January 1, 2016 at 8:00 AM
This week, we recap the players ranked 7, 6, and 5 in the SoxProspects.com season-end Top 40. All entries in this year's Top 40 Season in Review series can be found here.
2015 Teams: Lowell Spinners, Greenville Drive
Final Stats: 239 PA, .313/.416/.556, 11 HR, 35 BB, 24 K, 10 SB
2015 Peak Ranking: 4 (Current)
Season in Review: Benintendi was already having a memorable 2015 season before even signing his first professional contract. Coming off a solid-but-unspectacular freshman season, the University of Arkansas center fielder was not even rated among the top 50 sophomores in the nation by Baseball America. A monstrous breakout season helped carry the Razorbacks to the double elimination phase of the College World Series, earned him nearly every award he was eligible for, and placed him among the top prospects in June’s upcoming draft. He hit .376/.488/.717 with 20 home runs and 24 stolen bases, winning the Golden Spikes Award (top amateur player), Dick Howser Award (top college player), Louisville Slugger National Player of the Year, and First Team All-American honors.
The Red Sox tabbed the draft-eligible sophomore with the seventh overall pick, strengthening an already-deep crop of minor league talent. Benintendi was brought into the fold with a $3.59 million bonus and was assigned to the Short Season-A Lowell Spinners. He went 2 for 4 with a run scored in his professional debut on July 3, and hit his first professional home run the following day. He then went into what amounted to his only slump of the year at any level, a 1-for-17 stretch over five games that dropped the 20-year-old’s OPS to .643. Given a four-day rest, Benintendi was a force of nature upon his return. He hit .313/.430/.596 over the next 28 games, with six home runs, four triples, and 20 walks against nine strikeouts.
Benintendi was promoted to the Greenville Drive on August 17, and if there was any adjustment to the more difficult competition it did not show in his stat line. After going 0 for 4 with a pair of walks in his introduction to the South Atlantic League, he homered twice in his second contest and continued to post video game-like numbers that mirrored his production with the Spinners. In his 19 games with Greenville, Benintendi hit .351/.430/.581 with five doubles and four homers.
In 424 at-bats across his 2015 campaign with Arkansas, Lowell, and Greenville, Benintendi slammed 31 home runs, scored 98 runs, drove in 88, and tallied 85 walks while striking out only 56 times. In addition to the accolades he earned with the Razorbacks, the SoxProspects.com community named him Offensive Player of the Year and Rookie of the Year, and Baseball America recognized him as the New York-Penn League’s top prospect. - James Dunne
Scouting Report and 2016 Outlook: Benintendi is listed at 5-foot-10, 180 pounds with a strong, athletic, and compact build. At the plate, Benintendi has a quick and explosive, yet still controlled swing. His stance is slightly open with his front foot turned inwards and his hands are set back deep in box. He utilizes a small stride forward while generating great hand separation and torque to generate plus bat speed. He is quick through the zone with a short stroke and two-handed finish. Benintendi hits the ball out in front and shows an advanced knowledge of the strike zone with an overall aggressive, but controlled approach. He has a pull heavy approach at present and will need to work on using the whole field as he will be susceptible to off-speed pitches away. Benintendi projects for future plus power given his plus bat speed, compact strength, strong hands and wrists as well as the natural leverage in his swing.
Defensively, Benintendi projects as a potential solid average defensive center fielder. He has smooth, athletic actions and takes direct routes while tracking balls in the outfield. His present arm strength appears to be average, though he showcases the tools and the athleticism to stick in center field. That said, a move to a corner spot is a possibility, given the power potential at the plate. Benintendi is also an above average runner and offers the potential to be a base stealing threat thanks great instincts, rather than blinding speed. Benintendi will likely begin the year at High-A Salem for his first full-season of pro ball. He has a chance to be a true five tool talent and showcases the future potential of a regular, everyday-type center fielder with a chance to rise quickly. - Chaz Fiorino
Photo Credit: Kelly O'Connor
Photo Credit: Kelly O'Connor