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There was big news on Monday night for Boston Red Sox fans, and it wasn’t trade related. According to Evan Drellich of the Boston Herald, the Red Sox are calling up outstanding outfield prospect Andrew Benintendi on Tuesday. Red Sox president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski gave Drellich their best reason for calling him up: “We think he’s ready.”
Double-A is the highest level Benintendi has played, so he’s skipping Triple-A entirely to lend the Red Sox a hand as the AL East pennant race heats up. (The last Red Sox prospect to skip Triple-A? That would be Jackie Bradley Jr. in 2013.) So before Benintendi plays his first game (which will be Wednesday according to Drellich), let’s get to know him a little.
Benintendi got to this point by playing baseball really, really, really well. In 2013 as a high school senior in Madeira, Ohio, he batted .564 with 12 home runs and 38 stolen bases. That kind of play led the American Baseball Coaches Association to name him the National High School Player of the Year. The Cincinnati Reds drafted him in the 31st round that year, but he chose to play college ball at the University of Arkansas.
It was a good decision. After a middling freshman year, Benintendi made changes to his wide-open stance and spent the summer lifting weights instead of playing summer ball. The results were astounding. As a sophomore in 2015, he hit .376/.488/.717 with 20 homers and earned a slew of awards for his performance. Baseball America named him their College Player of the Year, as did the Southeastern Conference. He also won both major collegiate baseball awards: the Golden Spikes Award and the Dick Howser Trophy. When the Red Sox picked him seventh overall in the 2015 draft, he decided to sign.
Since he signed, Benintendi has only spent 13 months playing in the Red Sox’s minor league system, but there’s a story to tell there, too. As you might expect, he struggled in his first month (July 2015) with the Lowell Spinners at Class-A Short Season, hitting .229. But once the calendar turned to August, he exploded. He hit .370 in 14 games, kicked up his average to .290, and earned a promotion to the Class-A Greenville Drive. He played 19 games before the season was over, and hit .351/.430/.581.
Not surprisingly, the Red Sox had Benintendi start 2016 with the High-A Salem Red Sox. He mashed the ball there for 34 games and put together a 23-game hitting streak before he was promoted to the Double-A Portland Sea Dogs. In his first 20 games in Portland, he hit just .205, but then his average began to climb. By the end of July, Benintendi was hitting .295/.357/.515 with the Sea Dogs. It’s not hard to see why the Red Sox decided that he was ready for the Show.
Benintendi has spent most of his career playing center field, but that’s not where he’ll be stationed in the majors. The Red Sox already have Jackie Bradley Jr. playing in center, and he’s not going anywhere. The team recently moved Benintendi to left field, and he’ll play there as the lefty in a platoon with righty Bryce Brentz.
This call-up gives the Red Sox and their fans all the benefits of a trade without having to make one. They get to see an exciting new player make his debut, knowing that he could be part of an important playoff run, and they didn’t have to give anyone up to get him. That’s not a bad reward for resisting the temptation to trade Benintendi at the deadline.
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