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Betts growing through experience

Posted by Craig Forde  January 23, 2014 03:27 PM

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If 2013 was Mookie Betts “coming out” party, then 2014 will be his “here to stay” party if he has his say once again.

After playing in just 72 games over his first two seasons in the Red Sox organization, Betts punched the clock 148 times last year - including a championship run with Salem and a stint in the Arizona Fall League - posting an impressive line of statistics that helped him earn the Red Sox Minor League Offensive Player of the Year honor.

BettsAFL.jpg“It’s something to build on,” said Betts. “I had pretty good numbers last year, but that’s out the window now. This year is a new year and we start at all zeroes. But I’m going to try and take that momentum and build on it.”

Over his longest season as a pro, Betts had a split of .312/.414/.491, with 60 extra-base hits, 106 runs scored and 46 stolen bases on 52 attempts, which includes his postseason and AFL statistics.

Playing baseball over 10 months of the year proved to be a grind for Betts, who had to celebrate his 21st birthday while in Arizona, but each day proved valuable to his growth as a player.

“Rest would have been good,” said Betts. “Going into the fall league I was thinking, “man I just want to go home.” But that’s what separates guys, you got to want to be there at all times and I learned a lot. I may have been mad for a moment, but happy in the end that I got to go.”

After it was all said-and-done and he was back home in Tennessee, it didn't take long for him to miss the being out on the diamond.

“Going home after the fall league, I just wanted to stay,” said Betts. “But after working out, towards the middle of December, I was ready to go back. I’ve been working hard and I’m anxious of what’s to come this year.”

After his 2013 effort, the bar has been raised and he is now considered a top tier Thumbnail image for Bettsinfield.pngprospect in the Red Sox system and beyond, something else that quiet, humble youngster has had to adjust to.

“I try to stay out of the spotlight,” said the mild-mannered Betts. “I think it’s more fun just jumping on the scene than having things expected out of you. It’s definitely different, I’ve learned to embrace it.”

After recently naming him one of the top ten second base prospects in the game and the 62nd best prospect overall, MLB.com wrote the following of Betts:

“A premium athlete coming out of the Tennessee high school ranks, Betts got an above-slot deal to sign in 2011. Initially a shortstop, he slid over to second base during his second summer of pro ball and has stuck there. The undersized middle infielder has some surprising strength and was showing more extra-base power during his full-season debut in 2012. He understands, though, that his job is to get on base and use his speed on the basepaths. He's settled in nicely at second and should be an effective defender there long-term. He profiles as a top-of-the-order type, especially if he can continue to show he can make consistent hard contact at the plate."

He stands firmly as the best second baseman in the Red Sox farm system and it is expected that he will start the 2014 season in Double-A Portland, but expectations of others aside, Betts is simply looking for a way to continue his growth and improvement across the board no matter where he lands.

“It’s tough [to continue to get better],” said Betts. “All you can do is find something that prepares you for that upcoming year and staying healthy is huge. Experience through the games, playing each and every day, is going to be what really helps you learn and makes your better.”

With a 148 game season under his belt, the experience is certainly paying dividends.

This blog is not written or edited by Boston.com or the Boston Globe.
The author is solely responsible for the content.

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About the author

Craig Forde covers baseball talent as it develops into the next big thing. He has covered high school and college sports for the Boston Globe, and the minor league teams More »

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