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Wednesday, November 25, 2020

What happened to Andrew Benintendi? And can he rebound from it?

It’s not that long ago the 2015 Red Sox first-rounder seemed like a certain bet for stardom. Baseball America ranked him the No. 1 prospect in the game entering 2017, with scouts falling out of their chairs over his skill set.

At that time, one American League evaluator envisioned him as a center fielder who would win multiple batting titles, an eight- to 10-time All-Star whom he ranked alongside Mike Trout, Bryce Harper, and Mookie Betts as one of the best minor leaguers he’d seen.

“He’s a once-in-a-decade hitter,” said the scout.

A National League evaluator gave Benintendi an “80” grade as a hitter on the 20-80 scouting scale, and suggested he would regularly deliver 70-80 extra-base hits a year. Such projections didn’t seem out of place for a player who’d won every college award imaginable as a sophomore at Arkansas and was not fazed by blitzing to the big leagues in just over a year.

So what does the 2020 season mean? What does it say that, in a year when he was limited to just 14 games before a season-ending rib injury, Benintendi hit .103 (second-worst among the 414 players who had at least 50 plate appearances), slugged .128 (easily the worst in the majors), struck out in 32.7 percent of plate appearances (the 89th percentile), and when he did put the ball in play, did little except for pulling ground balls?

RoyalsRetro (AG#1F) Posted: November 25, 2020 at 06:03 PM | 13 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: andrew benintendi, red sox

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   1. Walt Davis Posted: November 25, 2020 at 11:46 PM (#5991225)
Yikes -- 103/314/128 ... I know only 52 PA but just 1 double ... that's a massive slump.

As to the scouts -- looks like a case where they fell in love a bit too much with the potential over the performance. Not that the Red Sox gave them much opportunity to judge the performance. He did well in 2015 and well in A+ and AA in 2016 ... but not superstar amazing. Maybe he could have used another year in the minors but he was up for good in 2016. His 2016 MLB #s nearly match his 2016 AA numbers which, in retrospect, was probably a bit of over-performance. Still just 22 entering 2017, certainly he had the track record of a guy who'd be a good player but Trout, Betts, "80 hitter", "multiple batting titles" ... that's hard to see.

Here's a comparison of Benintendi and Hosmer by age (somebody can track down PFs if they want)

AB 20 313/416/556 A-/A
EH 20 338/406/571 A+/AA

AB 21 312/378/532 A+/AA
EH 21 439/525/582 AAA

AB 21 295/359/476, 118 OPS+ MLB
EH 21 293/334/465, 118 OPS+ MLB

AB 22-24 276/354/440, 108 OPS+, 7.9 oWAR
EH 22-24 270/327/404, 100 OPS+, 3.8 oWAR

So a sizable oWAR difference for ages 22-24 -- mainly because Hosmer was terrible at age 22. Otherwise, that's pretty similar with Hosmer being a year ahead in development at 21. Based on that age 20-21, I thought Hosmer was gonna be damn good, at least a line-drive BA and doubles hitter so I understand the enthusiasm on Benintendi. But Hosmer was drafted a year before Trout, 2 before Harper and 3 before Betts so we didn't know yet but by the time AB was drafted, Trout was well on his way to 36 WAR in 4 years and scouts should have learned not to utter his name next to anyone else's unless there was a "I'm not saying he's" before Trout.
   2. bfan Posted: November 26, 2020 at 08:10 AM (#5991243)
could his rib have hurt a bit before the injury? Rib injuries strike me a bit like back injuries for batters; absolutely devastating if you have to work around them and if you try and avoid that one place where it really hurts when you do "X".
   3. Darren Posted: November 27, 2020 at 02:42 PM (#5991330)
As to the scouts -- looks like a case where they fell in love a bit too much with the potential over the performance.


Which is fine, as far as it goes. But in 2013, Benintendi put up 4.1 WAR at age 23. He was a good to very good player with a chance to move up into All-Star status. His results since then have just been awful, comparatively. An injury makes sense, I guess. His age 23 and his scouting and results before that were a fluke? I guess it's possible. Overall, though, just a surprising result for a guy who looked like a really good, maybe excellent, player, just a couple years ago.
   4. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: November 27, 2020 at 02:54 PM (#5991333)
Which is fine, as far as it goes. But in 2013, Benintendi put up 4.1 WAR at age 23. He was a good to very good player with a chance to move up into All-Star status. His results since then have just been awful, comparatively. An injury makes sense, I guess. His age 23 and his scouting and results before that were a fluke? I guess it's possible. Overall, though, just a surprising result for a guy who looked like a really good, maybe excellent, player, just a couple years ago.

