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Daily Red Sox Links: Have people forgotten just how good Mookie Betts is?

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The poster child for why batting average isn’t everything. Plus Joe Kelly does some reporting (kind of), Xander Bogaerts bouncing back and changes for Hanley Ramirez.

MLB: Spring Training-Boston Red Sox at Baltimore Orioles Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Coming into last season, Mookie Betts was considered a prime MVP candidate and it was whispered that he might be in the same stratosphere as Mike Trout. In 2017, he had another absolutely incredible season, but for some reason, it felt to some like a year of regression.

Technically, it was. He went from being a player worth 9.5 wins above replacement by Baseball-Reference standards in 2017 to being worth “only” 6.4 in 2018. For most players, losing three wins of value would essentially mark a tailspin into below replacement level, but for Betts, it just meant he was one of the best in the league yet again.

The biggest reasons the casual baseball fan may assume that Betts took a larger step back is the fact that he went from batting .318 to .264 and from 31 home runs to 24. I’m not going to argue that batting .260 is the same as batting nearly .320, but that drop alone did not completely eradicate his star power. If anything, it showed just how difficult it is to hit .300. Even the best players in the league don’t always do it.

But while his batting average went down, Betts did improve in other areas. He set a career-high in walks (77), lifting his walk rate to 10.8 percent, and doubles (46), reaching the 40-double mark for the third-straight year. He also maintained his excellent defense in right field, earning his second-straight Gold Glove and setting a career-best mark in FanGraphs’ defensive metrics for fielding and positional adjustment combined (13.3).

Betts is a superstar and far and away the best position player on the Red Sox, even after J.D. Martinez signed. Perhaps I’m just preaching to the choir right now, but let’s not forget or take for granted this indisputable fact. Also, here’s him hitting a home run in spring training. Huzzah!

Joe Kelly might have a future in sports reporting. Or not. (Christopher Smith; MassLive)

It seems to be a recurring chorus this year that Xander Bogaerts needs to bounce back. Sean McAdam adds his take. (Sean McAdam; Boston Sports Journal)

There are plenty of candidates for the “leader” of the Red Sox clubhouse. (Christopher Smith; MassLive)

There are a few things that have changed with the Red Sox this year, but what specifically has been altered for Hanley Ramirez? (Michael Silverman; Boston Herald)

Brian Johnson has a real chance to make a serious impact this season. (Peter Abraham; Boston Globe)

While we deal primarily in reality baseball at Over the Monster, the Sox also have some intriguing fantasy baseball questions on the roster. (Scott Pianowski; Yahoo! Sports)