Betts becomes leader of Red Sox offense

With Big Papi retired, star outfielder is biggest threat

Betts becomes leader of Red Sox offense

With Spring Training fast approaching, MLB.com will take a look at a different aspect of this year's Red Sox squad each day this week. Today's topic: How's your star?

BOSTON -- No longer sharing the spotlight with a legend, Mookie Betts will be the focal point of the Red Sox's lineup going forward. Not only that, but he will dominate the opposition's pre-series scouting meetings.

In this post-Big Papi era, Boston is fortunate to have a young star at the age of 24 with no end in sight to his prime years.

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"Before we played Boston in the playoffs, everyone was like, 'Are you going to walk David [Ortiz]? I was like, 'Do you see who's hitting behind him?' He's so good," Indians manager Terry Francona said of Betts. "He does everything. He's young, but he hits the ball out of the ballpark, he runs the bases. He's a good hitter. You can throw him a ball six inches off the plate and he hits it for a home run and he keeps it fair. You've just got to hope he's not hot when you're not facing him because he'll kill you."

Betts will do it all with a low-key demeanor and a quiet confidence backed by having the requisite skills and work ethic to dominate in all aspects of the game.

It is a good time to be Mookie Betts.

"I also think there are certain people, that, naturally, they are successful people and he exhibits those qualities," said Red Sox manager John Farrell. "His inquisitive self never seems to go away. You don't ever see him becoming complacent. He's always wanting to learn, he's always got a high standard for himself and I don't think he focuses on what the end numbers are but instead is just interested in performing to the best of his abilities today."

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Those end numbers in 2016 were so impressive that Betts finished second to Angels superstar Mike Trout in the American League's Most Valuable Player Award voting.

By going to the post nearly every day (158 games, 730 plate appearances), Betts slashed .318/.363/.534 with 122 runs, 214 hits, 42 doubles, five triples, 31 homers, 113 RBIs and 26 stolen bases.

On defense, the right fielder was just as impressive, winning his first Gold Glove Award. Betts finished second in the Majors among right fielders with 14 assists. According to FanGraphs, the 32 runs saved by Betts were 10 more than any other player at any position.

The one major difference for Betts in 2017 is he won't have Ortiz to lean on.

"You know that obviously you're losing a leader," said Betts. "He was the best DH probably ever so it's going to take more than one person to pick that up. We all collectively have to try and pick up where he left off. I think if we know that it's going to take a group effort, it's going to be alright."

Just don't be surprised if Betts sets himself apart from the rest of the group with the level of his excellence.

Ian Browne has covered the Red Sox for MLB.com since 2002. Follow him on Twitter @IanMBrowne and Facebook. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.