There were high hopes for Andrew Benintendi entering the season, with the thought that he could take the step from good player to great. At the All-Star Break he’s fallen far short of that, hitting .274 with 7 HR, 38 RBI, 42 R and 9 SB. Now we are all left to wonder if he can recover and take that step or will 2019 ultimately be a lost year.
The biggest red flag has been a regression in his approach, as both his SwStr% (11.4%, up from an 8.3% career mark) and O-Swing% (33.4%, up from a 29.4% career mark) have taken significant steps backward. Opposing pitchers have changed the script a little bit, throwing him more breaking balls (27.96%) and fewer offspeed pitches (11.55%). That doesn’t necessarily support the struggles, as it’s his Whiff% against Hard pitches that has really gone the wrong way. That said, none of the numbers would represent concern:
- Hard – 12.50%
- Breaking – 12.50%
- Offspeed – 13.58%
You would expect that would lead to better than his current 22.9% strikeout rate. Maybe part of the problem is that he has taken more of a fly ball approach, perhaps in an effort to join into the home run barrage that baseball has seen. He enters the break with a 46.2% fly ball rate, up from a career 38.7% mark, yet his HR/FB is just 6.5%.
The fly ball rate has been elevated all season long, but that hasn’t impacted his ability to hit the ball hard (35.9% Hard%) or willingness to use the entire field (28.3% Oppo%). Even if he could just maintain last season’s 9.4% HR/FB, something he showed in May (11.4%), and the results would be significantly better. Considering that he had 10 doubles in June (only 1 HR) and it’s easy to envision him figuring things out.
Maybe he’s not going to morph into a 30 HR threat, but he still should be able to be a 20/20 producer (maybe even 25/25). Couple that with the approach and willingness to use the entire field, and even if his .346 BABIP takes a step back the increased power will help to maintain his average. Playing in Boston, with a strong supporting cast around him, that still represents a player you want to buy.
While others may be willing to write him off, strike now before he starts to turn things around.
Sources – Fangraphs, Brooks Baseball