Newly-acquired outfielder Mookie Betts will debut soon with the Los Angeles Dodgers after signing a one-year, $27 million contract. He was drafted by the Boston Red Sox in the fifth round of the 2011 MLB Draft and made his major league debut six years ago to this day (June 29, 2014).
An inconsistent performance year-to-year has been a hallmark for Betts throughout his career. In 2017, he hit .263 then he dominated in batting average in 2018 (.346) while offering a top-shelf floor in runs in his previous four years (122, 101, 129, and 135). His average hit rate (1.778) falls in the 30-HR range while his wide swings in his batting average are tied to his contact batting average (2017 – .302, 2018 – .420, and 2019 – .355).
Betts played at a high-level with runners on base over his first four years in the majors, but he fell to a league-average player (15 percent) in this area in 2019 with continued weakness in his RBI chances (355). His bat did shine over the second half of 2018 (.325 with 16 HRs, 40 RBI, and six SBs over 252 at-bats). Betts lost value vs. lefties (.271 with six HRs and 13 RBI over 166 at-bats – .368 with nine HRs and 26 RBI over 125 at-bats in 2018). He owns top value in balls hit 95 MPH or more (235 – 4th). His swing path produces fly balls (43.8 percent), but his HR/FB rate (13.1) remains flat. Betts has a plus approach (K rate – 14.3 and walk rate (13.7). Clutch player waiting to get paid.
Buy his expected edge in batting average with a high floor in runs, power, and speed while understanding he’s just reaching the prime of his career. The change to the NL may lower his ceiling in power. Dodger Stadium also ranks as one of the tougher parks for hitters, compared to Fenway Park which ranks as one of the most hitter-friendly, so we are likely to see a dip in home runs.