6. Will Benson – Outfielder
Born: 06/16/1998 – Height: 6’5” – Weight: 225 – Bats: Left – Throws: Left
Facts & Info: Benson was selected by the Indians in the 1st round of the 2016 Draft out of Westminster Schools (GA). He had a commitment to attend and play baseball for Duke University but the Indians signed him to a $2.5 million signing bonus. In 35 games during his senior season he hit .454 (44-for-97) with 11 doubles, 8 home runs, 41 RBI and a 1.380 OPS, and drew 29 walks against just 11 strikeouts with 11 stolen bases. He was named to the 2016 Rawlings Perfect Game All-American First Team and his selection to the USA 18U National Team included a trip to the WBSC 18U Baseball World Cup in Nishinomiya, Japan.
Offense: Benson is an interesting specimen who excites from a body perspective because of his physicality and how he has some quick twitch actions with a long, strong frame that oozes athleticism with the potential for a lot of strength gains down the road. With his impressive bat speed and good strength he has a lot of good raw power to his swing and there is the potential for plus power as he matures – maybe even plus-plus power - once he learns to tap into it more consistently. He shows a good ability to hit with power to all fields and can really hit balls a long way when he squares them up with the good carry he gets thanks to his raw strength and the backspin he is able to put on the ball. The bat is a projection and will take some time to develop, but the Indians feel that he as he improves the mechanics of his swing and develops his approach that he will be a more consistent hitter and his discipline will improve. The Indians are confident that as he incorporates a better load, uses his lower half better, gets more extension on his swing and develops his discipline that the bat will be special.
Defense: Benson played center field and first base in high school, but he projects as a prototype right field prospect because of his good arm and athleticism and has a chance to be above average there defensively. His speed plays well in the outfield, though because of his lack of first step quickness and above average range, he is limited some in center - though it would not surprise to see the Indians develop him some as a center fielder early in his career. He shows solid defensive skills in the outfield, moves around well and displays some solid average arm strength which shows plus at times.
Speed & Intangibles: Benson is an above average runner overall, though takes a little time to get going so he is not a big stolen base threat but can really motor around the bases once he gets going. He is just an unbelievable athlete who excelled as a two-sport athlete in high school both as a basketball and baseball player. He is a very intelligent person who has the ability to learn quickly and understands what he needs to do to get better, and it is that high aptitude that the Indians are confident will help him develop and define his game as a professional. The Indians have been blown away by his work ethic, personality and makeup since they first got to know him early in the draft process. Their scouts C.T. Bradford and Brad Tyler along with senior advisor Bo Hughes went and met with him back in October 2015 and spent two hours with him at his house and walked away amazed, and continued to be impressed with him in every contact they had with him leading up to the draft.
Focus: There are several issues with Benson’s swing, discipline and bat path that the Indians will need to work with in the early going of his career, and there are concerns if he will ever be able to get to his power at the professional level. He’s so raw with his swing and approach that it will take a lot of time to develop, and right out of the gate they got to work on that and believe he has already started to build the foundation with the bat and understand that it potentially will be a longer developmental process for him because he is so young. There is a lot to mold with him and there is a lot of swing and miss right now because of how raw he is with his approach, but with the type of person he is the belief is he will be able to handle a lot of the failure in the beginning and know he is going to get better later. It comes down to him just getting consistency with the approach with his load, his leg kick, syncing up all of his different moving parts in his swing and developing a better feel for hitting. While he has some good hands, bat speed, strength and athleticism to his swing, he has some adjustments he needs to make to his swing to get him to use his lower half better. When he stays short with his swing he does well, but where he gets into trouble is when he tries to do too much as the swing gets long and he chases a lot – which is a byproduct of youth and inexperience. He has a tendency to commit early with his swing which makes his bat path a little loopy, so the Indians are working to get him more on time and to get more extension through contact so he has better plate coverage.
Future: The Indians of late have a formula they stick to early in the draft where they like to take athletes who play up the middle, and Benson was about as good an athlete as you were going to find coming out of last year’s draft. The most common comparison thrown around as far as Major League potential goes is Jason Heyward, which is an impressive comp and one that should make a lot of Indians fans salivate about his potential patrolling the Indians outfield a few years down the road. He is someone who very well could be the right fielder of the future for the Indians if he develops and performs all the way through the minors and reaches the big leagues. But while the ceiling is very high, the floor is also very low right now as he is extremely raw and there is a ton of risk that he may never find a consistent approach and hit tool to get out of the minors. The Indians are going to be very conservative with his development path early in his career and take a step-by-step approach with him to allow his progression to happen naturally. The focus is on building his foundation right now where he develops the routines he needs to handle the daily grind of the game and molds his impressive set of skills to showcase his true abilities on a more consistent basis. The Indians will have him open the season in extended spring training this year, get him playing, allow him to dictate the pace and then go from there. He should go to Short-A Mahoning Valley when they start play in June and could see some time at Low-A Lake County at the end of the year if he really makes some strides and has a good showing at Mahoning Valley.
Ranking History: Unranked