Hanley Ramirez is not one to shy away from the spotlight. That includes when he makes a prediction. Here is one he has for this season.
Not-necessarily-outrageous Hanley Ramirez pronouncement of the day:— Pete Abraham (@PeteAbe) March 8, 2018
“That guy (points at Andrew Benintendi) will be the MVP.”
I’m not really certain why Mr. Abraham defines this as “not-necessarily-outrageous” because as good as Andrew Benintendi is, you’d be hard-pressed to find a large contingent of people who think he will be MVP over a healthy Mike Trout, Aardon Judge (sigh) or Jose Altuve. Heck, Benintendi wouldn’t even be the favorite on the Red Sox roster, what with Mookie Betts, J.D. Martinez and Chris Sale hanging around.
But that’s the thing about predictions. They are meaningless. Is anyone going to be sternly asking Ramirez questions about this prediction when Carlos Correa holds the trophy at year’s end? No. But they do give some sort of indication as to what to expect. Essentially what Ramirez is saying is Benintendi is going to have a big year. That isn’t a bold prediction. Saying he will be MVP is. But just because a prediction is bold/pretty out there, doesn’t mean its impossible.
If Benintendi is going to win MVP, he’s going to need to do a few things.
Get more extra-base hits
Last season, Benintendi hit 20 home runs, 26 doubles and a triple. That’s a total of 47 extra-base knocks. That’s pretty good! But its not anywhere close to MVP level. During the last 10 seasons, a position player won MVP nine times. That group averaged 73.7 extra-base hits per season, with a high of 84 (done three times) and a low of 59 (Joe Mauer, 2009). So Benintendi needs to find a few more gaps and launch some extra balls over the fence.
If he can boost the ball further, he will also improve his wRC+ and OPS+, which is another area where he’s wanting in comparison to MVP winners. While not an entirely fair comparison considering he was a 22-year-old rookie at the beginning of the 2017 season, Benintendi had an OPS+ and a wRC+ of 103. The last nine position player MVPs have averaged marks of 163.8 and 164.7, respectively.
Hit for a better average
During that same 10-year stretch, no MVP (other than Verlander, who is, you know, a pitcher) batted below .287. Only Mike Trout (2014) and Josh Donaldson (2015) batted below .300 and six of the last 10 MVPs reached at least .320. Benintendi only hit .271 last season, but he has the ability to hit for a much higher average. His BABIP was at just .301 last season, so if more balls drop onto the outfield grass for hits, he can boost that average and his own chances at the highest individual honor in baseball.
Create more wins
OK, so Benintendi can’t actually create more wins, but his value as a player needs to increase a bunch to get into that MVP sweet spot. Doing the two things I just mentioned will help, as Benintendi was worth 2.6 bWAR and 2.9 fWAR last season. You can build a solid career out of being a nearly three-win player, but you won’t take home any hardware. The last 10 MVPs have averaged 8.1 bWAR and 7.6 fWAR, with Dustin Pedroia’s readings of 6.9 and 6.3, respectively, from 2008 the low-water marks.
This isn’t an exact science of course. These are just (primarily) the things he’ll need to do at the plate. Add in continuing to be a strong fielder and running the bases well and you’ve constructed quite a tall order for a 23-year-old entering his second full season in the majors. It’s almost like winning an MVP award is difficult.
With that written, much respect to Ramirez for making a bold prediction because regular ones are no fun. That’s why I’m calling it now. Andrew Benintendi is going to win the NL Cy Young award. Top that.
Here’s one of many Red Sox previews you will read this spring. (Craig Calcaterra; NBC Sports)
Rick Porcello and Max Scherzer are Cy Young winners and good friends. (Christopher Smith; MassLive)
And with a roster recap of Kyle Martin, Baseball Prospectus Boston is finally finished with 2017. (Daniel Poarch; BP Boston)
Chris Sale is an ace. I believe in David Price. Assuming he’s healthy, Drew Pomeranz is a pretty solid No. 3. But the Red Sox have a lot of stuff to figure out on the edges of the rotation. (Chad Jennings; Boston Herald)