The Red Sox will call up top prospect Mookie Betts before Saturday's game against the Yankees, according to John Tomase of the Boston Herald:
Source: Mookie Betts has been summoned from Pawtucket and is en route to NYC. No word on corresponding roster move, but it's Mookie time!— John Tomase (@jtomase) June 28, 2014
14 months ago, Betts was a virtual unknown. His rookie season in Lowell had seen the young middle infielder produce a decent OBP, but with little else to go with it, and his 2013 season off to a slow start, he wasn't exactly drawing much attention.
Then, in 101 may at bats for the Greenville Drive, Betts hit .356/.472/.663. It was the start of one of the most incredible breakout performances the Red Sox system has seen in recent memory. Perhaps ever. The unassuming fifth-round pick continued to rake right on into June, and soon found himself promoted to Salem, where he only got better. It's one thing to crush Single-A ball, it's another to hit .341/.414/.551 after a mid-season promotion as a 20-year-old in High-A.
That performance earned Mookie attention, but publications like Baseball America, Prospectus, et al. were understandably wary of the possibility of a one-year wonder, leaving Betts out of most top-50 prospect lists, and some top-100 lists entirely. The message was clear: he had to prove it in 2014.
How has he done? Well, he reached base in every game until May 17th for one, tying the minor league record (if you include playoffs) with 71 straight games on base stretching back into 2013. Exposed to Double-A pitching for the first time--often considered a "make or break" point for minor league hitters--Betts actually hit better than ever, producing a .355/.443/.551 line in Portland with six homers, 22 stolen bases, and a 20:35 K:BB.
The 21-year-old found himself in Pawtucket earlier this month--a meteoric rise considering how recently he was an also-played in Greenville. At .322/.425/.444 his entirely impressive slash line isn't quite as entirely impressive as it was in Portland, but he's still reached base in every single game he's played. With Betts seemingly unphased by promotions, and the Red Sox in dire need of some spark, if only to make the games more interesting, it was only a matter of time before Mookie made his way up.
It will be interesting to see where he plays. Betts is a middle infielder by trade, but has made the transition to the outfield as it became more and more obvious that was where the Red Sox would have a space for him. In that regard he is not unlike Holt, though Betts comes with the sort of defensive chops that could make him a more realistic fit in center than Holt, even given the latter's surprising competency at a position he has never played before.
Whatever the case, wherever Mookie winds up, it's an exciting time for Red Sox fans. But a word of caution: as much as Mookie Betts seems unstoppable right now, he is actually six days younger than Xander Bogaerts, and it should go without saying that no rookie is infallible. Right now the Red Sox would love to see Betts roll right along into the majors as he has at every other level since Single-A Greenville, but it would hardly be surprising if this proved a more difficult transition. Let's not go crazy if he takes time to make this jump--if nothing else, he'll be gaining the experience he needs heading into 2015 in games that seem rather less important than next year's are likely to be.