The Boston Red Sox are openly discussing options to add to their roster, come December. Some of the news coming through the pipeline is that Red Sox president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski is looking for a fourth outfielder, to platoon if needed.
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However, one of their own may be a possible solution. If not now, then very soon.
Andrew Benintendi was drafted seventh overall by the Red Sox in the 2015 MLB June Amateur Draft, but his skills have shown a faster progression than first anticipated.
Baseball America surveyed scouts and player development personnel from every major league team to assess every player whom came from that draft. According to Jen McCaffrey of MassLive.com, “Benintendi landed as No. 1 in several categories, including quickest projected college player to reach the majors first, best pure hitter and best pro debut among college players. He was ranked second as best power hitter.”
Within his first exposure to the Red Sox minor league system, Benintendi was promoted quickly to Class-A Advanced Greenville from Class-A short-seasoned Lowell and “tallied 35 walks compared to 24 strikeouts which typically implies strong pitch recognition and control.”
The most compelling fact is that Benintendi, in a system where winter ball is an institution for all drafted rookies, “is not scheduled for winter ball.” A 5-foot-10, 170-pound rookie who was recently drafted is not being asked to continue evolving in between seasons, something almost unheard of in the typical life of a minor league prospect.
Benintendi’s 2015 slash line was .313/.416/.556 with 11 home runs and 31 RBIs in 54 games, having 86 plate appearances combined in Lowell and Greenville. He was the center fielder for 49 of those games, posting a .992 fielding percentage and a 2.75 range factor per nine innings. Between the big left bat, his excellent glove, and his strong left arm, Benintendi looks set to take on more difficult competition.
Does that mean Triple-A or MLB pitching, next season?
Traditional thinking, if not simply logical thought, would say that Benintendi would still have much to prove. However, his skyrocketing success so far has put scouts from all MLB teams in a state of awe. The pedigree alone makes him a candidate for accelerated progress through the minor league system. The thought of trading him seems ridiculous compared to the potential that Benintendi could bring to the big club, whether in the short or long-term futures.
Currently, Benintendi is fifth on Boston’s list of prospects, but Manuel Margot is the only outfielder prospect in between him and the big club. While Margot was brought into the fold in 2011, Benintendi has almost equaled him in the eyes of the scouts in only his first year.
Could Benintendi be that fourth outfielder for the Red Sox? Could he even surpass some of the starters? Possibly. Very early, still. Yet, to not even be asked to play winter ball because he had already shown the Red Sox execs what they needed to see is pretty impressive. If not in April, and if Boston still needs a fourth outfielder, expect Benintendi to at least be in the conversation to be called up.
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