Surprising yes, but certainly not unprecedented.
   5. Walt Davis Posted: November 27, 2020 at 04:01 PM (#5991344)
His age 23 and his scouting and results before that were a fluke?

What I'm saying is that his results before that did not support the conclusion that he would be an elite player. They were certainly solid -- and those guys sometimes become elite players -- but not spectacular. 2020 obviously was an unmitigated disaster that was not predictable -- like the rest of the world -- but his age 24 is well in line with 21 and 22. His Rbats

21: +2 in 118 PA
22: -1 in 658 PA
23: +18 in 661 PA
24: 0 in 615 PA

That's a pretty common set of outcomes for somebody who is say a "true" 110 OPS+ hitter. Beyond that we're into peripheral stuff where he helps his case with slightly positive baserunning and being an above-average OF. That's a solid, better than average, starting MLB player. With potential to be better? Sure.

Nick Markakis seems like another reasonable comp as to the type of player that Benintendi reasonbly could have become. And by WAR, starting at age 22: 2.5, 4.2, 7.4 (ooh boy) ... 2.9, 2.3, 2.7 ... then nothing above 2 until 2.7 at age 34.

He could of course just as easily turn out to be ... Michael Brantley who didn't break out until 25 but, when healthy, has been a 4 WAR player for the last 9 years. It's certainly fair to say that nobody would have been surprised if Benintendi had carried on being a 4-WAR player from 24 into his early 30s -- that would be a very nice player (Brantley) but not a star, clearly not a "once in a decade hitter." Equally though, nobody should have been surprised that age 24 looked more like age 22 than age 23 -- that happens all the time.

None of that is a dig at Benintendi. It is a dig at the quoted scouts. C'mon, we've seen a good number of "once in a decade hitters" over the last few decades -- Bonds, Pujols, Miggy, Trout -- there was never anything in Benintendi's results that suggested such heights. (Not that such heights are predictable.) And the guy's only listed at 5'9, 180 -- so, at best, Mookie minus nearly all the speed and defense? Where's the massive power gonna come from (even Mookie's career high is just 32 HR)? When the scout said "once a decade hitter" did he mean Tony Gwynn?

He was only a 31st round pick out of HS and that by his hometown team. He was the 7th overall pick later, 2 behind Kyle Tucker, 2 ahead of Ian Happ. Seems most folks had him pegged about right at the time. And, to date, he's the 2nd best player taken in the 1st round that year. He's already tied for the 13th-best #7 pick of all-time (with the "disappointing" Matt Harvey). That's all very solid.

On that 7th pick list, he's just a few spots behind Austin Kearns, another guy I thought was gonna be a darn good player. Kearns hit the groud running with a 134 OPS+ and 4 WAR in just 435 PA at 22. He followed that with 1.4 WAR in a half-season. But over the next 4 seasons, with some injuries, just a 105 OPS+ though still around a 3 WAR pace. Then he collapsed with -1.2 WAR over parts of the next 6 seasons.
   6. Walt Davis Posted: November 27, 2020 at 04:15 PM (#5991346)
Benintendi was #1 on the 2017 prospect lists at MLB.com and BA, #3 at BPro. Looking at MLB.com's list, Moncada was #2, Torres #3, Swanson #4 and Amed Rosario #5 (oops). The next kinda similar OF on the list is Austin Meadows.

