Welcome to BP Boston’s second annual Roster Recap series. Over the next few months, we’ll be analyzing 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. From MVP-candidate right fielders to reserve relievers, we want to give you a look at every Red Sox who might matter in 2017. View the complete list of Roster Recaps here. Enjoy!
Here we are. It’s a prospect who Dave Dombrowski didn’t trade. Ok, now stop complaining about what they gave up, the Red Sox ended up with Chris Sale. Yup, Chris Sale. Yoan Moncada might be good but let’s get over it already. To be fair, Moncada wasn’t even our number one ranked Red Sox prospect here at BP because that honor went to none other than Andrew Benintendi. If you’re into slick fielding outfielders with a legit 70 hit tool from the left-side then keep reading. If not, turn back, this article is not for you.
If you’re thinking, “How is that guy still a prospect?” it’s because he just barely snuck under the at-bat limit of 130, going to the plate just 105 times. Benintendi sure made those 105 at-bats memorable, slashing a very impressive .295/.359/.476 after making the jump from Portland on August 2. This debut and smooth transition came much sooner than was expected when the Red Sox made him the seventh overall pick in the 2015 draft. He heads into 2017 as the Red Sox’s everyday left-fielder and I am expecting big things out of this 22-year-old.
What Went Right in 2016
This dude destroyed the minor leagues in 2016. He really put on a show. Across, Greenville and Portland, Benintendi slashed .312/.378/.532, only ever looking challenged for about two weeks when he first arrived in Maine. When I saw him in Double-A on July 2 all he did was smash a monster home run and hit a triple. Just another day in the life. The minors clearly could not hold this man. The flow, the hit tool, the swag, and the defense—he really had it all.
There was really no adjustment when he reached the majors either. Among all Red Sox players Benintendi’s .284 TAv ranked fourth only behind David Ortiz, Mookie Betts, and Sandy “The Natural” Leon. Benintendi’s grace in the outfield and elite line against right-handed pitching made him the logical choice to start in left come playoff time. Against the Cleveland Indians this fall Benintendi didn’t waste any time crushing a go-ahead homer to break a 1-1 tie in his first postseason at-bat. Like I said this kid has swag.
What Went Wrong in 2016
When he first arrived on the scene at Fenway there was a notion that Benintendi should be platooned. I disagreed since he had shown no such platoon splits in Double-A, slashing .326/.412/.488 vs LHP over 43 at-bats. Small sample size aside I thought it only fair to let the kid play and see what he can do. After all it is my belief you can create a platoon issue where one may not exist if you simply don’t let the player see lefties.
In an even smaller sample of 28 at-bats vs lefties in the big leagues Benintendi did struggle, batting just .179. I put little stock in this but it remains something to monitor going forward. We should get a very solid answer about this possible issue in the upcoming season where Benintendi will get to play every day. Chris Young, his logical platoon partner, will almost certainly be filling in as DH in place of Hanley Ramirez as he shifts to first and Mitch Moreland shifts to the bench in that scenario.
The only other real negative for Benintendi came on August 24 when he sprained his knee while running the bases. The injury looked a lot worse at first, but all told Benintendi missed just three weeks. Coincidentally, the time he missed kept him rookie eligible for 2017, and it’s hard to argue against him as the front-runner for AL ROY.
What to Expect in 2017
I think it’s fair to expect a lot and I certainly do. The comp I always like to put on Andrew Benintendi is Christian Yelich with the potential for even more pop playing in Fenway. This is a lofty mark to hit but I really do believe he can achieve it. As a natural centerfielder Benintendi’s defense in Fenway’s short left field should be very good, and he has already looked solid in our early preview last season. The bat should continue to get better as well and we will truly begin to appreciate the unique mix of high contact rate and raw power that he possesses.
While he may not be able to replicate the line that Yelich was able to produce last season in 2017 I do believe he will get there someday. He also puts the ball on the ground far less and should be able to maintain a higher slugging percentage throughout his career. His pitch recognition and feel for hitting are beyond his years and his approach isn’t all that dissimilar to that of Dustin Pedroia and Mookie Betts. The guy goes up looking to do damage. Some may view a full year of Benintendi as a question mark, but I view him as a definitive answer.
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