In 2015, the Boston Red Sox made University of Arkansas sophomore outfielder Andrew Benintendi their No. 1 draft pick, seventh overall in the June draft last year. Now, just 13 months later, the 22-year-old left-handed slugger from Cincinnati, Ohio, has been called up to the Red Sox Major League squad, expected to make his debut with the club on Tuesday, August 12, in Seattle.
UPDATE: 6:30 p.m. Pacific: Andrew Benintendi was held back from the Red Sox starting lineup on Tuesday, but is available off the bench. He is now expected to make start on Wednesday, August 3, in Seattle.
The Red Sox hope that Benintendi, rated by ESPN scouting analyst Keith Law as the third-ranked minor league prospect in baseball at midseason this year, can provide a jolt to their lineup the way the New York Mets Michael Conforto was able to do for his team, when the Mets called him up at age 22 last year, helping them reach the World Series.
Andrew Benintendi meets the Boston media in Seattle. pic.twitter.com/DSVN4TVB9l
— Jason Mastrodonato (@JMastrodonato) August 2, 2016
Or perhaps more precisely, Boston would like Benintendi to provide what their own Xander Bogaerts gave the Red Sox in 2013, helping propel that year’s edition to a World Series victory after a late-season call-up at age 20.
Most of all, however, the Red Sox would like Benintendi to become their regular left fielder, stabilizing a position where due to a series of injuries, Boston Manager John Farrell has been forced to insert six different players, including a catcher, Blake Swihart, so far in 2016.
Following the video interview with Andre Benintendi by Baseball America, below, here are three quick facts Boston Red Sox fans should know about Benintendi as he makes his eagerly anticipated Major League debut.
Benintendi Was Drafted By His Hometown Team
Born in Cincinnati, Ohio, on July 6, 1994, Andrew Benintendi grew up in the small suburb of Madeira, about 10 miles outside of Cincinnati. But he quickly became a local celebrity as the star of the Madeira High School baseball team, batting 0.564 in his senior season with 12 home runs to go with an incredible 38 stolen bases — a season capped off when Benintendi was named National High School Player of the Year by the American Baseball Coaches Association.
Not surprisingly, his hometown team, the Cincinnati Reds, spotted this budding star in their own backyard, and selected Benintendi in the 31st round of the 2013 MLB amateur draft. But Benintendi chose to go to college instead, playing two seasons as an Arkansas Razorback.
Delaying his pro career was the smart decision, as evidenced by the fact that Andrew Benintendi raised his draft position from the 31st round to the upper First Round in just two years, earning College Player of the Year honors in 2015 from both Baseball America magazine, and the SEC.
Benintendi Never Played AAA Minor League Baseball
Andrew Benintendi, in just his 13 months as a member of the Boston organization, has risen like a rocket through the Red Sox minor league system. After last year’s draft, the Red Sox sent Benintendi to their lowest-level minor league team, the Lowell Spinners, in Lowell, Massachusetts, of the short-season New York-Penn League.
— Zesty Red Sox News (@zesty_redsox) August 2, 2016
Benintendi took some time to adjust, but after just 35 games at Lowell, where he posted a 0.948 OPS with seven homers in 124 at-bats, the Red Sox bumped him up their next level, with the full-season Greenville Drive of the South Atlantic League, where the fast-rising prospect belted four homers in just 74 at-bats, batting 0.351 with a 1.011 OPS.
In 2016, the Red Sox assigned Benintendi to their highest-level single-A affiliate, the Salem Red Sox of the Carolina League, where he continued his rapid development after a slow start to the season. He had put up a 0.976 OPS through 34 games when Boston promoted him to Double-A Portland, where he played in 63 games — his last one his best as a professional baseball player.
On Sunday, July 31, Benintendi went four-for-five with two home runs as the Portland Sea Dogs routed the Binghamton Mets, 8-1.
Benintendi was never promoted to the Triple-A level. Late Monday night, he learned that his next assignment was to take a plane ride to Seattle where he would join the Major League Boston Red Sox.
Benintendi Is A Five-Tool Player
In addition to being rated as one of baseball’s top hitting prospects, Andrew Benintendi, a natural left-hander, is also fleet on the basepaths and an excellent defensive prospect as well.
In addition to belting 20 home runs across all levels in his 151-game minor league career, Benintendi bagged 26 stolen bases. And while positioned as a center fielder for most of his pro career, Benintendi posted a sparkling 0.994 fielding percentage. In fact, in 57 games as an outfielder in Portland — he also served as a designated hitter in six games — Benintendi made no errors at all.
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But he was moved from center to left field just four games ago, so the Red Sox will keep a close eye on how Andrew Benintendi adapts to the position where they need him most, especially when the team returns to Boston on August 9, when Benintendi will need to learn in a hurry how to play the notorious Green Monster left field wall in Fenway Park — a difficult challenge even for the most experienced left fielders.
[Photo by Ted S. Warren/AP Images]