Moncada and Benintendi are the same age and both had a taste of MLB in 2016, Moncada got less playing time in 2017. His OPS+s have ranged 103, 96, 140 and 94 in 2020 and he's totaled about 8 WAR at a 3 WAR/650 pace. Benintendi about 10 WAR at a 3 WAR pace. Torres is 2 years younger, has been the better hitter to date and has about 6.5 WAR at a 3.4 WAR pace. So that all looks about right. Of the 3, Torres has made 2 AS games; AB finished 2nd and Torres 3rd in their RoY years; Torres and Moncada have received very down-ballot MVP votes. So that all sounds about right and none of these guys have broekn through to "star" yet (Torres maybe) but all three have had at least one very good season and could become stars. So were we expecting Benintendi to mop the floor with Moncada and Torres or did we have 3 once-in-a-decade hitters at the same time and are disappointed in all 3?
   7. Jose Needs an Absurd Ukulele Concert Posted: November 27, 2020 at 06:17 PM (#5991351)
My two cents; Benny is trying to be a slugger. I never really bought him as a future star, Nick Markakis was always the general comp I had for him in my mind. A guy who could be a solid line drive hitter and good defensive outfielder that would be good but not great for a long time. I think he’s gotten hung up trying to hit home runs rather than just play what (IMHO) is his game. They mention in th article that he’s not going the other way at much which kind of supports that theory.
   8. John DiFool2 Posted: November 27, 2020 at 07:11 PM (#5991353)
I myself was hoping for Mike Greenwell, even the one we got (vs. the one who never became a superstar himself).
   9. Jose Needs an Absurd Ukulele Concert Posted: November 27, 2020 at 07:37 PM (#5991356)
Yeah, a Greenwell with superior defense would be a perfectly reasonable ask. I don’t think he’s worth writing off yet. For all the concerns about 2020 it’s 52 plate appearances in a REALLY strange year. He wasn’t great in 2019 but 1.8 WAR isn’t a complete mess. Even if you dismiss 2018 he was 1.8 in 2019 and 2.9 in 2017, somewhere in there is fine.
   10. the Hugh Jorgan returns Posted: November 27, 2020 at 08:14 PM (#5991359)
Who was suggesting he was going to be elite? Most Sox fans were pretty happy with a guy spraying doubles to all fields, playing a decent OF no matter where he stood out there and if you get a few 3 WAR seasons in a row, then that would've been great.

A solid player, but not one you build a franchise around. And wait for it...

Now if only the Sox had come across one of those "build a franchise around guys" recently?
   11. Infinite Yost (Voxter) Posted: November 28, 2020 at 11:57 PM (#5991460)
There is absolutely nothing remarkable about how Benintendi has played the last two years. And given that his 2020 consists of -- no joke -- 14 games, I think there's nothing we can guess about what his short-, medium-, or long-term future looks like based upon it. C'mon. Nothing has "happened." He's having a fairly normal career.
   12. Steve Balboni's Personal Trainer Posted: November 30, 2020 at 10:40 AM (#5991587)
I think #10 and #11 pretty much hit it:

- He was a highly-regarded prospect and draft pick, but it was because of his ceiling, and more because of his floor. He was one of those rare guys who came touted as "ready to hit in the bigs" from almost day one. It is not that his upside was a franchise player; it was that his floor was an above-average hitter and solid glove and baserunner. Sort of like a poor man's John Olerud, but an outfielder, rather than a first baseman; or a Mike Greenwell (although for a few years Greenwell was better than anybody thought he would turn out).

- The 2020 season will likely not be a good barometer of a lot of things in the sports world. One of the best things that happened for MLB was that the Dodgers won the World Series, because it allowed the sport to say that the entire process was legitimate - the best team won the whole thing. When it looked like the Astros might get to the World Series with a sub-.500 record, the risk of discounting the whole season because "it just didn't matter" was heightened.

As a tangent, I think the two biggest threats major league baseball faces in the coming years are:
1) The painfully slow pace of play; and
2) The growing perception that the season doesn't matter a whole lot - that 162 games is too many; that the relative importance of each game is too low; that it is not a great sport for casual gambling. If the sport is committed to further expanding the playoffs, then it really needs to think about shortening the season.

Generally speaking, if the NFL and NBA are looking at some innovation relating to making its sports more TV-friendly, digital-friendly, casual betting-friendly, and media-friendly, then MLB should be thinking hard about it, too. The NBA and NFL are the dominant sports of American culture. In terms of the NFL, what it has done to crush TV and casual gambling is nothing short of remarkable. In terms of the NBA, what it is has done over the past ~40 years is equally remarkable. In 1981, 4 of the 6 NBA finals games were on via tape-delay, and baseball was in a much more commanding position culturally. To go from that point to where the most famous athletes in the country are either NFL QBs, or NBA basketball players, is also remarkable.

Part of why stories like, "Is this 14-game stretch where Benintendi sucked a sign that he now sucks?!" are written is because our culture, economy, and media are focused on storylines that are about short attention spans and time horizons. Mike Trout's greatness is not fully appreciated on a night-to-night basis; it is appreciated over years of consistent excellence. In the NFL and NBA, there are moments every night that a casual sports fan can say, "Wow, break-your-ankles fake/drive to the hoop/tomahawk slam is crazy!". Mookie might be the closest thing in baseball today to a guy that can generate that kind of "Wow!". I thought Bryce Harper could be a guy like that, but it hasn't happened.
   13. What did Billy Ripken have against ElRoy Face? Posted: November 30, 2020 at 10:56 AM (#5991594)
It is a dig at the quoted scouts.
In fairness, he does have quite a good face.

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