by Eric Stashin (aka The Rotoprofessor)
The Red Sox’ Andrew Benintendi has often been viewed as one of the potentially elite outfielders, and you can argue that he’s already reached that level of production. Just look at the numbers he posted last season:
573 At Bats
.271 Batting Average (155 Hits)
20 Home Runs
20 Stolen Bases
.352 On Base Percentage
.424 Slugging Percentage
.301 Batting Average on Balls in Play
Last season there were only nine players (regardless of position) who went 20/20, so the question isn’t really if the production justifies being considered among the best outfielders in the league. Instead it’s can he maintain it, putting him among the Top 10 outfielders?
This is the “big” number, because in his first full season he posted a solid average but the upside is there for significantly more. He showed a good approach at the plate, turning a 7.6% SwStr% and 29.0% O-Swing% into a 17.0% strikeout rate and 10.6% walk rate. Even when he “regressed” in the second half his strikeout rate was 18.4% (and never more than 22.3% in any month). He also made consistent contact against all types of pitches (Whiff%):
- Hard – 6.66%
- Breaking Balls – 10.60%
- Offspeed – 11.22%
Benintendi also showed that he can hit the ball hard, with a 21.5% line drive rate, and the number is actually skewed by two poor months (9.5% in May, 16.4% in July). He posted a 25.5% mark in the second half, though carried just a .302 BABIP. Couple the ability to hit the ball hard with enough speed and it’s easy to expect him to carry a much better BABIP.
Good Approach + Increase BABIP = Improved Average
That’s an easy formula and seeing him hit .285+ with the potential to hit .300 is very realistic. Some may want to point to a .232 AVG against LHP, but a 17.6% strikeout rate and 21.3% line drive rate against them tells a different story. There’s actually little chance of a platoon, just adding to the appeal.
Benintendi is never going to be an elite power hitter, and adding 26 doubles and 1 triple doesn’t give the impression that there’s growth coming. Of course he’s 23-years old (he’ll turn 24 in July) with a full year of experience so seeing some maturation and development isn’t unthinkable. We aren’t going to say that he’ll take the leap to 30 HR, but he should at least maintain producing in the 20-24 HR range.
The question isn’t his ability to steal bases, it’s the opportunities that he’s given to do so. As Rich Wilson of Prospect 361 said prior to last season:
“He also has plus speed and if the Red Sox want to run him, he can be a 20 stolen base threat. However, with a stacked lineup, the opportunities might not be there early in his career as he’ll likely be hitting at the bottom of the lineup.”
He showed it in 2017, and you can argue that the lineup isn’t as stacked as we thought. With Benintendi likely hitting towards the top of the lineup, he again should push 20 SB.
While he may fall short of 20/20, Benintendi should again be in that range. The lineup may not be “stacked”, but it’s still solid and he should reach 85/85 in RBI/R. Couple that with the potential to hit .290 (and maybe .300)? He’s going to be among the best in the league. It’s easy to value him as a Top 10 outfielder heading into the season and dub him a player that you want to own in all formats.
Sources – Fangraphs, Brooks Baseball, CBS Sports
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|Starting Pitchers||1-20: 03/24/18|