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 Minor League News & Autograph Blog Home

Top Prospect Alert - Wilson Betemit

By Schuyler Dombroske

DOB: 11/2/81, Age: 21, Bats/Throws: B/R, Height: 6’2’’, Weight: 155. Acquired: Braves - Signed out of the Dominican Republic (illegally) on 7/28/96. 2001 Stats: (High-A - Myrtle Beach) .277 AVG, 318 AB, 20 2B, 1 3B, 7 HR, 8 SB, 23 BB, 71 K, .326 OBP, .412 SLG; (AA - Greenville) .355 AVG, 183 AB, 14 2B, 0 3B, 5 HR, 6 SB, 12 BB, 36 K, .395 OBP, .514 SLG; (Maj. - Braves) .000 AVG, 3 AB, 1 SB, 2 BB, 3 K, .400 OBP, .000 SLG. 2002 Stats: (Rookie - GCL Braves) .263 AVG, 19 AB, 4 2B, 0 3B, 0 HR, 1 SB, 5 BB, 2 K, .417 OBP, .474 SLG; (AAA - Richmond) .245 AVG, 343 AB, 17 2B, 1 3B, 8 HR, 8 SB, 34 BB, 82 K, .312 OBP, .370 SLG.
    Wilson Betemit was one of the Atlanta Braves’ top prospects, and was capable of playing a position at which they were soon to be among the weakest in baseball. Therefore, when talk of moving Chipper Jones to the outfield surfaced late in 2001, there was a great deal of speculation that Betemit, who had produced some phenomenal numbers as a 19 year old in AA that summer, would be called on to start at 3B in Atlanta shortly after his 20th birthday. Instead, the Braves attempted (and failed) to resurrect Vinny Castilla, Betemit struggled at Richmond, subsequently got hurt, and found his stroke only in time to turn a completely lost year into a disappointing one. Betemit is a confident and talented young player: one who is capable of starring in all facets of the game. He hits hard line drives from both sides of the plate, and he hits them to all fields. He already can hit the ball over the fence occasionally, and he should develop much more home run power as he continues to fill out. His strike zone judgment is improving, albeit slightly, as he walked approximately once every 12 plate appearances in 2001, and once every 11 last season. His batting eye is still not an asset, but he is gradually becoming more selective at the plate. On the bases, Betemit’s athleticism translates to above average speed. He probably won’t be a prolific base stealer, but he will likely pilfer 10 to 20 bags a year. Defensively, Wilson has all the tools to be successful: soft hands, good range, and a very strong arm. Unfortunately, like many young players, lapses of concentration have plagued him. Much of the reasoning behind the speculation that he would be moved to third is his body type. Judging from his build and age, it is likely he will be at the large end of the ideal shortstop’s frame in a few years. Third base, especially given the current makeup of the Braves, appears to be a good fit for him long term. At either short or third, Betemit projects to be an offensive force.
    Wilson Betemit just looks like he is going to be a major leaguer. The way he carries himself and the way the ball jumps off of his bat are simply different from your average minor leaguers. Right now, the Braves have the ghost of Vinny Castilla over at the hot corner, arguably less than that over at first, and two young, useful players in Marcus Giles and Rafael Furcal manning the middle. Hence, it will not take much production from Betemit, be it in spring training or in AAA, for him to force his way into the picture. Put simply, the Braves had 1081 at bats worth of these three OPS figures in 2002: 616 (Castilla), 739 (40+ yo Julio Franco), and 688 (Helms). They were able to survive in the NL (L)East last year, and they might be able to do so again this year. Sooner or later, punting batting order positions will cost the Braves. In fact, if the Marlins exhibited any competitive effort as a franchise, it might have happened last year. The Phillies have enough talent to make a run if things fall right. In other words, the Braves NL East dynasty is teetering on the edge, and players like Betemit will bring it back, while players like Castilla will not. I think a player like Miguel Tejada provides a good comparison for Betemit. Miggy broke in at age 21, scuffled a bit for a few years, and now is a solid shortstop and, apparently, an MVP candidate. Forecasting a player’s future progress is of course an inexact science, but Tejada in 1996 was certainly close to Betemit in 2002. I expect to see Wilson Betemit starting for the Braves, either at SS or 3B, sometime next season. I hope it will be Opening Day, but more likely it will be around the beginning of summer.


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