Red Sox: Andrew Benintendi rebound is crucial for successful 2021 season

BOSTON, MA - AUGUST 11: Andrew Benintendi #16 of the Boston Red Sox runs onto the field before a game against the Tampa Bay Rays on August 11, 2020 at Fenway Park in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images)
BOSTON, MA - AUGUST 11: Andrew Benintendi #16 of the Boston Red Sox runs onto the field before a game against the Tampa Bay Rays on August 11, 2020 at Fenway Park in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images) /
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The Red Sox need Andrew Benintendi to bounce back next season

From the day he was chosen seventh overall in the 2015 draft to as recently as 2018, Andrew Benintendi has been considered a cornerstone to the success of the Boston Red Sox. Unfortunately, the 26-year-old has regressed steadily since a highly-productive season in 2018 that saw him swat 16 home runs while driving in 86 runs to the tune of a .290 batting average.

His 2019 season saw a decline in his productivity as he ended the season with a .266 batting average, 13 home runs 68 runs batted in, and an uptick in strikeouts. The team enters 2020 with Benintendi penciled in as their starting left fielder, hoping for a rebound.

While his 2019 season was less-than-flattering in regards to his two prior seasons, many considered it to be a fluke and that 2020 would be the year he got back into a similar rhythm to his two prior seasons.

As many things in 2020 have gone to this point, the pandemic-shortened season was a turn for the worst for the left fielder. Before his season came to an abrupt end after straining his rib cage due to falling on the basepaths, the outfielder was struggling immensely offensively, mustering four hits while compiling 17 strikeouts over 39 at-bats. Whether he would have been able to overcome the rough 14-game stretch he endured in 2020 will never be known.

Since the start of August, reports surfaced that the outfielder was available in trade talks ahead of the since-past trade deadline (even after being placed on the IL). Considering a deal never came to fruition, it would appear that Boston still had a hefty-asking price for their once-heralded homegrown talent. Even in the midst of a down-year. The outfielder now has very “limited trade value” according to a piece from The Boston Globe’s Alex Speier.

Benintendi likely won’t be going anywhere this offseason given the potential departure of Jackie Bradley Jr. putting the team at higher risk of losing outfield depth for next to nothing.

With that in mind, the outfielder had far better results with since-rehired skipper Alex Cora, and one would hope that Cora can assist in getting his left fielder back on track. Cora spoke to reporters on Thursday to address Benintendi’s status and what needs to be done to help get the young outfielder back on his feet.

"“He was in great shape,” Cora responded when asked about Benintendi’s down year in 2019. “I think his mindset was a little bit different.”"

Cora went on to discuss the dialogue the two had during the outfielder’s even more frustrating 2020.

"“He never felt right in the batter’s box, although it was 50 something at-bats. But the swing and misses — we talked about it in ’19, we saw it in ’20.”"

Boston’s manager does have a point in implying that the sample size was small and a player’s overall value should not be defined by one underwhelming, injury-shortened season. Players go through slumps all the time, some longer than others.

Another argument can be made about how pivotal COVID-19 restrictions can be on a player getting into a rhythm. Just ask Red Sox designated hitter J.D. Martinez, who was restricted in 2020 for several reasons. An article from August highlights some of the factors that played into Benintendi’s regression. Martinez said batting practice restrictions prevented him from helping Benintendi with video work. This coming season will likely provide players with more resources to get back into the swing of things (no pun intended).

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A small sample size, losing an influential coach for a full season, and more importantly, the inability to work closely with other players can sometimes take a mental toll on a player’s overall performance on the field. Benintendi has some work to do to rebound from a lost 2020 season, and with a lack of outfield depth, the team will remain hopeful that he can, at the very least return to something close to his 2019 numbers.