The Red Sox made Andrew Benintendi the seventh pick in the draft last summer after he hit a torrid .376/.488/.717 as a sophomore at Arkansas, giving him easily the highest OPS in the SEC. Benintendi wasted no time proving his mettle in pro ball. He kicked things off by slashing .313/.414/.556 between two levels of A-ball, pairing a minuscule strikeout rate with loads of power.
Benintendi’s done more of the same in 2016, only this time at High-A and Double-A. He’s posted equal strikeout and walk rates — both 9% — while also hitting for power and stealing bases. The end result has been an unequivocally excellent .312/.378/.532 batting line. Considering he grades out as an above-average center fielder by Clay Davenport’s numbers, there really isn’t anything Benintendi can’t do.
My new-look KATOH model is a huge fan of Benintendi’s, projecting him for 9.1 WAR over his first six seasons by the traditional method and 14.4 WAR by the method that integrates Baseball America’s rankings. Those projections place him 11th overall and fourth overall, respectively, on KATOH’s list. To help you visualize what his KATOH projection entails, here is a probability density function showing KATOH+’s projected distribution of outcomes for Benintendi’s first six seasons in the major leagues.
To put some faces to Benintendi’s statistical profile, let’s generate some statistical comps for the center fielder. I calculated a weighted Mahalanobis distance between Benintendi’s High-A and Double-A performance this year and every season at those levels since 1991 in which a batter recorded at least 400 plate appearances. In the table below, you’ll find the 10 most similar seasons, ranked from most to least similar. The WAR totals refer to each player’s first six seasons in the major leagues. A lower “Mah Dist” reading indicates a closer comp.
Please note that the Mahalanobis analysis is separate from KATOH. KATOH relies on macro-level trends, rather than comps. The fates of a few statistically similar players shouldn’t be used to draw sweeping conclusions about a prospect’s future. For this reason, I recommend using a player’s KATOH forecast to assess his future potential. The comps give us some interesting names that sometimes feel spot-on, but they’re mostly just there for fun.
Given his track record, there’s little reason to think Benintendi won’t enjoy big-league success right away. Not only has he crushed minor-league pitching, but he’s done so with a single-digit strikeout rate, which suggests he’ll have little trouble against better pitchers. Throw in his defensive prowess, and it’s easy to envision Benintendi becoming a difference-maker for Boston in their playoff push.
Chris works in economic development by day, but spends most of his nights thinking about baseball. He writes for Pinstripe Pundits, FanGraphs and The Hardball Times. He's also on the twitter machine: @_chris_mitchell None of the views expressed in his articles reflect those of his daytime employer.
FYI- Benintendi has split 2016 between High-A Salem and Double-A Portland. He skipped Triple-A altogether.
Thanks, that’s what I meant to say. Blame it on sleep deprivation 🙂