Player: Andrew Benintendi
DOB: July 6, 1994 (Age: 20)
Height/Weight: 5'10", 170 pounds
Previously Drafted: 2013, 31st round by Cincinnati
Andrew Benintendi came into this season as a non-factor in the draft but ended up as the seventh overall pick by the Boston Red Sox. That's what happens when you win the Player of the Year award at an SEC school, putting up a .380/.489/.715 slash line.
ESPN's scouting report for the Arkansas star notes that he grew into power after an injury-plagued freshman season in 2014 despite concerns about how that will play in professional baseball:
Benintendi burst on the scene this year as a draft-eligible sophomore, becoming the first Razorbacks player to win SEC Player of the Year. His freshman-year output was dampened by injury, but Benintendi showed unexpected power this season with a high-leverage swing that some scouts fear won't work as well with wood as it does with composite bats.
Teams are so starved for hitting in today's game that when there is an outstanding college performer in an elite baseball conference, it's not going to take long for someone to jump on him. The Red Sox liked what they saw in Benintendi enough to pop him in the first round.
Benintendi is a solid all-around player who can do everything on a baseball field well even though he doesn't have superstar potential. His best asset is above-average speed that gives him a chance to stick in center field long-term.
There were some people from Benintendi's old stomping grounds in Cincinnati who raved about his ability with the bat, according to Tom Groeschen of the Cincinnati Enquirer:
Tom Groeschen @TomGroeschen
Benintendi was best Cincy area high school hitter since Ken Griffey Jr., one longtime local baseball watcher told me. @madeiraath6/9/2015, 12:01:28 AM
Benintendi isn't going to be Ken Griffey Jr.—if he was, one could assume he would've been in the mix for the No. 1 overall pick—but being able to find a center fielder who has shown the ability to get on base against the best college pitching in the country sounds like a perfect fit for the Red Sox.
Boston has always preached patience and working the count with its lineup. Being able to get on base is the name of the game, and few teams draft to fill that need better than the Red Sox. Benintendi is a perfect fit for the franchise because of his approach, with the power and fielding an added bonus.
MLB Player Comparison: Kole Calhoun
Even though Kole Calhoun was slow to develop, not becoming a regular until his age-26 season in 2014, the Los Angeles Angels outfielder looks a lot like Benintendi physically.
Neither player is physically imposing at under 6'0", though Calhoun is bigger at 200 pounds. Just as the scouting report for Benintendi labels him as adequate at everything, Calhoun has turned into that kind of big leaguer. He's not a star, but he hit 17 home runs in 127 games last year and has a respectable .266/.329/.389 line in 54 games so far this season.
MLB.com's scouting report on Calhoun in 2012 noted he would have to hit his way to the big leagues:
"He has a very good approach at the plate, draws walks and doesn’t strike out much, especially considering his extra-base ability," the report said. "He could hit his way to the big leagues playing an outfield corner and/or first base."
Benintendi has more speed and is a better athlete than Calhoun, but their ability with the bat is largely the same. It's not a given that Benintendi will be able to stay in center field, meaning his bat will have to play up in the minors to ensure he can succeed with the big league club.
Projection: First-division regular
MLB ETA: 2017
Chances of Signing: 95 percent
Even though Benintendi has two years of college eligibility remaining, he doesn't stand to gain anything by going back. He went from an afterthought when the season began to being a top-10 pick in one of the best development systems in baseball.
Arkansas has advanced to the College World Series, where Benintendi will attempt to lead the program to a national title. After that, it won't take long for him to sign with the Red Sox. There's nothing for him to gain by going back to college after the season he's had.