The Red Sox drafted Andrew Benintendi with the 7th overall pick in the 2015 draft, and got him moving quickly. He started his pro career with the Red Sox’ New York-Penn League affiliate, and made short work of it. In Lowell for a little over a month, Benintendi posted a .948 OPS with seven home runs, seven steals, and 25 walks against 15 strikeouts. He finished the year in full-season Low-A, and hit even better (1.011 OPS in 19 games), and came into this season as our #5 fantasy prospect in the Red Sox’ system.
That ranking has turned out to be almost a bit low, as Benintendi has hit even better in his first full season as a pro. He was promoted to AA after just 34 games at High-A, and after a bit of a slow start there, has hit .304/.373/.554 since June 1st. He’s been hitting home runs (six), drawing walks (10.2%), and avoiding strikeouts (just 11%). The only weakness at first glance has been a slightly below-par success rate at stealing bases in the minor leagues (24 out of 36 at the moment), but even that is only one or two more steals from the acceptable 70% range.
Benintendi has been viewed with some skepticism due to his small stature, but he looks more and more like the exception to the rule on this. He stands just 5’10” and weighs 170 lbs, but has shown an excellent hit tool, above-average power and an excellent approach at the plate.
Defensively, Benintendi would be the center fielder of the future for most other organizations. However, with both Mookie Betts and Jackie Bradley Jr. already locked into at the major league level, Benintendi could very well end up moving over to left field once he is called up to the majors. The question now is when could that occur.
Realistically, Benintendi is probably ready for another promotion based on his production at AA. However, it’s not clear that AAA Pawtucket would be his next stop. The Red Sox have been getting lackluster production in left field all season in part due to injuries (Chris Young, Blake Swihart) and could look to promote Benintendi to help out this year. However, it’s not necessarily a promotion that the Red Sox would be likely to do (from Ben Buchanan at Over the Monster):
The way the Red Sox have traditionally handled their prospects, there would seem to be no chance that Andrew Benintendi would see the majors in 2016, even with the Red Sox in need of a left fielder. And I am absolutely the last person to ever advocate for a Double-A-to-MLB jump. But if there's been a Red Sox prospect in the last decade who at least deserves consideration for that sort of move, Benintendi is the one.
With all that said, I am inclined to think that the Red Sox are going to do whatever they can to make one last deep postseason run with David Ortiz, and so no move may be out of the realm of possibility. While Dan Dombrowski’s style has generally been to trade prospects for upgrades, I don’t know if there’s a clear trade out there for him to make to upgrade left field beyond what Benintendi could provide even if he struggles at first. Even if he did struggle, there’s a very real possibility that the adjustment could come quickly, as it has at each of his previous stops in the minors.
If Benintendi does not get the call this season, he looks like the early favorite to win the starting left field job in 2017, and could potentially turn into a top 20 outfielder in fairly short order. With the capability to provide an elite batting average along with 20 home run / 20 stolen base potential, he looks like the next big thing on his way to Boston.