By Brodie Barrick — @BarrickMLB
The 2015 Major League Baseball First-Year player draft was loaded with 1st round “franchise” type players. Dansby Swanson, Alex Bregman and Brendan Rodgers rounded out the first three selections, all at the shortstop position. After finishing last in the AL East in 2014, the Boston Red Sox were fortunate enough to be selecting at #7 overall when a nice gift fell into their laps. That gift at #7 overall was Andrew Benintendi.
After being drafted by the Cincinnati Reds in the 31st round of the 2013 draft, Benintendi was unsigned to a contract and chose to attend the University of Arkansas. In his 2 seasons at Arkansas, he absolutely dominated the SEC posting a career .326 batting average with 21 homeruns and 84 RBI. He was also named the 2015 SEC Player of the Year and Baseball America College Player of the Year. It was clear that the Red Sox could not go wrong by selecting him at #7 overall. And they certainly made the right choice.
Although he’s only played 34 games at the Major League level, Andrew Benintendi has already shown a glimpse of what is to come for a long time out of the LF spot in the Red Sox line-up. Benintendi batted .295 with 2 homeruns and 14 runs batted in during his short stint in the MLB last season after being recalled from Double-A Portland and he has the ability to make an impact in the game in so many different ways. Whether it be by slapping a ball to left for a single, pulling one down the right field line for a stand-up double, or hitting the odd homerun from time to time, Andrew Benintendi has all the tools to be an elite Major League Baseball player. Combine him with Jackie Bradley Jr. and Mookie Betts and I’d say it’s the best outfield in the MLB.
Don’t be put off by his small frame because the guy can absolutely rake. The only reason Benintendi did not win AL Rookie of the Year last season was because he did not play enough games to be eligible. That sets him up to be the early front-runner to take home the award in 2017. He is also listed as the #1 prospect by MLB Pipeline, bumping down former Red Sox prospect Yoan Moncada to the #2 spot (Ps. Chris Sale is on the Red Sox). Not only can he hit like any other Major Leaguer his size, he also benefits the outfield defensively with great range and above-average speed. Red Sox Nation all remembers his incredible play to take away a homerun from Steven Souza Jr. less than 20 games into his Major League career. If you haven’t seen it, I’ll just leave it here for you and let you be the judge. And even if you have, I’m sure you’ll watch it a couple more times just to make sure it actually happened.
Watching the way Benintendi conducts himself at Spring Training this year shows the maturity and development he has already endured. Benintendi looks to be right at home within the Red Sox clubhouse on and off the field. He has even developed a nice little bromance with Brock Holt as the “Flow Bros” of the team. These are the kinds or relationships you want your team to have in order to be successful. Yeah, they might seem a little quirky on the surface. As cliché as it may sound, your team really is a family. Benintendi is fitting right into the family quite nicely. Everyone around him will benefit from that.
Benintendi has emerged onto the scene and has made an immediate impact. To say he set high expectations in the eyes of Red Sox fans all over the world would be an understatement. However, I think he has all the tools to surpass them. Benintendi is looking to have a breakout “rookie” season and will only get better as the years go on.
Not to be discredited at all from the emergence of Benintendi are Chris Young and Brock Holt. As David Little wrote, Brock Holt is one of the most serviceable players in the MLB and he is a valuable asset to the Red Sox. Also, Chris Young has turned himself into a bench player that any team in the league would love to have and he absolutely crushes left-handed pitching. Both of these players will get time in the line-up and both are still very important in the roles they will play if the Red Sox want any chance at winning a championship in 2017.