. They flat out aren't doing very much.
But consider this: With all of the centerfield and the team's general offensive struggles, Betts will be expected to hit right away. If Betts were to be called up right now, he would not be eased into playing every day at the major league level. He would be expected to step in and be a spark plug at the plate and in the clubhouse. If Betts fails, it's just another player that failed to fill the offensive need for the Red Sox.
Betts will be expected to succeed right away with little to no room for error. With the Red Sox pushing for the second wild card spot and make up ground in the American League East, there is little to no room for error with the whole team to begin with. To put that sort of pressure on a 21-year-old to succeed in the big leagues is unfair.
While nobody from the Red Sox will ever say publicly that Betts is the savior to the team's outfield issues, the potential situation would certainly frames that exact scenario.
Betts deserves the opportunity to have an adjustment period and the current Red Sox situation would not allow such a period. Should the Red Sox fall out of the playoff race, Betts should whole-heartedly receive the opportunity to play every day at the big league level, but that simply is not the Red Sox's current situation.
The Red Sox don't have to look very far to find two prospects with very distinctly different rises to the majors. Shortstop Xander Bogaerts and centerfielder Jackie Bradley Jr. came up the majors under very differing circumstances and, unsurprisingly, provided very different short-term results (This is what many want from Betts at the moment: A short team difference).
After tearing the cover off the ball in Portland and Pawtucket at the beginning of 2013, Bogaerts was probably "ready" to make his big league debut in late-June or July. All of the tools were there and there was a need for a time, considering the injury to Will Middlebrooks and the use of players such as Brandon Snyder and Jonathan Diaz to fill such a void.
Bogaerts was ready to step in, but the Red Sox didn't call him up. Instead, the team waited until August and eased Bogaerts into major league life. Bogaerts' first opportunity playing everyday came in the American League Championship Series where he displayed his mature approach and played a major role in the team's success en route to the World Series Championship. Bogaerts wasn't asked to be the savior and when he was asked to step in and make a contribution, the transition was nice and smooth.
The same cannot be said for Bradley. The centerfielder came into spring training in 2013 with no expectations. After lighting it up down in Fort Myers, Bradley played his way onto the Opening Day lineup with his performance. Whether or not Bradley should make the team out of camp dominated sports radio for weeks on end and the expectations for the 24-year-old were pretty high.
Having watched Bradley for a few weeks, I have begun to wonder if he is wasting his time in baseball.
He should probably be devoting his energies to curing cancer or solving the world's economic problems. This is because, if his actions on the ballfield are any indication, there appears to be nothing he cannot do.
If the Disney folks had scripted Bradley's spring training, the critics would be railing at the unbelievable absurdity of it all. In real life, you can't instantly manufacture a home run or a great defensive play, just to keep everybody glued to watching.
That is what Bradley is doing. I am beginning to wonder if he is even real.
Bradley struggled out of the gate, hitting .097 (3-for-31), and has continued to struggle to adjust to the majors. While he has provided excellent defense, Bradley continues to look overpowered by major league fastballs and just has not provided the immediate short-term value that many thought he could provide out of the gate. Many expected Bradley to provide a steady bat and glove in 2013 out of the gate in spring training while Shane Victorino recovered from injury. The expectations were high, but, luckily for the Red Sox, Bradley's struggles did not hurt the team.
In 2014, the Red Sox have not been so lucky.
Betts seemingly has provided enough reasons with his bat to earn a promotion to the big leagues. He has smoothly transitioned to the outfielder and has been incredibly consistent at the plate as well. That being said, the Red Sox current set of circumstances do not create a great situation for Betts to join the team. Betts should not be in a position where he is expected to produce immediately and fill a major hole in the Red Sox offense.
Mookie Betts' time to play everyday in the big leagues will come soon. The time just isn't now.