The Curious Case of Wilson Betemit

On opening day Wilson Betemit of the Kansas City Royals went 0-for-2.  Since that time he's recorded a hit in every game he's played in for a .400/.464/.556 slash line in 56 PA's with 3 stolen bases.  Yet he's still only owned in 9% of Yahoo leagues. 

So should you pick the third baseman up?  To understand who Betemit is, you have to understand where Betemit comes from.

You don't need a DeLorean to go back in time.  Sometimes you just need Baseball-Reference and Wikipedia.  Though a flux capacitor doesn't hurt.

Let's step into the way-back machine and take a look at a player who signed his first major league contract almost 15 years ago, became a top 10 prospect, went from team to team, and now at the old age of 29 is finally living up to the hype he once received.

 

The Atlanta Braves signed Betemit out of the Dominican Republic when he was only 14 and a half years old.  The Braves were later fined $100,000 for signing a player under the age of 16, but still a Brave he became.

Betemit debuted for the Gulf Coast Braves in 1997 and hit a not unexpected .212/.270/.283.  Afterall, he was only 15 at the time.  But things would only get better from here on out, and Betemit would soon start treating the minor leagues like his own personal playground.

Consider the 1999 season.  As a 17-year-old in the Appalachian League (average age just under 20) Betemit hit .320/.383/.463.  Compare that to fellow Appy League 17-year-old Carl Crawford's .319/.350/.404 line.  Both could be seen as future stars and Betemit was Baseball Americas #99 prospect after that.

When he was 18 in the Penn League (average age 21) he hit .331/.393/.457.  Chase Utley, at age 21, could "only" manage .307/.383/.444 in the same league.  

You can see where this story is going.  As a shortstop (who would turn into a 3B) he was displaying amazing contact, good power, and at an extremely young age-relative-to-league.  He would peak as the #9 prospect in the game.  

Betemit got his first full season shot with the Braves in 2005 at the age of 23.  He hit .305/.359/.435 in 246 at-bats.  But Betemit was playing on a team with a loaded infield, just waiting for the stars to get injured or when they needed a day off.  He would hit 18 home runs and 23 doubles in 373 at-bats the next year, but the Braves decided to move him the following season.

After being sent to the Dodgers, everything went downhill for Betemit and he would never get a full-time gig.  To be fair, he hit .236 in his time with the Dodgers, but he did still display good power and OPS'd .787 in parts of 2 seasons.  Yet, only Frank McCourt has been treated worse by the LA faithful since.  

By now he was considered a "bust"  even though he was only 25 when he was traded to the Yankees for Scott Procter.  Betemit was now simply a rich man's Willie Bloomquist.  You know who wants a rich man's Willie Bloomquist?  The Royals of course!

Last season he managed to get into 84 games for Kansas City and recorded the second highest number of at-bats in his career.  He responded by hitting .297/.378/.511.  Still, he couldn't shake the bust label.

Maybe if he did something like lead the league in hitting to start 2011, he'd then get consideration!  But alas, the .383 hitting Betemit is still widely available in most formats.  He hasn't played in every game, but by now he is playing in most games and that should remain steady as long as he hits.  If people are worried that he'll eventually lose his job to Mike Moustakas, stop worrying.

Chris Gets .621 OPS isn't impressive.  Kila's .590 OPS is even less so.  Betemit isn't a great defender, but he can still play multiple positions and as long as he's hitting, they'll find a spot for him.  In 323 total at-bats with the Royals, he's hitting .310/.389/.514.  While I expect his batting average to go down, I think Betemit has displayed enough talent to hit .300 with good power at a shallow position.  He could also find himself with multiple positional eligibility.  

For all the talk of the Royals farm system, which is said to be so good that you could randomly cut it in half and it would still be top 20, there's one prospect that's not nearly getting enough attention; Wilson Betemit.

Fun Fact: Royals utility man Mike Aviles is 8 months older than Betemit.  

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