Putting the brakes on Benintendi

Posted on Feb 12 2016 - 12:09pm by Sean Agranov

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Andrew Benintendi had perhaps one of the greatest season ever by a young ball player in 2015. The Red Sox’s first round pick, 7th player overall, rose to super prospect status.

It all started last year as a sophomore for the Arkansas Razorbacks where he hit 20 homers , batted .376 and stole 24 bases in 226 plate appearances. Those numbers help lead his team to play in the College World series and  him personally to win numerous college player of the  year awards including the Golden Spikes Award.

It didn’t stop there.

After being drafted by Boston the sent him to the New York Penn League where he hit 7 more homers in 35 games  while hitting .290 for Lowell. His half season numbers for that league alone but him among its leaders and  he was named an All star for the league. To finish the season he got promoted up to A ball Greenville where he hit .351 in 19 games adding 4 more homers including a walk off bomb in the September playoffs.

His dream season now has Benintendi viewed as top 25 overall MLB prospect and in the top 3 of the Red Sox  system based on multiple lists.   Some are even calling for him to make the Majors by the end of 2016.

Keith Law of ESPN ranked Benintendi as the #18 overall prospect saying:

Michael Conforto and Kyle Schwarber went from college to the majors in 12 to 13 months, and given Benintendi’s skill set and the approach he showed in his 54 games in pro ball last year, I see no reason he couldn’t do the same if need be.

Before 2015, was barely a blip on the prospect radar.  He had been a top high school player from Maderia, Ohio who had a small taste of the showcase circuit.  When asked about his chances of being drafted out of high school he replied:

“Well, I feel a little embarrassed in answering this question. I feel lucky to be a Division I recruit. I share the same dream as most boys that play baseball. In order to be drafted out of high school, I have such a long way to go. There are so many quality players around the country. I will continue to work at my game and we will see where I am in June 2013”

In 2013, Perfect Game has him ranked as the 6th best high school player in Ohio and 375th best in the country  in the 2013 class, and the 75th best outfielder in the country. He actually did end end up being drafted in the 31st round by the Reds in 2013 but decided to go to college instead.  He was excited to be able to play in the SEC for the Arkansas Razorbacks.   As a freshman, Benintendi played  in 61 of Arkansas’s 62 games hitting a respectable .276 with one home run but its was nothing like what he did his sophomore year in 2015.

The Red Sox organization and Benintendi himself hope he can continue his 2015 rate of ascent through the minors.

That said, it should not be expected.   As a 21 year ball player it is ideal that the Red Sox allow him the time to develop and hone his skills in the minors.

In 2013, the Red Sox promoted another young phenom to the majors with just 138 minor league games under his belt. Since then, we all know the struggles  that Jackie Bradley, Jr. has has since. It was finally last year that JBJ,  after he had finally gotten his 800th at bat in the upper minors, showed signs of putting it together at the major league level.

Benintendi should start 2016 in Salem at High A.  If he continues to “rake” against the competition there, then he should be up to AA by June or July.   Even if he gets pushed up to AAA Pawtucket by year end.  That is where he should stay for all of 2017,  where he will get the reps needed against pitchers that can replicate what he will face in the majors.  Most say it takes around 800 at bats at those levels to be able to be ready for the major leagues.  The Red Sox learned their lesson with this before and we should expect to see him held back as long as they can.

If he gets to Fenway any earlier it will be a bad sign as it will mean there were injuries or a lack of production with the big club.  Mookie Betts only had 400 at bats at the high  minors but was given his chance mostly due to lack of production by others. That should be the exception, not the rule as how to handle these hot type of hot prospects.  Ideally, we should also expect to see the Red Sox trying to keep Benintendi and their other two top ranked prospects, Yoan Moncada and Rafael Devers, together as a group if they can. Getting them all as many reps in AA and AAA in 2017 and then being able to debut them in 2018, as needed.  All are currently playing in positions that there is a good major league player under contract for the next few years.

There is no reason to rush them up now.

Whatever the outcome ends up being for Benintendi, don’t expect him to rise at the same historic rate he did in 2015.

 
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