Andrew Benintendi has been named the best debuting prospect of 2015 (ESPN Insider only) by Keith Law.
Benintendi, Boston's first-round pick and the seventh player taken overall, enjoyed quite the rise from obscurity to minor league stardom. In Law's own words:
Benintendi was nowhere in sight on draft boards coming into 2015, as he was a draft-eligible sophomore with no summer wood-bat experience and was coming off a mediocre freshman year marred by injuries. But he's more than just a performance guy; he has above-average speed and the ability to stay in center field.
The performance Law speaks of was remarkable. After said mediocre freshman year (.276/.368/.333), Benintendi burst onto the scene with a .376/.488/.717 line as a sophomore, hitting 20 homers and stealing 24 bases in just 226 at bats. He earned the 2015 Golden Spikes Award along with plenty of other player of the year awards for his efforts, and rocketed up the boards to the point where the Sox were comfortable picking him seventh overall.
Appreciating the recently solid Robbie Ross
Robbie Ross has been the lone bright spot in a bad Boston bullpen over the last few months.
Obviously, the early returns are exactly what a team hopes for from such a high pick. Benintendi crushed short-season lowell to the tune of .290/.408/.540, hitting seven homers, stealing seven bases, and drawing 25 walks to just 15 strikeouts. After being given the bump up to Low-A Greenville, he actually bumped those numbers up quite a ways, hitting .351/.430/.581 in a short 19-game stint.
Of course, the real challenge is yet to come for Benintendi. While the jump to professional levels is no small thing, and Benintendi has already managed to dispel one of the biggest concerns surrounding him by hitting 11 homers in 54 games with wood bats, the fact of the matter is he was, as the best college player of 2015, akin to a man playing among children. At 21 years old, he's probably going to end up ahead of schedule in 2016 before long, but it does still remain to be seen if he can handle the higher levels of the minor leagues, where the competition is significantly higher than at the collegiate level.
Benintendi will likely get that chance before too much time has passed in 2016. Until then, though, he's got another accolade to add to his resume. And while accolades don't always translate to future performance, at the moment it's easy to imagine Benintendi making good the way he's started his professional career.