Benintendi Goes Seventh To Boston

Arkansas sophomore star Andrew Benintendi, the SEC's Player of the Year and Collegiate Baseball National Player of the Year, is picked seventh in the first round Monday's Major League Draft by the Boston Red Sox. He, Red Sox general manager Rob Cherrington and Director of Scouting Mike Rikard talk about the selection.

Arkansas star Andrew Benintnedi’s meteoroic rise up the Major League Baseball draft chart ended with a top 10 selection.

The Boston Red Sox chose Benintendi with the seventh pick and he was one of four SEC picks in top eight behind top pick Dansby Swanson (Arizona) of Vanderbilt and No. 2 pick Alex Bregman (Houston) of LSU and ahead of Vanderbilt pitcher Carson Fulmer (Chicago White Sox).

Benintendi, currently hitting .380 with 19 homers, 55 RBI and 23 stolen bases this season heading into this weekend’s College World Series, was named the Collegiate Baseball National Player of the Year and the SEC Player of the Year over the other three.

"Obviously it is a great organization and they've got great history and growing up I was a big Red Sox fan," Benintendi said on a teleconference call the Red Sox set up for the media, "I looked up to guys like Dustin Pedroia because obviously I am not the biggest guy and the way he competes and works is a motivating thing for me.

"Being picked, it was extremely exciting. My family was here - my mom, dad and two sisters. I put in a lot of hard work to get to this point and it is started to pay off. I have a lot more work to do, but I am extremely excited and it is going to be exciting to start."

Boston general manager Ben Cherrington first congratulated Benintendi and Arkansas on making the College World Series, where the Razorbacks will open against Virginia Saturday at 2 p.m.

"First I want to just take a moment to congratulate Andrew on a terrific season for himself personally and also for his team," Sherrington said. "We got a chance to meet with him before and talk to him earlier tonight and I told him that he and his teammates still had something to accomplish and that it is an incredible opportunity to play in the College World Series. Not a lot of guys get to do that so we will be rooting for him and it will be a great experience.

"For his sake and his teammates' sake, hopefully Arkansas will win a few more games. Whenever that is over we look forward to talk to him and hope we get him in a Red Sox uniform.

Cherrington was asked about taking a college player with just two years experience and one year being far superior to the other.

"...If you sort of take a step back and look at his years at Arkansas and put it into context and where he was playing, as a freshman to step into an every day role in what most people would say is the toughest conference in college baseball, his performance is actually pretty solid for a freshman in that conference. It is a big jump in competition.

"I think in some ways that gave us even more comfort as we look at the whole thing. Obviously he took a big jump this year, but despite only two years of college baseball, there is quite a bit of history that we have with him going back to high school. He is someone that has always played at the highest level of competition that has been available to him whether it is high school or college.

"Put that together with his performance and his physical skills and getting to know him as a person as we were able to do this spring, altogether when it got time for our pick at number seven, he was our player on the board and it was just obvious who we were taking and we were really excited to take him."

Mike Rikard, the Red Sox director of scouting, noted on a teleconference that his organization had scouted Benintendi back when he was in high school in Cincinnati.

"We have history going back to high school with Andrew and our scouts have really done an outstanding job of just recognizing his ability at an early age," Rickard said. "Coming into this year, it became more and more evident that Andrew just started to perform and that he would probably work his way into our attention that we were considering. Andrew really earned that by just making people take notice and performing as well as he did.

"As far as a player and his tool set, we think Andrew is a very well-rounded player. Some of the things that we really like about him is that he is athletic, he can run, he can play center field. We see him eventually as a top of the order bat."

He becomes the Razorbacks’ fifth first-round pick since 2007 – a number second only in the SEC over that time to Vanderbilt’s seven - and is Arkansas' highest draft pick since Jeff King went No. 1 overall to Pittsburgh back in 1986.

Benintendi had his great year after starting off slow and admitted he was thinking a little about the draft.

"At the beginning of the year, it was on my mind a little bit and I got off to a kind of a slow start," Benintendi said. "I think I may have been thinking about it a little too much. Then I just settled down, starting just playing baseball and playing a lot better and our team got on a roll about a month ago and so did I personally and I was pretty satisfied with where I was.

"I knew I had a chance to go pretty high and I am extremely excited now. It is a great feeling."

Benintendi was asked about going from one homer as a freshman to almost 20 as a sophomore. "This offseason I put in a lot of work, working on my body, changing up my diet and I put on about 15 pounds this past summer," Benintendi said. "Playing fall ball, especially with the new baseball and the lower seam. With that and me putting on some muscle played a big factor." analyst Frankie Piliere noted Boston had been targeting Benintndi.

“The Red Sox didn't hide their affinity for Benintendi - they were all over this erupting draft eligible sophomore,” Piliere said. “What a metamorphosis he went through since last year. Power to all fields and a very compact stroke. analyst Aaron Fitt was on hand in Fayetteville over the weekend and had a chance to see Benintendi up close.

“Saw Benintendi show opposite-field power here in Fayetteville on Friday -- took Jon Harris deep to left field on a slider away,” Fitt said moments after the selection. “ Really like his lefthanded swing, mature approach and bat speed.

“Quick-twitch guy. But I have a hard time coming up with a good comp for him -- don't see a lot of outfielders his size becoming big league impact players. He may break the mold.”

"I think this last week or two, I haven't been playing as well, but I don't think it has been because of the pressure," Benintendi said. "I think it's just baseball and baseball's a tough game. Obviously you are going to fail some times, but I don't see putting pressure on myself on top of that. It may have impacted me a little bit, but I am excited that today has happened and I am going to be glad to start." "We started off really slow, were 12-13 at one point and 1-5 in the SEC," Benintendi said. "I think our second SEC series was against LSU and I think after that we begin to turn it around and started clicking as a team. Everybody kind of fell into their own role and knowing what they had to do to win games. And now we are headed to the World Series and it's been a very exciting year."

"It is going to be fun this next week."

Andrew Benintendi poses with his family after being drafted by Boston.

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