Welcome to BP Boston’s Roster Recap series! Over the next four months, we’ll be breaking down every player on Boston’s 40-man roster and many of their top prospects in order to provide a comprehensive overview of the Red Sox roster’s strengths and weaknesses, as well as what we can expect moving forward. There’s no better time than the offseason to review the best (there was some best!) and worst (there was a lot of worst!) of the past year in red and navy. You can see previous editions of Roster Recap here.
Last summer, for the second time in three years, the Red Sox found themselves with the seventh overall pick in the amateur draft. Last time around, they went with a high school pitcher in Trey Ball. That … well, that hasn’t gone well so far. This time, the front office took the opposite route, taking a college bat in Andrew Benintendi. It’s still extremely early in the outfielder’s pro career, of course, but things couldn’t have gotten off to a better start.
What Went Right in 2015
This is sort of a cop out, but literally everything went right in 2015 for Benintendi. It started off at the collegiate level, where he was coming off of a disappointing freshman year at Arkansas. He more than made up for that in his sophomore year, hitting .376/.488/.717 en route to earning the Golden Spikes Award. Not that this is a scientifically predictive measure of anything, but for what it’s worth the following players received the 10 previous College Player of the Year: A.J. Reed, Kris Bryant, Mike Zunino, Trevor Bauer, Bryce Harper, Stephen Strasburg, Buster Posey, David Price and Alex Gordon. Pretty decent company.
Benintendi was sent to the Spinners of the New York Penn League upon being drafted and didn’t miss a beat. In 153 plate appearances with Lowell, he hit .290/.408/.540. This is where I throw in the obligatory I Am Not A Scout disclaimer, but it is worth noting that I did see him many times with the Spinners this year and he blew away just about everyone else on the field every time I did. At the same time, that’s what should be expected from the College Player of the Year playing against low-ceiling college pitchers and Latin American pitchers in their first assignment in the U.S. Still, you can’t ask for more than succeeding at whatever level you’re placed at, and that’s what Benintendi did.
For that, he was rewarded with a promotion to Greenville at the end of the year. Even with a significant jump in talent on the mound, he didn’t miss a beat. It was a small sample of just 86 plate appearances, but he hit .351/.430/.581 with the Drive. What’s even more important than the stats is the fact that the scouting reports coming out of Greenville were no different from the glowing reports that came from his time in Lowell. That success and those reports led to Benintendi earning the no. 45 spot on BP’s 2016 Top 101 list.
What Went Wrong in 2015
Honestly, I’ve racked my brain to the point of a migraine and I can’t come up with anything to put in this section. Now, as I’ll get to in a minute, that doesn’t mean he’s a guaranteed star and should start preparing his Hall of Fame acceptance speech. All it means is Benintendi was handed multiple challenges in 2015, and he excelled at each and every one of them.
Future Outlook/MLB ETA
As of now, the jury is still out on where the young outfielder will start the 2016 season. As crazy as it may sound, there remains an outside chance the Red Sox will be aggressive with him and start him in Double-A Portland given how well and quickly he adjusted to professional ball and the question marks that exist in the major-league outfield. It’s still rather unlikely, however. Chances are he’ll start the season with High-A Salem with a chance to push his way to Portland midway through the year.
Looking further into his future, the outlook may not be quite as bright as the rest of this writeup has appeared. Clearly, I think very highly of Benintendi and think he’ll be a good player. With that being said, he’s not a Yoan Moncada or Anderson Espinoza type of prospect with massive upside. He’s more of a safe prospect who is good at a lot of different things, but lacks a really great singular tool. As Baseball Prospectus’ own Mark Anderson puts it in his writeup, “the sum of the parts is likely greater than any individual tool.” The good news is he projects to be a very good regular who can stick in center field or shift over and has the range and arm strength to somewhat easily handle Fenway’s spacious right field. Even if he’s not the perennial All-Star many are hoping he can be, he has the ability to be a consistent three-win player for a long time. Great teams have superstars, of course, but they are also built around players like that, making Benintendi’s development a key to the team.
As for when he can be up with the big-league team, it all depends on how aggressive the team will be with him and whether he can force their hand. Because of the aforementioned questionable major-league outfield, there’s a non-zero chance he can push his way to Boston by the end of the year if everything breaks correctly. That scenario remains little more than a dream at this point, however. The more likely ETA would be somewhere in mid-to-late 2017.
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