With all of the free agent possibilities, could not the Boston Red Sox look to a prospect & college player of the year as a solution to their power loss?
Jen McCaffrey of MassLive.com reported that Baseball America named Red Sox prospect Andrew Benintendi the 2015 College Player of the Year. “Earlier this year, Benintendi also was named National Player of the Year by Collegiate Baseball and SEC Player of the Year.”
McCaffrey continues by stating, “If Benintendi continues the pace of progression he’s currently at, the Red Sox could see him in the majors by 2017.”
The 21-year-old man-child is only 5’10” but hits incredibly well, with power to spare. After being drafted in the first round by the Red Sox, he hit a slash line of .290/.408/.540 in 124 at-bats for the Class-A Lowell Spinners. He was soon promoted to Class-A (Advanced) Greenville where his slash line got even better, hitting .351/.430/.581 with four home runs and 16 RBIs in just 19 games.
Benintendi’s lefty bat is making some of Red Sox Nation drool at the idea that he will advance quick enough to make it to the majors much earlier than previously expected. However, the danger lies in the timing and the defensive position that he currently plays.
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At present, Benintendi is a center fielder. In over 452 innings last season, Benintendi made only one error for almost a perfect fielding percentage. That’s great news, except that the Red Sox already have four designated outfielders and an All-Star utility player for the same job.
Mookie Betts played remarkably well in center field, but he already has taken a backseat in right field to Jackie Bradley Jr. before spring training has even started. They even have Rusney Castillo who could fill the center field position if needed. Chris Young, the 32-year-old veteran, was brought in specifically to be a backup in that outfield, if one of the first three were to get injured. And, if all else fails, Brock Holt can be the jolt of energy that the Red Sox need, which he has already proven in 2015.
If Bradley and Betts continue to perform at the level that they played last season, nobody will supplant them as regular starters for years to come. They are only 25 and 23 years old, respectively, and the Red Sox have contractual control of both of them for at least another six years. It’s seven years for Castillo, whom Boston is paying $72.5 million as a long-term investment. Now, with the Red Sox also paying Young $13 million until the end of 2017, unless the plan is to trade any of these guys, it would be hard to see how Benintendi is going to crack the starting lineup if these men play to their potential.
That’s the problem. Benintendi looks so tempting to call up early that Red Sox fans may demand that he plays almost immediately with the big club, if everything progresses how it looks on paper.
With no room in the outfield, will Boston look to play Benintendi in another position?
Many outfielders spend time at first base during their careers, depending on the issue. Yet, Benintendi has no experience at the minor league level starting as a first baseman for any consistent amount of time. His speed and skill set may be squandered by putting him at first base, simply to fit his bat in the lineup.
And, it’s not like the Red Sox are having problems filling the position; although, having a full-time successful one is maybe more of the problem. Between the injury-prone Hanley Ramirez, Holt, and Travis Shaw, the Red Sox have more than enough bodies to play the position, already. Adding Benintendi’s name into the mix to platoon the position would only damage the evolution of his career, when he could be getting full-time starts in the minor league outfields.
It’s that bat that’s waving to Red Sox fans from afar that looks like an everlasting, never melting, cold, refreshing ice cream sundae, just sitting there in the summer heat and waiting for someone to reach out and grab it. When designated hitter David Ortiz retires after 2016, many of the Fenway Park faithful are going to scream for Ramirez to be moved to the DH role and find a way to get Benintendi in the lineup in 2017.
That temptation could be the cherry on top of a championship year or the last nail in the coffin to Benintendi’s career, depending on how all of the cogs in the Red Sox machine run. It might work to put him at first base, but it may be best just to leave him in the minors until he’s ready to be judged for both his defence, as well as his offence, against the other four outfielders on Boston’s roster. Bradley, Betts, and Castillo may be the starters in 2016, but who knows what 2017 will bring?