The Boston Red Sox are not the only ones who value prospect Andrew Benintendi. MLB has the young outfielder’s stock set very high.
Christopher Smith of MassLive.com reported that “Andrew Benintendi, who the Boston Red Sox selected seventh overall in the 2015 June draft, has been ranked Major League Baseball’s fifth best outfield prospect entering the 2016 season.”
Here is the top ten outfield prospects list, according to MLBPipeline.com:
1. Byron Buxton, Twins
2. Lewis Brinson, Rangers
3. Nomar Mazara, Rangers
4. Austin Meadows, Pirates
5. Andrew Benintendi, Red Sox
6. Bradley Zimmer, Indians
7. Clint Frazier, Indians
8. Aaron Judge, Yankees
9. Brett Phillips, Brewers
10. Jesse Winker, Reds
Many baseball media platforms, including BoSox Injection, have discussed the many talents, achievements, and awards that Benintendi has earned so far. While many of those attributes are great to hear for Red Sox Nation, the question still remains when he will be called up. Even starting ace David Price, the recent big-name acquisition by the Red Sox, asked about Benintendi before taking his own talents to Boston.
Previous logic would suggest that it wouldn’t be until Benintendi can prove that he can do the job in the Fenway Park outfield and the plate better than the three outfielders who are already listed as starters: Mookie Betts, Jackie Bradley Jr., and Rusney Castillo. However, logic may be thrown out the window if Benintendi continues to perform quicker than expected.
For the Red Sox Class-A (Short) affiliate Lowell Spinners, Benintendi played 35 games and hit .290 with seven home runs and 15 RBIs in 2015. He then moved on to Class-A Greenville, where he drove in four home runs and 16 RBIs, with a .351 batting average, in just 19 games. In total, he walked 35 times to only 24 strikeouts. With a slugging percentage of .556 in the minors, you can see why everyone in baseball is drooling at the thought of this kid playing to his full potential. In only one year of professional baseball, Benintendi is the name on people’s lips.
To put those numbers into perspective, let’s look at the Red Sox starting outfield combination and how they faired in the minors.
Betts hit a slash line of .267/.352/.307 with no homers and 31 RBIs in 71 games for the 2012 Spinners. In 76 games for Greenville, the following season, he hit .296/.418/.477, with 8 homers and 26 RBIs. It would take another season in the minors before Betts would see the MLB lights in 2014, and that was only for a short stay of 52 games.
Bradley Jr. was horrendous at the plate in 2011 with only six games and a .190 batting average credited to his name. The sample-size got much bigger in Class-A (Advanced) Salem, however, playing 67 games in 2012 and hitting .359/.480/.526 with three home runs and 34 RBIs. Yet, in the same year, Bradley Jr. could only hit .271 when he played up a class in Double-A Portland, smacking six homers and 29 RBIs while having 49 strikeouts to only 35 walks. Inconsistency, maybe.
Castillo is harder to compare to Benintendi because he was brought over from Cuba with the expectation to play MLB opponents almost immediately. After an injury in spring training last season, Castillo spent time in Triple-A Pawtucket and hit .282/.337/.385 with three homers and 17 RBIs in 40 games. He struck out 28 times to only 14 walks.
Benintendi’s own sample-size is very small, compared to the experience that all three Red Sox starting outfielders have gathered over the years. Except for Castillo, age is not much of a factor with the other three young men are only a few years apart. All four men have proven that they can play center field with relative ease and speed, cancelling each other out in any decision-making process, defensively.
When it comes to the bat, however, Benintendi looks to have more potential than when Betts was in his position. Bradley’s bat, in itself, is an anomaly: even in his MLB career, nobody knows what to expect next from it. It’s also hard to tell whether Castillo has adjusted to U.S. baseball pitching just yet; his potential took a hit last year, but it could rise like a phoenix in 2016. Until some of the starters’ questions have been solved, it looks unlikely that Benintendi will be rushed up the minor-league ladder to the big time, but it also looks like nobody will stop discussing how Benintendi matches up to the rest of Boston’s current outfield any time soon.