Boston Red Sox left fielder Andrew Benintendi has become one of the AL’s best at the position and could soon be one of the best outfielders in baseball.
I’ll save you the dramatics: Boston Red Sox left fielder Andrew Benintendi has become one the American League’s best outfielders.
Benny has already staked his claim as a Bronx bully, driving in 11 runs against New York in just 12 games this year, coupled with an OPS ten points south of 1.000.
It was only a season ago that he was hitting .270 while losing out on Rookie of the Year to Aaron Judge, and now the Ohio native is looking more akin to a perennial all-star candidate.
Michael Beller of Sports Illustrated pointed out in early June that Benintendi’s sudden surge with the bat coalesced with a change in his batting stance, and he was absolutely right. Because of that and its subsequent impact, we can at least agree that the likes of Justin Upton, Trey Mancini, Teoscar Hernandez, Alex Gordon, Marwin Gonzalez, and the ever-jovial Brett Gardner are on a tier well below that of Benny, Giancarlo Stanton, Khris Davis, Eddie Rosario, Michael Brantley and former Ray Denard Span.
The numbers are found easily enough, but I’ll force them upon you anyways:
|Andrew Benintendi 2018|
That’s how the first-round selection has ranked here among AL left fielders, proving to be as valuable and productive as any LF in the junior circuit.
And while it may seem his power is significantly less than left field/part-time DH’s Stanton and Davis… well, it is. There’s no denying. However, he’s still within range of them as he’s only knocked four fewer XBH than the pinstriped behemoth, and eight fewer than Davis.
But just as nearly all of the Red Sox 25-man roster has demonstrated this season, Benny uses his athleticism as a primary tool to contribute in every facet of the game; with 10 outfield assists (21 since the start of 2017), the Red Sox outfielder leads the league. And the major gripe that people had with his game, his uncanny knack to run into outs, has been cleaned up along with the rest of the club.
Sure, Davis is a talented hitter. But he’s a sloth on the basepaths and plays outfield like a cow grazes a pasture. His power may border on prolific, but a below average range factor, below average fielding percentage, and a dink for an arm all lower his stock as an overall player.
Try as I must, there’s no way I can rationalize Benny over Stanton. The Yankee has played half the outfield innings as his Red Sox counterpart and is behind him in runs, doubles, and a few of the major offensive categories, but he simply just isn’t there yet.
The naysayers will immediately point out that his production has aligned with the addition of J.D., but so what? Where is a Judge-less Stanton in New York, a Brantley without Lindor and Ramirez in Cleveland, or Upton without the world’s best baseball player?
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He doesn’t provide the lineup with the Ryu uppercut that Giancarlo and Khris do, at least not to the extent of launching moonshots in the middle of the lineup every 11 at-bats. But, if you’ve been saying to yourself all season that Benny has been coming through in the clutch, that is a spot on assessment. In 109 AB’s with runners in scoring position, he’s slugging .624 and has knocked in 57 runs. ‘Late and Close’ situations, per baseball-reference.com, show that the left-handed bat has a rock solid OPS of 1.062, which isn’t far behind Betts.
A quiet stat that isn’t as mainstream as others is the number of pitches seen. It was an absolute necessity about a decade ago, when Francona and the troops worked starters harder than any other club, forcing the bullpen doors open early and often. However, it is still important despite the growing number of ‘pens that feature multiple guys who are more dominant than the starter. And in this category, Benny is second only to Stanton, seeing more pitches than Betts and JDM.
But it doesn’t stop there. The RoY runner-up is ahead of Brantley, Upton, and Joey Gallo among others in total bases, to go along with the same total of XBH as the prestigious Mike Trout; even further, Benny ranks 7th in MLB outfielders in XBH and 13th in OPS. With 20 stolen bases in 22 attempts and only three outfielders ranking ahead of him in runs, it’s feasible the University of Arkansas product will be known as a premier player before he turns 27.
This isn’t an attempt to stir the pot and say Andrew Benintendi is one of baseball’s best. It’s just easy for his season to fly under the radar because of his teammate’s production. And at only 24 years old, he’s under the mercy of Boston’s front office until 2023; his age 29 season. With 30/30 potential, it’ll be interesting to see if the Red Sox brass butchers negotiations along the lines of Mookie, Jon Lester, and Roger Clemens, or if Dave Dombrowski really will go beyond the luxury tax threshold, and one day pay Benny what’s necessary to keep him atop Boston’s lineup for as long as possible.