Red Sox Spring Training: Andrew Benintendi is the man to watch in camp
Red Sox outfielder Andrew Benintendi to prove a point this spring
The truck is loaded and on its way to Fort Myers which means we’re just days away from the Boston Red Sox making their way to spring training. With nothing but redemption on their mind, every member of this team is going to be chomping at the bit to prove that they can still hang. If any individual on the roster exemplifies that mentality more than another it’s Andrew Benintendi.
Boston’s longtime left fielder is making his way to Floria to not only redeem himself from an abysmal 2020 but to possibly save his career as well. I know that may sound a tad dramatic but really think about it. Just two years ago if Benny were placed on the trade block teams would’ve been writing blank checks to the Red Sox.
However, after a season where his stats barely registered and a rib injury ended his campaign early, his value is as low as ever. Benintendi has quickly become one of those players that are paid more for what he can do with his glove than what he can do with his bat. Over the last three seasons, his batting average has dramatically dropped from a .290 in 2018, to .266 in 2019, and finally .103 in 2020. Definitely not a good sign for a guy who’s only 26 years old and still very much in his prime.
In contrast, his defensive abilities have seemingly only gotten better as his Fld% has increased in that same time span from .984 in ’18, to .990 in 2019, and 1.000 in 2020. He’s a similar case to his former outfield comrade Jackie Bradley Jr. in that what he does with his glove will more often than not be his highlight of the night. The hits will come here and there but when Benny is flashing that leather you can’t take your eyes off the field.
A few weeks ago the rumblings began to make their way through the trade rumors that teams were inquiring about Benny, which honestly was a bit of a shock. As of now, Boston has been smart to keep the lefty as the return they’d get for him wouldn’t be on par with their recent trades. They were also smart to keep him as again, JBJ is most likely out the door and you can’t really play with only two outfielders.
As those rumors swirled, another report came out that Benintendi was coming to Ft. Myers in better shape than he had in 2020. Ahead of this last season he put on bulk and tried to become a power hitter instead of being a guy whose focus was to make contact and get on base. Unfortunately, that gameplan was an awful one and it’s being said that he’s back to the shape that he was in college where he dominated at the University of Arkansas.
Think of another beloved outfielder, Willie Mays Hayes from Major League. In the first movie, his focus was just getting on base and then swiping bags to help the team, much like a young Benny. By the time Major League II rolled around, the speedster had decided he wanted to do nothing but hit bombs, which led him to be absolutely miserable in the batter’s box. As the movie comes to an end though he’s reminded about what made him special and gets back to his single hitting, base stealing ways.
That’s what the Red Sox need from Benny this season and from those reports about his conditioning and physique, he knows it. It’s cool hitting homers and going bridge, but leave that to guys like J.D. Martinez, Xander Bogaerts, and Rafael Devers, they’re your power guys. It’s even cooler hitting home runs when there are runners on base, that’s the role Benintendi needs to play in 2021.
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Hearing that he’s in some of the best shape of his career may be a small thing, but it should be something to get fans excited. This is a guy coming off of the worst season of his life and could’ve just gotten deep inside his mind and lost his love and skill. Instead, he got himself healthy and then he busted his butt to get ready to prove to everyone that he can still be an important member of this team going forward.
Another aspect that I think we need to look at, and I know this horse is beyond beaten to death, is the return of Alex Cora. With many, if not all of the guys on this team, they saw some of their best years under the dynamic skipper. Having a manager that has more than believed in him back in the clubhouse could work wonders for his mentality going into this season as well. He’s got his body back where he needs it to be and now with Cora he can keep things firing between the ears.
Again, in my opinion, Andrew Benintendi is the guy we need to keep our eyes on this spring in camp. There are a lot of players on this roster that are looking to rebound in 2021 but none need it more than Benny. Not only is his playing future very much up in the air but so is his financial future. Arbitration is once again on the horizon and another poor season could bury his next contract six feet under. I’m excited to see him back in spring training to see what he can do now that he’s refocused and back on the grind.