Name: Andrew Benintendi
Height/Weight: 5’10’’, 180
One of the hottest names of late in college baseball and the draft world has been Andrew Benintendi of the University of Arkansas. I have written about and talked about him multiple times of late. If you follow me at all then you know why he is popping and that is due to his power surge this year.
As of the writing of this article, Benintendi still leads the NCAA in homeruns. He is tied for first with Logan Gray, a freshman shortstop from Austin Peay who was a 25th rounder for the Kansas City Royals a year ago.
Benintendi is a true sophomore for the Razorbacks. He originally hails for Madiera which is near Cincinnati, Ohio. I wrote about him as a senior in high school, mostly noting his athleticism. He clearly had plus speed. He was also a top athlete. Benintendi was not only the Ohio baseball player of the year, but player of the year for Division III basketball in Ohio as well. He is in the top-five all-time for high school players in the state of Ohio in multiple categories. For a kid who wasn’t a huge name recruit coming out of high school, he had a lot of things going for him.
Benintendi had a rather unimpressive freshman year. He did nothing that would jump out at you and say this kid is a potential first-rounder. His slash line was .276/.368/.333. He hit one homerun. That’s right, just one. This year in 20 fewer games, he has 14. His doubles weren’t high last season either. Nothing hinted at this power growth. The best thing you could say about his freshman season was that he walked more than he struck out and he stole a few bases.
This year, he is a completely different player. How often do you hear people bemoan how certain players can’t make adjustments? Well, there should be no such complaint about Benintendi. His slash line this year is .370/.475/.733. His slugging percentage this year is 32 points higher than his OPS was last year. Despite the power jump, he is still walking more than he strikes out. Being on base has also allowed him to steal more bases, as he has stolen 19 bases in 22 attempts.
It’s not like Benintendi is a small school guy, either. Arkansas might not be ranked but they play in the SEC, one of the best – if not the best – conference for college baseball in the country.
Benintendi will turn 21 in July before the signing deadline, which is why he will be draft-eligible. I would not call him a true pop-up player as he was known before the year began. Yet he wasn’t really on the draft radar. The typical pop-up guy comes out of nowhere.
The positives with him are clear. He is a plus athlete with plus 60-grade speed. He should have no problems sticking in centerfield. His hit tool is above-average. I am tempted to put a future 55+ on it thinking it could be a plus skill down the road. His eye at the plate appears to be plus. He is so quick with the bat that he has really improved at pitch recognition waiting for the right pitch and turning on it quickly.
Benintendi is not a big kid at all at 5’10”. So much of his power comes from his bat speed and what appears to be very quick wrists. He gets around on pitches so quickly that the ball flies off his bat. His power is at least an average tool and could surprise some people. It’s not like a player can accidentally lead the nation in homeruns. He can’t just get lucky with that many homeruns. The package is a mix of average to plus skills, which could improve. I feel like the numbers alone dictate that he should be a first-rounder. Then you add in the fact he is a plus athlete and I wonder why he isn’t more highly regarded.
The negatives on him are basically the small track record of success and size. He is undersized, which is why I think some people feel like the power isn’t legit. Benintendi has never been a big name. He was known but not a guy talked about a lot out of high school. The lack of reputation and his size have both led to more doubt about the legitimacy of his tools.
The comparison for Benintendi was a bit harder to find. It was hard to find a player who fit what I think he could do in the majors. I was looking more for a statistical comparison and a player who was similar to him physically. I finally found one with Kole Calhoun of the Los Angeles Angels. Both players are left handed, 5’10”, and attended A-named universities.
Calhoun was an 8th rounder who was never considered a top-five prospect in what was the worst farm system in baseball during much of his time in the minors. He put up really good numbers at every stop, yet no one really gave him much of a chance. This should also sound a bit familiar. Last year, Calhoun’s slash line in the big leagues was .272/.325/.450. I could see something similar to that or better for Benintendi if he hits his ceiling, while also bringing speed and solid defense in centerfield.
Bottom line with Benintendi is I wonder how much preconceived notions are affecting his value. He is a smaller, but athletic type to most who had a power explosion which many are overlooking. The explosion got him noticed but for some reason in this weaker draft, it has not locked him into anyone’s top-30. Well, anyone other than me, it seems.