The Boston Red Sox season is a disappointment and so are a few players including Andrew Benintendi. Are time and patience running out?
The expectation I had for Boston Red Sox outfielder Andrew Benintendi during the 2017 season was to be the American League Rookie of the Year, but Aaron Judge had a monster year and Benintendi rightfully and regrettably finished second. But the sweet swing of Benintendi produced a respectable .271 and 20 home runs.
From an observational point, I thought of Benintendi as this generations Mike Greenwell who was a .300 career hitter for the Red Sox of last century. Greenwell – a lefty hitter – hit a career .293 against lefties and was a reasonably capable left fielder. I expected Benintendi to project upwards as his career matured. That has simply not happened.
In his last college season at Arkansas, the slightly built Benintendi hit 20 home runs – a jump of 19 from the previous year. A surprising surge of power added a tad by aluminum bats, but still impressive. Picked in the first round by Boston (2015), the hard-working Benny made it to “The Show” in the late stages of 2016.
In the offseason of 2017, Benintendi added weight and that means muscle weight to bump up his power output. Didn’t happen in 2018 or now in 2019, but the gap power was present with 41 doubles, a figure that will be exceeded (hopefully) in 2019. What is lacking in this homer rich environment is the long ball. To complicate matters, Benintendi has never really advanced as a batting average hitter and has been suspect against lefty hurlers.
When I first saw Benintendi I had him pegged as a future batting champion with a great swing, exceptional work ethic, an ability to use the whole ballpark, a solid lineup for support, and the advantage of Fenway Park, but his splits gave little to show Fenway is a big plus for Benintendi.
Just what has happened? Can a player reach a level and a simple stall? Can a slow regression take place? Baseball history is littered with players who never attained their projected levels of accomplishments. So far, Benintendi is now in that category, but there are certainly positives.
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Benintendi is just 25-years-old so there’s time to bring it to the next level. Teammate Rafael Devers has accomplished that after a half-season of promise and a full season of disappointment. A far more valid comparison would be J.D. Martinez who became an All-Star after four rather pedestrian years, including being released by the Astros.
Benintendi is surrounded by a strong offense. This is not a produce or die situation for the affable Benintendi as the Red Sox can be patient. But just how patient? The key will be 2020 when he can certainly be considered a veteran and with that comes the responsibility to maximize his production which translates into making the Benintendi clan rather wealthy.
Benintendi will be sought after by other teams based on the frustration factor: A frustrating team and personal year will be viewed as an opportunistic chance to get a possible bargain as Benintendi season is just pre-arbitration. That and the knowledge that the Red Sox need pitching could make Benintendi a sought after commodity.
The Red Sox may just move Jackie Bradley Jr. and that would open center field to Benintendi and left field to Martinez, Sam Travis, or anyone else with a pulse and a decent bat. In the economics of baseball, it is cheaper at this point in time to keep Benintendi over Bradley unless the proverbial offer that cannot be refused surfaces.
I wish there was a cure to get Benintendi back to being the projected All-Star and .300 hitter that most expected. Benintendi is good – not great – defensively and has more than respectable speed. Power is there with his doubles output, but oh that disappointing average and lack of the long ball.