The evolution of Mookie Betts sure is fascinating.
Betts cruised through the Boston Red Sox’s minor league system at an incredible rate before bursting onto the major league scene in 2014. The 22-year-old also changed his offensive approach along the way, which is evident by him not walking until his 37th spring training plate appearance this year.
“(Major league) pitchers are just around the zone more. I feel like you have to swing a little more. You can’t go up there taking,” Betts told The Boston Globe’s Alex Speier after working his first walk Thursday. “I kind of learned last year that you can’t go up there taking. You’ve got to be ready to swing it. That’s how (Derek) Jeter got 3,000 hits. He wasn’t up there taking.
“That’s kind of why my approach is a little more aggressive than it used to be, which is all right. I feel like it works both ways — it cuts down on strikeouts and it may cut down on walks, but that’s OK. I’ll take (walks) when they come, like today.”
Betts’ plate discipline in the minors was impeccable. He walked more than he struck out (174 walks, 137 strikeouts) and his on-base percentage benefited from his patient approach. Betts has proven he can drill the ball with authority, though, so the Red Sox, as Speier notes, encouraged him to be more aggressive at the plate.
So far, Betts’ adjustments have worked. He’s setting the Grapefruit League ablaze this spring after thriving down the stretch with Boston last season, and some suggest he could be an All-Star sooner rather than later.
“I think (the more aggressive approach) just kind of just developed over last year, especially against (major league) pitchers,” Betts told Speier. “They’re kind of in the zone with everything. I feel like if you go up there taking, you’ll be 0-2 in the blink of an eye.
“It’s not something that I think about. It’s just something that’s naturally been an adjustment, the same way I always say – I feel like I just make natural adjustments.”
Betts, who recently credited his high school basketball days for his ability to adjust naturally on the diamond, inevitably will need to make more adjustments as he progresses through his big league career. The future sure looks promising, though, and his new, more aggressive approach could enable him to reach new heights in 2015 and beyond.
“Can’t walk to Fenway,” Betts told Speier.
Betts continues to pick up things as he prepares for his second major league season. His natural ability is off the charts, and now he’s maximizing his potential by not holding back at the dish.
Thumbnail photo via Peter Aiken/USA TODAY Sports Images