Sure, the Red Sox lead major league baseball in nearly every offensive category, including batting average (.286), on-base percentage (.353), slugging percentage (.472), and runs (576). And yes, they hold a 1.5-game lead in the AL Wild Card standings. But the Sox clearly still have some deficiencies, many of which were on display in their recent 4-7 stretch.
On Tuesday, the team attempted to shore up one of those weaknesses by calling up 22-year-old Andrew Benintendi, the seventh overall pick in the 2015 MLB Draft. According to Dave Dombrowski, the Sox decided to call Benintendi up from Double A Portland because of their confidence in his ability to contribute immediately.
“It really came down to, we looked at some possible alternatives (before the trade deadline) to help us in left field,” Dombrowski said. “We thought some of them were good choices, but we also thought the cost for some of those were quite high. We also weighed that versus what we thought the availability of being ready for Benintendi would be. And our people kept coming up and saying, ‘We think he can play at the big league level and we think he’s ready.’”
Benintendi, who hit .312 this year between High A Salem and Double A Portland with nine homers, 12 triples, 76 RBIs, and 16 stolen bases, played center field in the minors. While he was impressive at that position, making just one error and recording eight outfield assists, the Sox seem confident in his ability to play left field.
Since left field has been the one weak spot in the team’s otherwise stellar outfield, the move makes a lot of sense. Here’s a list of all the players who have appeared in left field for the Sox this season.
Brock Holt– 50 games. As a left fielder, his numbers are .265/.339/.407.
Chris Young– 40 games. Young is hitting .259 with four homers and 12 RBIs. He’s currently on the 15-day DL with a right hamstring strain.
Bryce Brentz– 19 games in left field. Brentz has posted respectable stats of .273/.310/.364.
Blake Swihart– 13 games in left field. The converted catcher has 11 hits in 44 at-bats with three doubles and four RBIs. Swihart has a severe ankle sprain and his return this season is in doubt.
Rusney Castillo– 2 games in LF. The man who many people thought was the answer in left field at the start of spring training went 0-3.
Travis Shaw– 1 game. Shaw walked in his only plate appearance.
As you can see, Shaw’s not exactly replacing an All-Star in left field. Given all his talent and his rapid minor league progression, the Sox felt that now was the time to call him up to Boston.
“He can use the whole field,” Dombrowski said. “He struck out 39 times and has walked 39 times. He has extra-base power. We don’t look at him as just, ‘He can hit the ball out of the ballpark.’ He uses the whole field. Double-triple type guy. But it’s an adjustment, there’s no question.”
According to John Farrell, Benintendi will have the day off on Tuesday in Seattle before getting his first start on Wednesday against Mariners’ righty Hisashi Iwakuma. It will be interesting to see whether Farrell eases Benintendi into the majors by initially platooning him with Brentz and starting him exclusively against lefties, or whether he immediately makes him a permanent fixture in the starting lineup. At Double A, Benintendi actually hit slightly better against lefties than righties (.326 vs. .289), but of course he wasn’t facing lefty specialists with nasty sliders like he will with the Sox.
Regardless of Benintendi’s role, Sox fans will have the opportunity to see a tremendous talent debut on Wednesday night.