Late Monday night, Evan Drellich of the Boston Globe broke the news that Andrew Benintendi was being promoted, and would be suiting-up for the Red Sox tonight. The news did not quite come out of nowhere, as there have been calls for the 22-year-old to be promoted more aggressively for weeks now, but it is always a bit surprising to see a player with a year of professional experienced called-up in the midst of a hotly contested playoff race. Then again, it is a bit reductionist to cast Benintendi in such a narrow light.
Here are our thoughts on Benintendi heading into the season, who we ranked as the fifth best prospect in the team’s system:
If anything in here shows you both the talent and depth of the Boston system, it's that the #7 pick in the 2015 MLB Draft is only the fifth ranked prospect in the system. Benintendi came out of nowhere this spring to rise up draft boards, and all he's done since being drafted is produce. The former University of Arkansas star slugged 11 homers in just 54 games between short season ball and Low A Greenville. Benintendi is a five category contributor that could potentially hit 20 homers and steal 20 bases per season in the big leagues. Benintendi is worth owning in most leagues that have minor league spots.
Benintendi batted .313/.416/.556 with 11 HR and 10 SB in 239 PA in his professional debut, split between Low-A and Single-A. Based upon his performance, tools, approach, and draft pedigree, he was a consensus top-50 prospect heading into 2016, peaking at 15th on Baseball America’s list. Benintendi opened the season at High-A Salem, and made short work of the Carolina League - he hit .341/.413/.563 with 13 2B, 7 3B, 1 HR, 8 SB, and more walks (15) than strikeouts (9) in just 34 games, earning a promotion to Double-A in mid-May.
And for the first time in his career, Benintendi struggled a bit. He hit just .213/.255/.277 in his first two weeks at the level, striking out more in those twelve games than he did in his stint at High-A. He made adjustments in relatively short order, though, and has hit .316/.382/.574 with 17 2B, 4 3B, 8 HR, 8 SB, and more walks (21) than strikeouts (20) since June 1.
Benintendi’s ability to make quick adjustments has only bolstered his prospect stock, as he has rocketed up the midseason prospect lists. Keith Law ranked Benintendi as the third-best prospect in the game, and no other list that we generally turn to places him lower than 12th. When a prospect combines five average or better tools with a strong approach at the plate and demonstrates the ability to make adjustments, it is difficult to not get excited.
As for his role this season, I suspect that the Red Sox view Benintendi as the equivalent of a trade deadline acquisition. They have received subpar production out of their left-fielders for the majority of the season (the group as a whole is 4% below-average by sOPS+), and they are not the sort of organization that would call-up a top prospect without a clear-cut plan. The return of Chris Young should not be an obstacle either, as the veteran is best-suited as a platoon hitter against southpaws. Benintendi has no platoon issues, and so he should be playing nearly every day for the rest of the season.
And, in pure fantasy terms, he profiles as the sort of player that will contribute a bit of everything.