Red Sox: Andrew Benintendi ranked the top outfield prospect in baseball
The first-round pick in 2015 made an impact in the Boston Red Sox lineup just 13 months after his pro debut.
If you didn’t already know, Andrew Benintendi is a big deal. In an injury-marred freshman campaign with the University of Arkansas, he hit just one home run in 61 games for the Razorbacks. That season was the last time he’s struggled at any level in baseball.
Benintendi took home the Baseball America College Player of the Year Award, Dick Howser Trophy and the Golden Spikes Award after leading the Southeastern Conference in average (.380), home runs (19), on-base percentage (.489) and slugging (.715) in 2015. After winning every college-player-of-the-year award possible, the Red Sox had him ranked second on their draft board and were undoubtedly elated when he slipped to them at 7th overall.
Since his draft day, Benintendi has torn through the minor leagues, hitting a combined .312/.378/.532 over 97 games between High-A Salem and AA Portland. His short time in the minors was enough to warrant a call-up to the bigs in August of 2016. Since arriving, he hasn’t shown any signs of decline, posting a .295 average and .835 OPS in 34 games. He even looked like Boston’s best hitter during the ALDS, homering in his first career postseason plate appearance. The only thing that could slow him down was a sprained left knee that kept him out of the lineup for three weeks between August and September.
That injury is also the only reason why he’s still making waves as a prospect. With 105 major league at-bats, Benintendi fell short of the 130 AB minimum needed to exceed rookie eligibility. Regardless of his eligibility, he’s earned the praise that scouts and analysts are throwing his way.
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Released on Thursday, MLB.com Pipeline unveiled their number one outfield prospect – none other than Andrew Benintendi. Based on his strong performance in 2016, both in the minors and majors, he jumped from fifth to first on their official rankings. Writing for MLB.com, Jonathan Mayo had this to say about the stud outfielder:
"Though Benintendi isn’t physically imposing, he generates surprising power with his quick hands and strong wrists and projects to deliver 20 or more homers on an annual basis. Even so, his slugging takes a back seat to his pure hitting ability. With a pretty left-handed swing and astute pitch recognition and strike-zone management, he repeatedly barrels balls and holds his own against southpaws."
The scouting community isn’t alone in their admiration for Benintendi. Dan Szymborski’s ZiPS projections system, widely regarded as one of the most accurate tools for predicting future performance, is buying on his ability to perform in the big leagues. Szymborski’s model has him hitting .278/.341/.446 with 12 home runs, 31 doubles, 62 runs and 13 steals. Combined with his strong defensive ability, he projects to be worth 2.2 WAR in 2016. ZiPS even expects Benintendi (109) to have a higher OPS+ than Dustin Pedroia (103), Jackie Bradley Jr. (105) and Xander Bogaerts (106).
His projected value is incumbent on earning the starting job in left field for the Red Sox and while here isn’t a 100% certainty that he’ll be the team’s left fielder when they host the Pirates on Opening Day, it’s more than likely. At the very least, he’ll be in a platoon split with Chris Young – earning his at-bats against right-handed pitching.
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In a lineup that will be looking to fill the void caused by David Ortiz‘s retirement, the team could find a lot of surplus value in their rookie left-fielder. But even if he suffers from the proverbial sophomore slump, at least we know he can dance.