FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Of all the things to like about Red Sox outfielder Mookie Betts, the combination of skills is what is most impressive.Not only does Betts have fast legs that make him a playmaker on both sides of the ball, but he also has lightning-quick hands that whip
FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Of all the things to like about Red Sox outfielder Mookie Betts, the combination of skills is what is most impressive.
Not only does Betts have fast legs that make him a playmaker on both sides of the ball, but he also has lightning-quick hands that whip through the zone and allow him to catch up to anyone's fastball.
From the leadoff spot, Betts is as likely to steal a base as he is to go deep. He has all five tools, and he could use them this year to become not just an American League All-Star, but perhaps a Most Valuable Player Award candidate.
After an impressive break-in to the Majors in 2014 and a strong first full season in '15, the coming season is the one Betts in which could become elite.
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"He's one that strives to be great," said Red Sox manager John Farrell. "He's not satisfied with what he's done to date. He has an inquisitive personality. He's always wanting to get better. He's got tremendous aptitude from what we've seen. He might be one of our most dynamic offensive players on this club. His rise has been meteoric, but he's remained grounded and he's a great teammate."
Remarkably, Betts is just 23 years old.
"He's going to be a superstar, no question," said Red Sox designated hitter David Ortiz. "The guy is 23, and he's already a star and he hasn't even walked into his prime yet. He's working extremely hard and when you have that talent, that's all you need to be a superstar. He's got quick hands. He reminds me of Gary Sheffield."
The one person you won't hear wax poetic about Betts is, well, Betts. The outfielder constantly downplays his accomplishments and his potential. But teammate Jackie Bradley Jr. says that you shouldn't let that fool you.
"Mookie's one of the guys that will say one thing, but he's not necessarily thinking that," Bradley said. "He's all like, 'I'm not that good,' this and that. 'Shut up, Mookie. You're good.'
"It's one of those things where he's just saying it to downplay it, but that's just the way he is and the way he operates. He actually does have a lot of confidence. He might not show it, outwardly speaking, but he's a very confident guy."
In 2015, Betts became one of four players in history in his age-22 season to have 60-plus extra-base hits, 20-plus stolen bases and fewer than 90 strikeouts.
"Just a lot of hard work, studying some film, going over some things with [hitting coach] Chili [Davis], and just trusting it and putting it into action," Betts said. "I started to see some success and that gave me more confidence."
To a man, the Red Sox have the utmost confidence that their leadoff man is on the cusp of greatness.
"I love Mookie," said Boston shortstop Xander Bogaerts. "I really enjoy watching Mookie play. Every time he hits, you can learn from it. Sometimes he gets a bit hard on himself, but that's what drives him to become what he is."
Ian Browne is a reporter for MLB.com.