Red Sox Debate: Brighter MLB future – Andrew Benintendi or Aaron Judge
By Sean Penney
Benintendi enters the day hitting .272/.343/.427 with eight home runs, 31 RBI, eight steals and a 0.8 WAR. He leads all qualified major league rookies who aren’t named Judge in OBP, OPS, hits, RBI, steals and WAR.
While Judge has benefited from good fortune on balls hit in play, the opposite can be said of Benintendi. His .284 BABIP is below league average and well below his minor league rates. We can’t expect him to match the .367 BABIP from his 34 game sample in the big leagues last year, although splitting the difference between that and his current rate seems reasonable.
Also supporting the notion that Benintendi’s batting average should be on the rise is that he rarely strikes out. His 14.3 K% ranks 16th in the league and is less than half of Judge’s staggering rate.
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Few players hit the ball as hard as Judge, yet Benintendi’s 34.8 Hard% is still pretty solid. Nearly half of Benintendi’s contact is rated at a medium level, while his 15.7 Soft% isn’t far off from Judge (14.4%). Essentially this means that while Benny doesn’t have Judge’s massive power potential, he’s not getting by with cheap hits either – another reason to believe his average will rise.
Benintendi isn’t a big time home run hitter but he’s still on pace for 20+ homers, while also adding value on the base paths with an equal pace for stolen bases. Only nine major league hitters bashed 20+ homers and swiped 20+ bases last year, benchmarks Benintendi could easily reach as a rookie. He may even make a run at the 25/25 club, an exclusive group that only Trout, Mookie Betts and Wil Myers were a part of last year. To give you an idea of the types of players that reach that level, all three were All-Stars, Trout was an MVP and Betts was the runner-up. Not bad company to be in if Benny can get there.
One area that Benintendi has been a disappointment is in the field, at least according to some advanced defensive metrics. He has -2 defensive runs saved and a -1 UZR to go along with a pair of errors. Judge has also committed two errors but he rates above-average with 6 defensive runs saved and a 2.7 UZR.
Benny is a natural center fielder who has all the tools to become a good defensive player. His lackluster defensive metrics may partially be the result of learning a new position in left field, as well as the challenge of playing in the shadow of Fenway Park’s towering Green Monster.