Boston Red Sox rookie Andrew Benintendi is not just a former top prospect anymore, he’s one of the most clutch players that the team has for the postseason.
Not that the Red Sox needed the runs, going up 2-1 on a throwing error by Baltimore Orioles first baseman Chris Davis; however, Benintendi’s three-run homer last night was just the latest in his breakout performance.
Benintendi took the first pitch from Orioles reliever Brad Bach, a 94-mph fastball, over the right field fence like it was shot out of a canon. It was Benintendi’s second home run in his 30-game career. In 82 at-bats, the 22-year-old Cincinnati native has also produced 13 RBIs and a stolen base, while hitting .317 from the bottom of the batting lineup.
Being the seventh pick overall in the 2015 MLB draft, much was expected of Benintendi’s future; however, not many expected him to already be playing in the majors the following year in autumn, let alone in August. The Red Sox called up their top prospect to fill a hole that’s been gaping in left field for a number of years.
Thoughts were that Cuban phenom Rusney Castillo was going to be in the outfield combination with MVP candidate Mookie Betts and Jackie Bradley Jr., but injuries and poor play at the plate were his undoing. Chris Young, Bryce Brentz, and even 2015 All-Star utility player Brock Holt were given opportunities to fill the void, all having mixed results. Especially with runners in scoring position. In one of the most important situations in baseball, when at the plate, Brentz hit .286, Holt hit .266, and Young hit a miserable .239.
Benintendi? He’s hit .438 in the same, clutch situation.
The young man’s range has also not been in question. Benintendi’s 1.78 range factor was only rivalled by Blake Swihart‘s 2.38 in 13 games. Unfortunately for the catcher-turned-outfielder, Swihart’s ankle sprain did not heal since June and was not able to return to the Red Sox. Even then, the 24-year-old was only hitting .258, be it only in 19 games this season. In 84 games in 2015, Swihart hit .274, suggesting that he still had much to learn about MLB-level pitching.
Such is not the case for Benintendi, at least when compared to the other potential left fielders. The only thing that he needed to do was to learn to become clutch again after an injury. A sprained knee suffered against the Tampa Bay Rays on August 25th, while trying to stay out of a double play tag, could have broke down the mental toughness of any other young prospect whom had instant success in the big leagues. Instead, Benintendi worked out and kept his mind sharp, showing the Red Sox brass that he could heal quickly. They brought him back on September 13th, and he picked up where he left off: hitting .304 with a home run and four RBIs in the last seven games.
Benintendi’s future is now, and so is the Red Sox playoff run. By having Benintendi in left field, the Red Sox do not have to tinker with a platoon in different defensive positions and can just concentrate at the plate. The Red Sox have a commanding lead in the American League East division, and they should carry that momentum into home field advantage for the playoffs with Benintendi keeping the other players from having to pick up the slack. As far as left field is concerned for Boston, having stability like Benintendi is indeed clutch.