Will Andrew Benintendi become the next Jacoby Ellsbury?
That remains to be seen of course, but Benintendi — the left-handed hitting center fielder who was selected by the Red Sox with the No. 7 pick in the draft Monday — has all the raw tools, power, and speed to excel as a big leaguer.
The 20-year-old won SEC Player of the Year honors as a sophomore at Arkansas after batting .380/.489/.715 with 19 home runs, 55 RBIs and 23 stolen bases for the Razorbacks, who are headed to the College World Series. The 5-foot-10, 175-pound Benintendi bulked up by adding 15 pounds before this season and his power numbers increased dramatically en route to also being named National Player of the Year. The eye-popping numbers resulted in a rise in Benintendi’s profile with the draft approaching.
The Razorbacks produced a video promoting Benintendi’s feats complete with the hashtag #BennyBaseball.
“Despite only two years of college baseball, there’s quite a bit of history that we have with him going back to high school and he’s someone who’s always played at the highest level of competition that’s been available to him, whether it’s been in high school or college and put that together with his performance, his physical skills and getting to know him as a person as we were able to do this spring, just throw it all together and when it got time to our pick at 7, he was the top player on the board, it was obvious who we were taking,’’ Red Sox general manager Ben Cherington said on a conference call. “We’re really excited to take him.’’
And Benintendi was excited to be selected by the Red Sox who were making just their third top-10 pick in the last 48 years.
“Obviously it’s a great organization and they’ve got great history,’’ Benintendi said. “Growing up I was a big Red Sox fan and I looked up to Dustin Pedroia, obviously not the biggest guy but the way he competes and the way he works, it’s motivating for me. Being picked, it was extremely exciting. my family was here, my mom, and dad and two sisters. I put in a lot of hard work to get to this point. It’s starting to pay off and definitely have a lot more work to do, but I’m extremely excited and it’s going to be exciting to start.’’
The Cincinnati native was originally drafted by the Reds two years ago, but did not sign. After an injury-plagued freshman season that saw Benintendi bat .278/.368/.333 with one home run, he vaulted into the limelight with his breakout sophomore season.
“The leap that Andrew made is a little bit unusual,’’ Red Sox amateur scouting director Mike Rikard said. “Not many guys make that type of stride from their freshman year to their sophomore year.’’
For Benintendi, the ultimate goal is landing in the outfield at Fenway Park someday.
“I think playing out [at Fenway] would be great,’’ he said. “Hopefully I can do that.’’
Notable Red Sox rookies