With Mookie Betts in the majors before Xander Bogaerts fully established himself as the player many believe he can be, there is now a debate about which of the two is going to be the better player. Baseball Prospectus, at their recently opened Boston-centric wing, decided to watch this debate play out by inviting experts such as Jim Callis, their own prospect analysts like Chris Crawford and Chris Mellen, and also this guy right here (that's me, Marc Normandin, for those of you who don't read bylines and can't infer anything from voice) to explain why they would choose Bogaerts or Betts if they could only pick one to build a team around.
You should absolutely read the whole thing, as Mookie vs. Xander is an argument that isn't likely to go away anytime soon unless one of them becomes a serious disappointment: the best-case scenario here is that Red Sox fans get to discuss which of the two is better for the next six, 10, 15, or however many years, and to have those conversations mean something. I was given permission to give y'all a little sneak peek, though, by quoting my own bit, so try that on then head on over to finish up the rest:
This should be a tougher call for me than it is, but I've (quietly, so as to avoid ridicule) believed Betts was the better prospect since before Bogaerts began to struggle in 2014. Now you've gone and called me on it, though, so all my secrecy was for naught.
The separator for me is the defense: Bogaerts' ceiling with the glove is either as a competent shortstop or as an average or better corner outfielder, but the latter is mostly a guess, and requires his bat progresses significantly. We know already that Betts is a legitimately amazing defender at second, and early returns from his transition to the outfield are promising. Bogaerts has the higher offensive ceiling, but it's not so far above Betts' own that it makes up for the difference in defense between the two.
There is definitely a chance to get burned here, as Bogaerts' future power is just so tantalizing, especially in this pitcher-friendly era we're in, but Betts seems like he has the better chance to be the more complete player — patience, contact, speed, defense, a little bit of power, basically everything save a strong arm. If you're building a team from scratch, it's hard to avoid preferring that player.
I can go into a little more detail here as well. Bogaerts is wonderful, but there is the concern for me -- and it's not a significant concern, but it is one that exists -- that precociousness and actually becoming a star are not the same thing. Bogaerts might have been talented enough at a young age to perform at a level that his peers could not, but that doesn't guarantee he will be better than his peers at, say, 25 or 26 years old.
It's a small thing, as said, and I didn't mention it in the main article for that reason -- the defense and potential completeness of Betts as a player are the real separator for me -- but now that I have the floor, I might as well use it for all it's worth. I doubt that this right here is as good as Bogaerts gets, or that he'll only be a little bit better, but if we're talking the floors of these two, I'd pick Betts' over that of X's for this reason.
What about you? Who would you take, if you could only select one of Betts or Bogaerts to build a team around?