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Will Benson Builds Foundation In Arizona



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Will Benson (Photo by Bill Mitchell)[/caption]

CLEVELAND—Teenage outfielder Will Benson’s pro debut in the Rookie-level Arizona League was modest. In 44 games, the 2016 first-rounder hit .215/.326/.430, and just four AZL players recorded more strikeouts (60).

However, Benson ranked sixth in the league with six home runs and also stole 10 bases, which is impressive given his 6-foot-5, 215-pound frame.

The 18-year-old Benson clearly is a work in progress, but his strength and athleticism were two big reasons why the Indians used the 14th overall pick on the Atlanta high school product, who signed for $2.5 million.

Benson ranks as the No. 7 prospect in the system. Like most players moving from prep baseball to the pro ranks, the big lefthanded hitter had a lot to learn.

"He spent last season working on his professional routines and building a foundation of knowledge of what it takes to be a successful major leaguer,” assistant general manager Carter Hawkins said.

Benson last year played mostly right field, where his plus arm is an asset. At the plate, his swing features a lot of moving parts that he is trying to coordinate, but in Arizona he flashed some of the raw power that brought scouts to see him play at The Westminster Schools.

"Will came into the organization with an open mind towards growing as a baseball player,” Hawkins said. "His work ethic is top-class for such a young player, and our other players gravitated to his positive energy.”

Benson could start 2017 at low Class A Lake County, a team that could feature three other organizational top 10 prospects.

In addition to Benson, lefthander Brady Aiken, righthander Triston McKenzie and third baseman Nolan Jones, the club’s second-round pick in 2016 out of high school, are all candidates for an assignment to the Midwest League.

SMOKE SIGNALS

The Indians claimed 25-year-old third baseman Richie Shaffer on waivers and successfully outrighted him to Triple-A Columbus. The Mariners, Phillies and Reds had previously tried and failed to sneak him through waivers this offseason. The Rays selected Shaffer in the first round of the 2012 draft, and he has produced for power with a 26-homer season in the minors in 2015 and a .197 isolated slugging percentage in two big league cups of coffee.

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The Indians announced their minor league managerial assignments: Chris Tremie (Triple-A Columbus), Mark Budzinski (Double-A Akron), Tony Mansolino (high Class A Lynchburg), Larry Day (Lake County), Luke Carlin (short-season Mahoning Valley) and Anthony Medrano (AZL).

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