Mookie Betts’ glove kept him atop the food chain when his bat stopped doing so.
ESPN’s Buster Olney ranked the Boston Red Sox right fielder No. 1 on his list of Major League Baseball’s top-10 players at the position. Betts’ batting statistics were leading factors in him winning the 2018 American League MVP award, but his fielding last season is the main reason why Olney ranked him first among MLB right fielders.
“The conversation around Betts last year was that he was in a bit of an offensive mud bog, but that’s only because of the incredibly high standard he set for himself with his MVP performance in 2018,” Olney wrote Saturday. “In the end, Betts scored 135 runs in ’19, had a .524 slugging percentage and generated 6.6 WAR, ninth-best in the big leagues. As Jeff Passan wrote recently, Betts will be the centerpiece of a lot of the conversation this year, because it seems inevitable the Red Sox will deal him — some executives continue to believe this will happen before the start of the season — and he’ll be the No. 1 free agent. … ”
Betts hit .295 with 29 homers, 80 RBIs, 16 stolen bases and a .915 OPS in 150 games last season. His 10 outfield assists were third-most in the AL, and his .994 fielding percentage was seventh-best. These numbers earned him a fourth consecutive Gold Glove award, a place on the All-MLB First Team and an eighth-place finish in AL MVP voting.
His stature in the game makes it easy to understand why he and the Red Sox agreed to a record-setting contract for the 2020 season Friday.
The biggest fans of Christian Yelich, Cody Bellinger, and Aaron Judge might protest their heroes should rank higher than Betts, but those arguments likely will fall on deaf ears in New England.