|Betemit Making Good on Promise||| Print |||Send|
Written by Jonathan Leshanski (Contact & Archive) on August 23, 2010
Wilson Betemit wasn't always a back up. For many years he was considered a can't miss player. In 2000 he was labeled the Atlanta Braves future at shortstop, as well as their No. 1 prospect by Baseball America. In 2001 he was the Braves minor league player of the year, the Florida State League All-Star shortstop and the Baseball America second team minor league All-Star shortstop. His future looked bright.
But in 2003 the untouchable part of his career wore off. He struggled at the highest level of minor league ball and his .300 plus average at lower levels only seemed to translate to .240s at AAA and the team shifted him to third base. Yet in 2005 the Braves gave him a chance, mainly as a backup infielder where he regained his form, hitting .305 with 20 RBIs and four home runs in just 246 ABs. It was the last full season he'd play in the uniform of the Atlanta Braves.
He appeared ready for a full time job but with Chipper Jones firmly entrenched as the man at third, Betemit was doomed to spend another season as a utility man, even when traded to the Dodgers just before the 2006 trade deadline. He struggled a bit on the west coast but finished the season with a .263 average, 18 home runs and 53 RBIs.
It was enough to convince the Dodgers that the 24 year old Betemit was their third baseman of the future. But the Dodgers weren't all that confident. It took only a weak first half of 2007 (.239-10-26) to convince the Dodgers they couldn't wait for him to mature and once again just before the trading deadline Betemit was moved this time to the Yankees where he had no regular position (as A-Rod wasn't going to be displaced by "potential") and Betemit was forced back into a utility role, managing just 90 odd at bats the rest of the season.
At age 26, when his skill set should have been getting exercised and his proficiency nearing its peak, Betemit was still nothing more than a Yankees backup, not even getting 200 at bats during the season. Somewhere along the line he'd gone from can't miss to "can't start" in the eyes of general managers and scouts.
Things didn't get better in 2009 when he managed just 50 AB, this time for the White Sox. The Sox didn't give him much of a chance. He got to start just nine times, and play the field at all in just 14 games and spent most of his time in their minor league system. At age 27 in the prime of his career, Betemit looked like little more than a career backup.
Things didn't look better when he moved to Kansas City in 2010. He was relegated to their AAA team, where he posted an uninspired .265-2-17 in 29 games before finally being recalled to the big club, again as a backup.
But with the trade of Alberto Callaspo to the Angels at the deadline he became the Royals first line option at third base. And he's delivered, showing the tools which got him classified as a top prospect nearly a decade ago. In 156 games he's hitting .346 with 8 home runs, 25 RBIs and a .425 OBP.
While it might be easy to dismiss this as a freak occurrence, and something that will correct itself over the length of a full season (one presumes the average will in any case) it's worth noting that the weakness he supposedly had against right-handers (despite being a switch hitter) hasn't affected him greatly (he's hitting .326 with three home runs and an even higher .442 OBP against righties) so far this year.
That certainly makes him one of the most intriguing Royals to watch down the stretch. Betemit is just 28 and will be a free agent after the season and right now he's putting on a display which certainly should get him an audition with much better team next season.