It wasn't long ago that many in scouting circles did not know that Andrew Benintendi was even eligible for the draft in 2015, let alone ranked as one of the best bats in the class. That's certainly changed now. Benintendi, a 20-year-old sophomore (he turns 21 next month) from the University of Arkansas, broke out in a big way this past season for the Razorbacks, hitting .380/.489/.715 with 19 home runs and 55 RBIs, with his meteoric rise in the draft ranks ultimately leaving him Boston's first pick at #7 overall.
A good athlete with above-average speed and a good eye, the Red Sox are getting a relatively high-floor player (as is the case with a lot of highly-touted college hitters) with Benintendi. Standing at 5-foot-10, he generates good power with his bat speed, leading the SEC in home runs in 2015. While Benintendi did not show much pop until this past season, players don't lead one of the preeminent athletic conferences in home runs by mistake.
"I think I kind of expected to come in here and put up some big numbers, and I think I put a lot of pressure on myself to do that, too," Benintendi told the Associated Press. "When I wasn't producing like I thought I should, it was frustrating."
Benintendi plays with emotion on the field, something he had difficulty controlling during his freshman season.
[Benintendi's] occasional outbursts were met with quick coaching from Van Horn and hitting coach Tony Vitello, who worked with the outfielder to become more controlled during and after at-bats, including the bad ones.
Help was also offered by older teammates, who Vitello said were impressed with Benintendi's humility and team approach.
"He wouldn't have had that support system if he was a punk, or only concerned with himself," Vitello said. "I think that speaks to what kind of kid he is, and what others think of him."
Benintendi listened to his coaches, just as he listened to them when they brought up the possibility of taking a summer away from playing to fully heal some nagging injuries and add strength.
Benintendi has the innate ability to barrel up baseballs and make solid contact, and the 20 pounds he put on his frame between his freshman and sophomore year played a major role in the jump in power production.
The 2015 SEC Player of the Year, nicknamed Benny Baseball by Razorback fans, is undersized, but has a silky smooth swing. Kole Calhoun of the Angels, another undersized, lefty swinging outfielder, put up similar numbers at a big-name school (Arizona State University). One of Calhoun's top player comparisons is former Red Sox outfield and 1993 No. 7 overall pick Trot Nixon. MLB.com named Jon Jay as another player who Benintendi compares favorably with. Mark Kotsay has also been thrown out there for a Benintendi comp, though Red Sox fans might prefer to ignore that one.
In high school, Benintendi also played basketball and proved to be a standout on the court as well; he holds his high school record for points, free throws, 3-pointers and steals.
Given the disparity in performance between his freshman and sophomore years and his general lack of a track record, it can be difficult to know what to expect from Benintendi in the long run. However, the outfielder's combination of athleticism and speed suggest he could become an asset in center field, at least for the beginning of his career, although there are questions as to whether or not he could stick at the position long term. If Benintendi is able to maintain the power that he brought to the table his sophomore year, he projects as a solid starter at the big league level.
Should Benintendi decide to forego his junior year in order to sign with the Red Sox, which many believe is likely, he is expected to start his professional career with the Short-Season A Lowell Spinners.