It's tough to label 2019 for Mookie Betts a disappointment but his stock fell in fantasy drafts in 2020 with stolen bases and pitching shifting the landscape. However, a trade to the Dodgers and a return to leading off thrust Betts into a prime bounce back spot. Betts played in 55 games with 246 plate appearances, 47 runs, 16 home runs, 39 RBI, 10 stolen bases and a .292/.366/.562 slash line.

In the National League, Betts finished tied for 10th in hits (64), fourth in runs, 16th in batting average, 17th in on-base percentage, 13th in slugging percentage, tied for fifth in stolen bases, tied for third in home runs and tied for 13th in extra-base hits (26). Betts made the most of hitting with runners in scoring position going 18-for-41 (.439) in these situations plus slashed a robust .343/.370/.643 from the seventh inning or later in contests. An odd wrinkle to his numbers, all 16 home runs by Betts in the regular season occurred against right-handed pitching. He's proven to be a reverse splits batter in the past, so keep this in mind when playing daily fantasy.

When one sees the number one comparison for a player in the ZiPS projections they can provide insight on the past with eyes on the future. Who was Mookie Betts ' comparison entering 2021? Frank Robinson. This could make Betts an answer to future trivia questions since Robinson's the only player to win the Most Valuable Player award in the American and National League. Betts won the American League MVP award in 2018, so there's potential for him during his tenure with the Dodgers to make this happen.

Diving into Betts' numbers from last season, he recorded a 9.8 walk percentage, 15.4 strikeout rate, .269 isolated power (ISO) and .390 weighted on-base average (wOBA). His swinging strike percentage decreased to 4.9 percent coinciding with a career best 95.6 Z-Contact (in the strike zone) percent. Despite being a bit more aggressive with Los Angeles, Betts maintained his strong discipline metrics. Plus, Dodger Stadium fit his swing well.

According to Statcast, Betts accrued 182 batted ball events with 14 barrels (7.7 percent), a 90.7 MPH average exit velocity and 43.4 hard hit percentage. He notched his highest sweet spot percentage (40.1 percent) with a .285 expected batting average (xBA), .487 expected slugging (xSLG) and .349 expected weighted on-base average (xwOBA). Although his swing percentage increased, Betts reduced his already stellar whiff percentage to 13.8 percent. Fueled by a career best line drive rate (34.6 percent), Betts generated power benefiting from his new home and making the most of his contact.

Expanding his sample size to further discern his value in 2021, exploring his numbers from the second half of 2019 through the end of last year along with his last three seasons helps parcel out the data. First:

  • Betts 2H 2019-through-2020: 117 games, 534 plate appearances, 105 runs, 32 home runs, 79 RBI, 16 stolen bases; .310/.378/.584, 9.9 BB%, 14.8 K%, .274 ISO, .398 wOBA

Among his peers, Betts finished as one of three qualified hitters in this time frame with at least 100 runs (Trea Turner , Ronald Acuña Jr. ). He's also one of four with at least 30 home runs and 15 stolen bases. Betts ability to produce home runs and stolen bases with a premium batting average make him special in fantasy rankings. Over the last three years, his numbers look even better thanks in part to his MVP season included in them:

  • Betts Last 3 Years: 344 games, 1578 plate appearances, 314 runs, 78 home runs, 200 RBI, 58 stolen bases; .314/.406/.575, 13 BB%, 14.6 K%, .262 ISO, .408 wOBA

Taking Betts in the first round does not require a degree in Rocket Science. Predicting his final 2021 outcomes come with some interesting results when viewing how two different sites foresee them:

  • Betts 2021 Steamer projection: 150 games, 685 plate appearances, 110 runs, 32 home runs, 88 RBI, 19 stolen bases; .271/.367/.505, 12.3 BB%, 15.9 K%, .234 ISO, .365 wOBA
  • Betts 2021 ZiPS projection: 142 games, 654 plate appearances, 117 runs, 32 home runs, 98 RBI, 24 stolen bases; .286/.370/.529, 11.5 BB%, 15.3 K%, .243 ISO, .379 wOBA

While in agreement in terms of home runs and at least 110 runs, they differ in regards to RBI and steals. Plus, Betts hitting .271 in his prime? Not sold on it. When trying to predict his power, here's Betts spray chart from the last three years showing his line drives and fly balls courtesy of Statcast:

Remembering his spike in line drives last season, he's most effective when keeping his launch angle in the 20-degree range:

Over the last three years, Betts owns a .314 batting average, a career average of .301 and hit below .271 once in his career. On Statcast, Betts .295 xBA since 2015 aligns with these results. Keeping this in mind, with regression in mind, a range of .288-to-.305 makes sense when predicting his 2021 season. Since he hit leadoff in 42 of his games with Los Angeles, this reduces his potential to drive in runs but he scores enough to compensate for it. When viewing the numbers below, plan on the power being for real with his counting statistics adjusted for the upcoming season:

  • Betts with 350 plate appearances: 69 runs, 20 HR, 50 RBI, 12 SB
  • Betts with 500 plate appearances: 98 runs, 28 HR, 71 RBI, 17 SB
  • Betts with 650 plate appearances: 127 runs, 35 HR, 92 RBI, 22 SB

These projection sets take an average of his 2020, second half of 2019-through-2020 and last three year rates with some tweaks. Mookie Betts sits on the precipice of his Age-28 season atop one of the best lineups in baseball as the defending champions. A talented hitter in his power peak and he increased his opposite field percentage, the last frontier in his development last year may unlock the door for him to join Frank Robinson in the history books if Betts can win the MVP in 2021. It's in the realm of outcomes.


Statistical Credits:

ZiPS courtesy of Dan Szymborsk