The Boston Red Sox are off to a franchise best 16-2 start in 2018, and though many players have obviously contributed to that mark, there’s no question it’s right fielder Mookie Betts who’s leading the charge.
The 25-year-old is among baseball’s hottest hitters to begin the season, having just completed a four-homer series against the Los Angeles Angels. He’s hitting .391 with a ridiculous 1.277 OPS. Both are tops in MLB.
Betts great start has gained a lot of attention. Already established as a perennial MVP candidate, Betts is even drawing some comparisons to Mike Trout. That’s the word from the Boston Globe based on reported intel from some MLB scouts.
Most in baseball have dismissed that notion. Trout, after all, is on a level all his own thanks to his elite mix of power, speed, defense and essentially everything else that goes into making a special player. But at least one rival manager isn’t hesitant to put Betts in a class all by himself.
According to MLB.com’s Mike Lupica, Baltimore Orioles manager Buck Showalter recently heaped an enormous amount of praise on Betts, even calling him the “best right fielder I’ve even seen in person.”
“The dynamic he creates for them defensively in right field at Fenway is a big advantage for Boston, Showalter says of Betts. “Special player. Game-changer. The term five-tool player is used loosely. But it aptly describes him. One of my most favorite players in our game.”
It would be high praise from anyone in baseball. It’s especially so from a baseball lifer like Showalter.
Showalter has been around the game for 40 years. He spent seven seasons playing in the New York Yankees minor league system before transitioning into coaching. Showalter took his first managerial job with the Single-A minor league Oneonta Yankees of the New York–Penn League in 1985 and has gone on to win 1,509 games in the majors. He’s also won three Manager of the Year awards.
Needless to say, Showalter is a pretty good source. From Hall of Famers like Reggie Jackson, Andre Dawson, Tony Gwynn and Vladimir Guerrero, to special talents like Larry Walker and future Hall of Famer Ichiro Suzuki, he’s seen numerous elite right fielders up close and personal during his career. To put Betts atop the list is a huge tip of the cap.
Showalter is obviously looking at the complete package, which encompasses defense. Betts has earned back-to-back Gold Glove awards, and rest assured they weren’t awarded for his offensive prowess. That might be true of past Gold Glove winners, but Betts has made right field at Fenway Park his home away from home. It’s arguably the most difficult right field in MLB, but Betts has managed to tame it.
That speaks to Betts athletic ability, and also his commitment to putting in the necessary work. It’s obvious he’s doing the same thing at the plate. His offensive production made him the MVP runner up in 2016. If not for nagging injuries in 2017, he would have been there again last season. Based on his start to 2018, he could actually push Mike Trout for the award this season.
We’re sure many will be quick to argue Showalter’s high opinion of Betts. But Betts himself is well on his way to back it up.
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