Betts went 2-for-3 with a home run and two runs scored in Saturday's game against the Braves. There's been little drama to Betts' spring -- unlike last year when he endured a seven-game hitless streak to start the Grapefruit League. He's batting .296 with three extra-base hits. The 2018 AL MVP will be hitting out of the two hole, where in theory he'll get more at-bats with men on base and an opportunity to get back to 100 RBI. He knocked in 113 and 102 runs in 2016 and 2017, respectively, before dropping down to 80 last year when he was predominantly the leadoff hitter.
Betts will start in right field and bat second in Wednesday's Grapefruit League game against the Orioles, Christopher Smith of MassLive.com reports. The reigning American League MVP will make his 2019 debut Wednesday after the Red Sox elected to ease him into the spring following a banner campaign. Betts hit exclusively out of the leadoff spot as part of a potent offense in 2018, but he's expected to cede those duties to Andrew Benintendi this season and move into the two hole. The one-spot drop in the order shouldn't provide much of a drag on Betts' stolen-base and run-scoring/run-producing opportunities.
Betts signed a one-year, $20 million contract with the Red Sox on Friday to avoid arbitration, Ben Nicholson-Smith of Sportsnet.ca reports. Fresh off his 2018 MVP campaign, Betts nearly doubles his pay from the $10.5 million deal he signed last season. Given that Betts still has an additional year of arbitration eligibility, the $20 million deal represents an enormous figure as the Red Sox are sure to attempt to iron out an extension with him before he hits free agency. The 26-year-old slashed .346/.438/.640 with 32 home runs and 30 stolen bases and enters 2019 as one of the definitive top players in Major League Baseball.
Manager Alex Cora said Betts will hit second in 2019, Alex Speier of The Boston Globe reports. Betts and Andrew Benintendi will swap places in the order in an attempt to maximize Betts' value. The 2018 AL MVP hit a ridiculous .346/.438/.640 with 32 homers and 30 stolen bases across 136 games, though he failed to reach 100 RBI for the first time in three seasons given his placement atop the order. Shifting Betts to the two hole should allow the star to contribute more evenly across the board in 2019 (after racking up 129 runs compared to 80 RBI).
Betts was named the 2018 American League Most Valuable Player on Thursday. The awards keep piling up for Betts, who was also honored with a Gold Glove and Silver Slugger for his stellar 2018 campaign. The 26-year-old was incredible across the board for the World Series champs, joining the 30-30 club (32 homers, 30 stolen bases) while leading the majors in batting average (.346), slugging percentage (.640) and runs scored (129). Betts has solidified himself as one of the bonafide five-tool superstars in the league.
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