I’ve wanted to write something about Andrew Benintendi for a while now, but literally everyone beat me to it. He’s 22 years old, has played in 34 games and will probably be hitting in the two hole on what looks to be one of, if not the, best offenses in baseball. On a team that also includes last year’s Cy Young winner, last year’s MVP runner-up, 2015’s Silver Slugger at shortstop, and two other Cy Young winners, Benintendi’s the one that’s gotten the most face time this spring. At this point, the hype train left the station two hours ago, so you have to sit around and wait another two hours in the hype train station while trying to get comfortable in those rusty metal connecting chairs, wondering whether you have enough coins in your backpack to buy a Snickers from the vending machine.
Let’s start by stating the obvious: he’s probably going to be good. He might even be great. He’s widely considered the best prospect in baseball, and while that certainly doesn’t guarantee success, he’s lived up to the billing thus far. Here’s him doing a good baseball thing that would make him seem like a good baseball player.
Benintendi did just well enough in his brief stint last year to move his narrative from guarded optimism to (strangely) overwhelming confidence. That’s not to say that enthusiastic confidence is a bad thing – it’s part of what makes him so exciting as a prospect – but it is dangerous. He has only played 34 games in the majors, and yes, the numbers he put up in the minors suggests he’s a safe bet. It’s still betting though, and while an underwhelming season would be surprising, it also wouldn’t be unheard of. So let’s kill the mood by trying to identify some things to be concerned about. Bet you’re glad you clicked on this link!
The Trop giveth and The Trop taketh away. Remember this?
That’s without a doubt the most misleading knee sprain I’ve ever seen. I was absolutely convinced that he shredded every ligament in his left leg. I mean, he got the two-man carry off the field. He came back like three weeks later and crushed a homer in the ALDS, which was the only fun moment during that entire series.
He doesn’t come with an injury history, although it’s not like he’s played enough to make one in the first place. He had a procedure done on his foot in college, which is listed in this article as one of the primary contributors to his slow start during his freshman year. There’s no reason to think he’s going to struggle with injuries throughout his career, although all the Grady Sizemore comparisons aren’t helping anyone.
He’s not great at it! He went 5-33 (.179) against lefties during his run in Boston last year which is obviously not enough at-bats to make any definitive claims. His minor league numbers are tricky, as he doesn’t really have many at-bats against lefties to his name. But in case you were wondering, Benintendi hit lefties poorly (.214/.353/.429) over 14 at-bats in Single-A Greenville, but was much better against them the following season in Double-A Portland, hitting .326/.412/.488 over 43 at-bats.
Whatever, hitting lefties is Chris Young’s job.
This is what everyone falls back on when they’re writing up their scouting reports on Benintendi. When your arm is getting compared to Johnny Damon’s, maybe hit the curls a little harder. (To be fair, it sort of looks like he did.) Benintendi actually projects as an average to above-average defender, but yes, the arm strength could use some work. He’s accurate and has a quick release, both of which mitigate the arm strength issues, but they pale in comparison to the boon that he’ll get by playing half his games in Fenway’s left field. The Red Sox have cannons in center and right, both of which are far more necessary positions to have a little extra zip.
If the biggest problem with Benintendi’s season is that his arm strength ends up being underwhelming, he’ll have had a great season.