The AJC now says that Wilson Betemit is likely to make the 25-man roster. Knowing the AJC, that means he’ll probably be traded this afternoon, but I wanted to expand upon my commentary on Betemit from yesterday and from my player analysis on him.
Wilson Betemit was labeled a hot prospect so many years ago that not everybody might remember why. It wasn’t performance, exactly. He was pretty good in Danville in 1999, but what made everyone really take notice was the revelation that he was actually sixteen months younger than his listed age. Betemit put up some high batting averages and showed some power in the low minors, and continued to advance. He played 47 games in Greenville in 2001 and hit .355, and the Braves thought he was close to ready, even calling him up in September.
He wasn’t ready. Betemit was terrible in Richmond in 2002, and lost much of his prospect sheen. He wasn’t much better in 2003, and lost the rest of it. So when he put up some pretty good numbers there last year, nobody cared.
Now, .278/.336/.466 doesn’t exactly leap out at you. But for a 22-year-old infielder in AAA, that’s not bad at all. To take a name at semi-random, when Mike Lowell was 22, he hit .282/.355/.413… in Greensboro of the South Atlantic League. Bret Boone hit .255/.357/.417 at age 22 in the Southern League. Jeff Kent hit .277/.358/.465 in the Florida State League. And so on.
Now, I’m not going to say that Wilson Betemit is going to be as good of a player as Boone, Kent, or Lowell. But compare him to a couple of players from the Braves’ system. Mark DeRosa was a pretty good utility infielder for awhile, and not someone labeled useless trade bait. DeRosa hit .296/.359/.425 in AAA — at age 26, on his third year at the level.
Baseball Prospectus, in this year’s annual, compares Betemit to Vinny Castilla. I’ve been critical of Vinny, but nobody doubts he’s a major league-level player. Vinny wasn’t even in organized baseball at 22. At 25, he hit .252/.291/.367 in Richmond.
I don’t think Wilson Betemit is going to be a star. But you don’t have to be a star to be a contributor. I think Betemit will likely wind up with a fairly long career at third base in the majors. Comparable active players would be Aaron Boone, David Bell, Joe Randa. That level of player. That’s not the sort of player who’s going to push Chipper aside or hold off Andy Marte, but it’s not a failure.