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TOP 10 PROSPECTS
|1. Andrew Benintendi, of|
|2. Yoan Moncada, 2b/3b|
|3. Rafael Devers, 3b|
|4. Michael Kopech, rhp|
|5. Jason Groome, lhp|
|6. Sam Travis, 1b|
|7. Mauricio Dubon, ss|
|8. Luis Alexander Basabe, of|
|9. Bobby Dalbec, 3b|
|10. Roniel Raudes, rhp|
After a pair of last-place finishes in 2014 and 2015, the Red Sox regained their footing by winning the American League East in a season that represented a fascinating passing of the baton.
David Ortiz was brilliant in his final season at age 40, matching the middle-of-the-order production that typified his 14-season tenure in Boston. But after he played his final game, with the Red Sox getting dispatched by the Indians in an AL Division Series sweep, Ortiz expressed satisfaction that he was leaving the organization in good hands for years to come thanks to a spectacular emerging positional core.
As a 23-year-old, Mookie Betts’ game crystallized, taking him from that of a potential star to an actual one, his five-tool performance exceeded perhaps only by Mike Trout in 2016. Betts, 23-year-old shortstop Xander Bogaerts, and 26-year-old center fielder Jackie Bradley were all elected as All-Star Game starters, offering an impression of considerable up-the-middle strength in future seasons. Late in the year, they were joined by outfielder Andrew Benintendi, who looked like a future batting title contender in his late-season cameo.
Benintendi, in turn, heralds another wave of high-end prospects to come. While Yoan Moncada could not match Benintendi in making the seamless jump from Double-A to the big leagues, the 21-year-old Cuban nonetheless showed jaw-dropping tools while standing out from his competition in two minor league stops.
With Ortiz, the Red Sox scored 101 more runs than any other team in the AL. Without him there is likely to be some regression, but the emergence of so many dynamic young players in 2016 suggests that the Red Sox lineup has a good chance of anchoring postseason ambitions for years to come. In fact, it was in part that long-term outlook the Red Sox used to sell David Price on the idea of coming to Boston in December 2015, when the team signed the lefthander to a seven-year, $217 million deal.
In his first year with Boston, Price assumed the workload and peripheral numbers of an ace, but a modest decrease in velocity in a year where the ball flew out of the park at historic levels left his performance short of expectations. Righthander Rick Porcello helped compensate by overcoming a flop of a first year in Boston in 2015 to emerge as a Cy Young Award candidate in 2016.
How those two perform, and whether promising but inconsistent lefthanders Eduardo Rodriguez and Drew Pomeranz move forward in their own careers, will determine whether the return to the postseason represented a signal of sustained contention or a continuation of a boom-to-bust-and-back cycle. Regardless, the Red Sox system has become sufficiently deep to provide president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski both a homegrown core to fuel visions of perennial contention and the assets to trade for top talent when addressing other roster needs.
1. Andrew Benintendi, of |
Born: July 6, 1994. B-T: L-L. Ht.: 5-10. Wt.: 170. Drafted: Arkansas, 2015 (1st round). Signed by: Chris Mears.
|Based on 20-80 scouting scale—where 50 represents major league average—and future projection rather than present tools.|
Background: Benintendi was one of the top high school hitters in Ohio history and also drafted by the Reds in the 31st round but opted to head to Arkansas. After a modest freshman season with the Razorbacks, Benintendi passed on playing in summer leagues, instead focusing on improving his strength and conditioning. The result was a spectacular 2015 season that saw him lead the country with 20 home runs on the way winning BA College Player of the Year and vaulted him to top-of-the-first-round status. The Red Sox selected him seventh overall. Benintendi confirmed the expectation that he could take fast track to the big leagues by flying through high Class A Salem and Double-A Portland—he batted .312/.378/.532 in 97 games—en route to a callup to Boston at the beginning of August. He missed three weeks with a knee injury but returned in September. He homered in his first postseason plate appearance and put together the best at-bats of any Red Sox hitter in their American League Division Series loss to the Indians.
Scouting Report: Multiple evaluators believe that Benintendi has a chance to be a perennial all-star who competes for batting titles. “He’s a once-in-a-decade hitter,” one said. Benintendi combines excellent hand-eye coordination with the pitch recognition to avoid strike zone expansion. His precisely-tuned swing, with his strong forearms and core along with a rare knack for putting the bat on the ball, allow him to drive the ball with surprising authority given his diminutive stature. Another evaluator thought Benintendi’s upside was that of a 20-25 home run player with 50 doubles. More conservative views of his abilities still suggest an everyday player with a plus hit tool, which would make him an ideal No. 2 hitter with modest extra-base abilities but whose lack of weakness will minimize slumps. Though he hit just .179 in 28 at-bats against big league lefthanders, his willingness to use the whole field mitigates long-term platoon concerns. Defensively, Benintendi has the ability to play center field at an above-average level, though with Jackie Bradley in center and Mookie Betts in right in Boston, he appears destined for left where his plus range will be barely taxed playing in front of the Green Monster. Benintendi isn’t a burner on the bases, but his baserunning impact exceeds his pure speed, which grades as above-average. In short, evaluators see a player who does everything well while displaying phenomenal makeup that could make him a cornerstone for years to come.
The Future: Benintendi seems almost certain to open 2017 in the same role he occupied at the end of 2016: a near-everyday outfielder in the big leagues. Depending on how his game evolves—whether to feature more power or take more walks—it would come as little surprise to see him occupying one of the top three spots in the Red Sox lineup for years to come.