The vote is in, and it wasn't particularly close. Andrew Benintendi takes second with ease, and it's time for me to eat a bit of crow.
When the Red Sox picked Benintendi this past summer, I called him the safe pick. And he was, in many ways. After all, there weren't many players in the draft as likely to reach the majors as Benintendi. He's one of those players who's at least average at everything, and perhaps a bit better at some of them.
Where the crow comes in is that last last bit, and just how much better than average he might be. Benintendi was coming off an elite season at Arkansas, but there was some expectation his power wouldn't make the trip to wood bats, and without power, plate discipline can be hard to actually translate into on-base percentage. "Safe" often implies low-risk, low-reward, and I'd be lying if I said that wasn't my general impression at the time.
Andrew Benintendi proceeded to hit 11 home runs in under 200 at bats. Yes, with the wooden bats. Because he was arguably the most dangerous player at his level at any point in time, that led to plenty of walks, too. Oh, and he hit .313 on the year and stole 10 bases. In a third of a season.
Look, the third of a season thing is a caveat, to be sure. Many players have done many things for a couple months and then faded into obscurity. It helps that Benintendi was also doing it for the rest of the year in Arkansas, and that the only reason he rocketed up the draft boards in 2015 is because his 2014 season had been hampered by injury. He didn't come out of nowhere, he simply made his way back to where he was kind of expected to be by now when he first entered college. But at the end of the day, Benintendi is going to have to do it again at higher levels to really seal his place as one of the game's elite prospects.
MLB's top-100 prospects list features 4 Red Sox in the top-40
The Sox "only" have four prospects listed, but they are ranked early and often.
But after being taken seventh overall, it's hard to think of what more Benintendi could have done in the time available to him to prove himself. And when a player drafted that highly has the perfect start to their professional career, it's hard not to get excited. The only question now is just how fast the Red Sox choose to push their new star prospect. Chances are he'll start the year in Salem, but given that he actually performed better at the higher level after his last promotion, it's not hard to imagine him finding his way to Portland in a hurry. At this point, it's less about Benintendi continuing to develop at each new level, and more about letting him run until he finally finds a roadblock that actually slows him down.
Alright, that's the top-two down, and while we've talked about the idea of the "Big Four" so often around these parts that it seems disingenuous to do so, it's time to open up the voting a bit. We'll have more candidates to choose from down in the comments, and as always, if there's someone you really thinks deserves the nod over the rest, you're free to throw their name into the mix yourself.
How do you vote? Head down to the comments below, and look for the comment for the player you want to vote for, as pictured here:
There'll be a "rec" button where that star is. You click it, and that's your vote. You do have to be a registered user, unfortunately, but some people are weird and will use their spare time to vote a couple hundred times, meaning we can't have nice things. Sorry to everyone else.
With that said, vote away!