On April 7, Andrew Benintendi started the season off with a bang. Playing with the Class A-Advanced Salem Red Sox, the centerfielder hit the first pitch he saw up the middle for an RBI single - plating Yoan Moncada.
In his next at-bat in the second inning, he smacked an RBI triple; and in the third inning, he collected an RBI double. He would finish off his High-A debut 4-for-5 with two runs scored, three RBIs and a home run shy of the cycle. Save for a slight cold streak upon his promotion to Double-A Portland, he hasn't stopped hitting since opening day.
Only 14 months after being drafted seventh overall by the Boston Red Sox, Benintendi has joined the big club, making the leap straight from Double-A. He becomes the third 2015 draftee to make the major leagues, joining Carson Fulmer of the White Sox (8th overall) and Alex Bregman of the Astros (2nd overall). So what can the Red Sox expect from the youngster known as Benny Baseball?
The term five-tool prospect is thrown around a lot, but in the time I was blessed enough to watch him play every day, he was certainly emblematic of the title. The hit and power tools are as good as advertised - he hit 13 doubles, seven triples and one home run in 34 games in High-A. He would have had more home runs if his home ballpark, LewisGale Field in Salem wasn't 385 feet to the left- and right-centerfield gaps with a 20-foot-high wall. At least five of his doubles and triples would easily have been home runs at Fenway.
Benitendi's pure hit tool was impressive as well. He left the Carolina League as the league leader with a .341 batting average, and he still leads the league (among players with over 150 PA) in wRC+ (164), wOBA (.429) and OPS (.976). Benintendi struck out only nine times in 155 PA, and at one point went three weeks without swinging and missing at a pitch (yup, three weeks. That is not a typo). Offensively he was clearly on a completely different level than the rest of the league.
Benintendi's glove in centerfield was overshadowed by his hitting, but was impressive nonetheless. He had the kind of range that left pitchers confident that any ball hit out to center would be caught. His effortless defense reminded me of classic Carlos Beltran, though Benintendi is not the defender Beltran was in his prime. If it was Boston's prerogative, he could play center at the big league level, but they're set with Jackie Bradley in center for the time being. Benny's throwing arm is good. With regards to speed, he was continually overshadowed by teammate Yoan Moncada, but it is a solid 55 tool in my admittedly limited-trained eye.
He got off to a slow start in Portland and then picked it up - he hit just .205/.250/.282 in his first 20 games in Double-A, but since he hit .340/.408/.629, tearing up the Eastern League and earning a promotion past triple-A.
In an interview with Kevin Burke of the Salem Red Sox earlier in the year, Red Sox President of Baseball Operations Dave Dombrowski said the club looked, "for guys who are clearly better than their current level." Benintendi has proven at every stop thus far that he has been better than his competition. Now the future superstar gets his chance to prove it at the MLB level.
Joe Vasile is a contibutor at Beyond the Box Score and the Broadcasting and Media Relations Assistant for the Salem Red Sox. Follow him on Twitter at @JoeVasilePBP.