Mookie Betts isn’t average by any measure. He’s a two-time World Series winner, once with the Boston Red Sox and once with the Los Angeles Dodgers, happens to bowl professionally, and is off to start so red-hot that the 31-year-old could make MLB history — again.

Before entering the 2024 season, the longtime Gold Glove Award-winning right fielder, with limited infield experience at the big league level, made an unexpected switch. Betts was given the green light to move from the outfield to the most athletically demanding infield position in baseball: shortstop.

It’s hard enough to master the craft of being a reliable shortstop with a lifetime of experience through all ranks of baseball, but Betts envisions himself as more than capable of excelling.

“I don’t view myself as a normal person, either,” Betts said, per Alex Speier of The Boston Globe. “I see myself as a really good athlete who can do anything — especially on the baseball field.”

Story continues below advertisement

The seven-time All-Star already earned a 12-year, $365 million payday upon arriving in Los Angeles in 2020. Not too many outfielders across the big leagues could compete with Betts in terms of defensive range, arm strength and accuracy, and certainly not athleticism. Betts ranked second in wins above replacement at 8.4 in 2023 behind none other than now-teammate Shohei Ohtani, who just happens to be the second coming of Babe Ruth.

But since Betts emerged as a legitimate league MVP contender in 2016, the not-so-normal athlete has finished within the top 12 in WAR in seven of the last eight seasons. During Boston’s franchise record-setting 108-win season, Betts, who led MLB with 10.9 WAR with a .996 defensive percentage, became the sport’s only player to win a World Series, MVP, Silver Slugger, Gold Glove and batting title all within the same season.

    What do you think?  Leave a comment.

Yet, somehow, Betts has only furthered his boundaries and it could come with another history-making accolade.

There is only one player in MLB history to win the MVP award in both the American and National League: Frank Robinson in 1961 and 1966.

Story continues below advertisement

Betts came shy of the finish line last season, collecting 270 first-place votes in the NL MVP race behind Atlanta Braves right fielder Ronald Acuña Jr., who, unlike Betts, can’t play the infield. It helped bridge the gap a tad bit, but not enough for Betts to surpass second place.

Picking up right where he left off, Betts has another chance to reach that mountaintop, and judging by his first nine games of 2024, so far, so (very) good. Betts leads all of MLB in batting average (.485), home runs (five), RBIs (11), hits (16), total bases (36), walks (nine), on-base percentage (.595), slugging percentage (1.091) and war (1.4).

Yes, it’s only April, but Betts is just getting started.

Story continues below advertisement

Dodgers manager Dave Roberts utilized Betts as a part-time infielder, giving him a combined 78 appearances in second base and shortstop. Betts handled that trail run well, logging a .991 and .993 fielding percentage at second base and shortstop respectively. Ultimately, that was a strong enough sample size to signal the organization’s trust in Betts to make the position switch.

Then again, Betts was raised playing second base after being drafted in the fifth round of the 2011 MLB Draft by the Red Sox. Back then, the undersized infielder didn’t soar in the prospect rankings. Therefore, Betts needed to earn the confidence he’s since run with on the West Coast.

“Coming up, I was always the smallest,” Betts recalled when looking back at his minor league days with the Red Sox, per Speier. “I wasn’t ever really a top prospect until I came on the scene really quick. So there were always so many guys that were ahead of me.”

Those discussions no longer take place. The doubts surrounding Betts’ stature have become questions about what he’ll accomplish next.

Story continues below advertisement

Betts is already in the process of stunning his teammates in Los Angeles.

“I’ve never seen a guy, my whole entire career, that is more dedicated to getting better every single day through work than him,” Dodgers teammate Miguel Rojas said, per The Athletic’s Fabian Ardaya.

With Betts’ confidence gradually soaring this still-early season, the Dodgers should be in for another multi-MVP tug-of-war within their dugout.

Featured image via Gary A. Vasquez/USA TODAY Sports Images