by Ray Kuhn
The next Christian Yelich? Baseball’s newest star? Not too long ago those were statements being thrown around when discussing Andrew Benintendi. Maybe there is some hyperbole involved here, but the price on the Boston outfielder was inflated.
We are in the past tense, because after a season that saw Benintendi hit .266 with 13 HR, 68 RBI and 10 SB in 138 games, there has been an adjustment entering 2020. As of the middle March he was the 30th outfielder coming off the board in NFBC drafts with an ADP of 113. That places him squarely in OF2/OF3 territory in 15 team leagues which means, for me at least, he is back on my radar.
Based on his current ADP his price isn’t insignificant, but I would opine that he is properly valued and there is enough room for him to provide a positive return on investment. We have to remember that the outfielder is still just 25-years old and he was also playing through some nagging injuries last season, which did have an adverse impact on his value.
If you want to take a look at what Benintendi is capable of, as a reasonable floor, we don’t need to look much further into the past then 2018. Just two years ago he hit .290 with 16 HR, 87 RBI, 103 R and 21 SB. That came on the heels of a 2017 that saw him go 20/20, so we know that the floor is there.
Yes Benintendi’s batting average did dip from .290 to .266 last season while his BABIP remained essentially flat (.328 to .333), and there are two clear explanations for that. While his career is still in the earlier stages, there is enough proof that he will be able to correct each of these issues:
- His strikeout rate jumped from 16% to 22.8% while there was just a minimal decrease in his walk rate (10.7% to 9.6%).
- After three straight season’s of a contact rate between 80% and 84%, it dropped to 74% last season. However, the quality of contact improved, as per Baseball HQ, his hard contact rate jumped from 84 to 98. Now this is still not fully ideal, as 100 is league average, but it is a move in the right direction.
The issue that we have had with Benintendi last season is that our expectations are focused more on what he should be doing than what he is actually doing or capable of doing. A look into his performance last season from a Statcast perspective helps to give us some insight:
- Barrel rate increase from 6.4% to 8.1% compared to a league average of 6.3%.
- 88.6 mile per hour exit velocity compared to a league average of 87.5.
- Despite his low home run total last season and that he has essentially league average power, he did take his launch angle up to 17.3 degrees compared to a league average of 11.2.
- Hard hit rate increase from 33.1% to 37.7% with a league average of 34.5%.
While Benintendi does profile positively, nothing in the above truly jumps off the page. At a time when you need all the power you can get and stolen bases are becoming increasingly scarce, he has proven to be a capable 20/20 producer. That is not insignificant, as you want to avoid “empty” steals as much as possible. Yes you have to reach your stolen base targets, but doing it at the risk of the other four categories isn’t ideal.
For that reason Benintendi should be a perfect fit on many teams at his existing ADP, as he very easily could return value of a draft choice a few rounds earlier.
Make sure to check out all of our 2020 Fantasy Baseball preseason rankings: