After an amazing second year at the University of Arkansas, a seventh overall selection in the 2015 MLB Draft by the Boston Red Sox and some impressive first seasons in the bigs, Andrew Benintendi seemed destined to become the next great leftfielder in Fenway Park. Skip to a few years later and MLB writer Mike Petriello is wondering whether the player is going to be non-tendered by the Kansas City Royals. A baseball career is a fickle thing.
Player of the Week
A lot has happened since that tweet, though. Benny has gone on a tear lately and was subsequently named MLB Player of the Week. Along the way, he raised his OPS+ up to 104. A little better than league average, but a long way away from 89. Of course, one great streak does not make a great player, but it doesn’t take a real deep dive into Benintendi’s stats to find a pattern. The guy needs playing time and confidence to get into a rhythm, but once he’s in that zone, you would be crazy to think about non-tendering him.
The beginning of the end of his stay in Beantown was the winter Benintendi decided to bulk up. He wanted to add power to his contact ability. Instead of an upgrade it turned out to be disastrous for his offensive production. His natural, intuitive swing was hindered by the added weight and he started to miss pitches. What’s the point of power if you’re not even touching the ball?
An abysmal .103 batting average in 2020 (and a 25 OPS+ to go with it) meant it was time for the Red Sox to move on. They found a willing trade partner in the Kansas City Royals, who were searching for batters that knew how to get on base. All the Red Sox got in return for their once beloved top prospect was Franchy Cordero, now in the minors. Not even close to what they expected when they drafted him five years earlier.
Benintendi’s start in The K was slow, to say the least. A similar start in Boston would have certainly started a discussion like the one Petriello tried to stir up a couple of weeks ago. Not so in Kansas City. Benintendi was given time to adjust and so he did. Until an injury placed him on the IL on 13 June, he hit 8 home runs, 3 doubles, one triple and had a slashline of .323/.374/.506. Not bad in just 42 games.
Benny being Benny
A broken rib sidelined him for a couple of weeks and it took him until the All-Star Break to return. Unfortunately, this return went along the same underwhelming lines as his first month in Kansas, but since then he’s gotten gradually better. He’s hitting .276 with 15 home runs, 23 doubles, two triples and 63 RBI’s for the season now. A lot better than his stats were a year ago.
Ever since Cordero’s demotion, it has been clear the Royals won this trade, but it might turn out to be an even better haul than expected. Royals’ King Salvy still reigns supreme – Salvador Pérez just tied Johnny Bench single-season home run record for a catcher – but he might have found a great right-hand man in Prince Andrew… Well, let’s call him Prince Benny.
But the real winner of the trade will probably be Benintendi himself, who gets the possibility to fulfil his huge potential outside of the Bostonian spotlights, with a lot less pressure and decisively lower expectations. He just has to keep himself in the lineup.
Photo credit: Ed Zurga
Sander Grasman is covering the Kansas City Royals as part of the growing team of writers at Bat Flips and Nerds. Follow him on Twitter @GrasmanSD