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Oakland A's 2017 top-50 prospect scouting report: Joe Bennie, UT

Our Oakland A's 2017 top-50 prospects list is out. Now find out more about the players on that list. In this piece, a close look at top-50 prospect Joe Bennie. Bennie has one of the top hard-hit rates in the A's system? Can he make the leap to Triple-A in 2017?

Name: Joe Bennie
Position: UT
Height/Weight: 6’0’’, 200
Bats/Throws: R/R
Age: 25
How Acquired: Drafted in the 28th round of the 2013 MLB Draft

Joe Bennie has always been able to hit. Good health has finally allowed him to show that ability at full-season levels. What is the next step for the hard-hitting utilityman? Bennie came to the A’s as a senior sign in 2013 in the 28th-round out of East Stroudsburg. He spent his first three college seasons at La Salle in the Atlantic-10 conference, but thrived after a transfer to the Division II school. He posted a 910 OPS and matched a career-high with five homeruns during his senior season at East Stroudsburg.

Bennie began his pro career in Arizona with the AZL A’s. A hamstring injury limited Bennie early in the AZL season and he got off to a slow start. Once healthy and playing regularly, Bennie hit his stride and batted .306 with a .479 OBP over the final three weeks of the season. Despite the strong finish, however, Bennie began the 2014 season at extended spring training and spent his second pro campaign with short-season Vermont. Bennie was one of the Lake Monsters’ top hitters for most of the 2014 season, but a hand injury cut his season short. He finished that year with a .288/.369/.378 line. 

The 2015 season finally presented Bennie with an opportunity to show what he could do at a full-season level. He spent the entire year with the Beloit Snappers. For much of the year, Bennie posted solid – but not spectacular – numbers. However, that July he worked with then Snappers hitting coach Lloyd Turner to refine his approach at the plate. That adjustment spurred a red-hot final six weeks of the season when he was the top hitter in the Midwest League. He finished the 2015 campaign with a .330 average and eight homers over those final six weeks. For the year, he hit .272/.363/.430 with 11 homeruns. Bennie also managed to stay healthy the entire season, playing in a career-high 131 games.

After the season, Bennie was invited to the A’s fall Instructional League. Bennie was one of the older and more experienced players in the camp, but he used his time at Instructs to continue the progress he had made during the final stretch of the regular season. He entered spring training in 2016 on a positive roll and continued that momentum into the regular season with the Stockton Ports.

Bennie spent the bulk of the 2016 season with Stockton, where he was one of the Ports most consistent hitters. In 111 games, he hit .302/.376/.449 with 11 homeruns. He also doubled 31 times. On August 9, he earned a promotion to Double-A Midland and was part of the RockHounds’ squad that earned a third-straight Texas League title. Bennie’s numbers dipped with the RockHounds in a limited sample size, although a low BABIP dragged down his overall numbers.

Joe Bennie Stats

2016 Stockton 111 .302 826 42 48 116
2016 Midland 21 .176 531 2 9 18
Career 328 .278 780 109 158 344

Bennie finished the season eighth in the Cal League in batting, 12th in OPS, sixth in doubles and 10th in OBP. He had one of the highest “hard-hit” rates among A’s minor leaguers in 2016 and posted a 25% line-drive rate. Bennie’s overall season numbers were dragged down by a .176/.274/.257 line in 21 games with Midland, but he actually improved his K:BB rate during his time with the RockHounds and suffered from a dreadfully low .212 BABIP. His line-drive rate did slip from 25.55% with Stockton to 17.5% with Midland, but his groundball rate was higher with the Ports than it was with the RockHounds. Bennie also made contact 4% more frequently in the Texas League than he did in the Cal League. Where Bennie suffered was seeing a number of his flyballs hang up in the Texas League winds and land in opposing player’s gloves.

There is little doubt that Bennie can hit. He has a smooth swing and is quick to the ball, allowing him to spray line-drives all over the field. Bennie has gap power that is starting to develop into homerun power. It wouldn’t be surprising to see his homer totals rise over the next couple of years. He has punished left-handed pitching, in particular, throughout his career. Bennie is selectively aggressive at the plate. He is willing to take strikes to get a pitch he can handle, although he can, at times, get himself into bad counts with that approach. His strike-out totals went down considerably as the season went on, however. If that trend continues, he should be able to hit for average and maintain a solid OBP in the upper-levels.

Joe Bennie Scouting Video

An infielder in college, Bennie has split his time between the infield and the outfield as a pro. His bat is his carrying tool, but the A’s are still trying to find him a position where he can play everyday. He is versatile enough to play second, third, right and left, but he hasn’t excelled yet at any of those positions. Bennie has slightly above-average foot speed and a strong throwing arm, so the outfield may end up being a good home for Bennie down-the-road. The A’s could also get him some innings at first base to increase his versatility further.

“We are trying to find the right position for him. We have tried him at third and at second base, as well as the outfield. He’s become the ultimate versatility guy. He can play nearly anywhere, but we are just trying to find the position that will carry him,” Oakland A’s Director of Player Development Keith Lieppman said during the season. “Ultimately, the thing that will carry him is his bat. His hard contact rates are among the top two or three in the organization. He keeps consistently being on top of the ball. He does have some swing-and-miss in there, so there is that involved, but once he learns to cut that down better and have a better plan and approach, he’ll be in good shape. The hard hitting contact is there. He’s gap-to-gap and he can swing it.”

Bennie is on the older side for a prospect, but his skill-set is one that should age well. At his peak, he profiles to be a Steve Pearce-type player – a right-handed line-drive hitter who can play multiple positions and bring the ability to punish left-handed pitching off of a major-league bench. Bennie should receive another opportunity in Double-A at the start of 2017 and could make the jump to Triple-A later in the year with a strong first half.

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