As the offseason drags on and the chances of the Red Sox going into 2018 with a lineup that looks like a mirror image of 2017 is starting to become a reality. The recurring theme from the Red Sox brass is “bounce-back” seasons from veterans.
More importantly, the continued progression and development of out two standout rookies, Andrew Benintendi and Rafael Devers.
Projecting seasons from Mookie Betts, Jackie Bradley, and Xander Bogaerts may not be an exact science, but with multiple seasons at the MLB level, forecasting their production is a little easier than projecting the offensive output for two of the brightest young stars in the game. While these two will ultimately carve out their own place in the game, it is important to identify some current comparisons in the MLB.
Benintendi was the 7th overall pick in the 2015 draft as the Golden Spikes winner – given to the most outstanding player in college baseball. Out of the University of Arkansas, Benintendi has excelled at every stop along the way.[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8Zh91kzVF30]
He cruised through each level of the minor leagues and reached Boston in the summer of 2016 and played a key role as the Red Sox won the AL East that year.
Entering 2017 as Baseball America’s #1 overall prospect, his first full season in the bigs, saw him put up an impressive stat line headlined by his 20 HR and 90 RBI output. He plays an excellent left field and is capable of playing centerfield if needed.
Andrew Benintendi blasted two home runs and made a spectacular catch tonight pic.twitter.com/RlyQHh7Jro
— ʙᴏsᴛᴏɴ ʙʟᴀʙʙᴇʀ (@BostonBlabber) July 5, 2017
The athleticism, smooth stroke, and power potential have some scouts and evaluators wondering if the Red Sox have found the east coast version of Mike Trout. The comparison may be a tad lofty, as Trout is a generational talent. Rather than making an outlandish statement, comparing Benintendi’s floor to another young outfielder is accurate.
Christian Yelich is 26 years old, has already won a Gold Glove, Silver Slugger, and has started at a corner outfield spot and in center for at least one full season. Yelich has a career batting average of .290 and has averaged 20 HR and 90 RBI over his last few full seasons.
Benintendi has more power presently than Yelich has, and with adjustments and experience he could hit 30+ homers annually. The contact skills, launch angles and athleticism make the comparisons to Yelich formidable at this point of his career.
The offensive stats indicate that projecting him as a player of Yelich’s caliber is probably the floor for Benintendi. If Benny proves to be a middle ground between Mike Trout and Yelich – the Red Sox are a fortunate organization.
Finding a comparison for Devers is tricky. At the age of 20 and with hopefully nearly two decades of a career in the majors ahead of him, the consensus among scouts and evaluators is that Devers and his thick lower half are going to move across the diamond from third to first.
While there are flashes of defensive brilliance at third base, the inconsistency while making the routine play have already plagued him just 58 games into his career, but make no mistake – the kid can hit.
— MLB (@MLB) October 8, 2017
Having smashed 10 HR in his first 58 regular season games, he will continue to grow into a force in the middle of the lineup for years to come. A reasonable comparison in Devers’ youth is Hanley Ramirez.
When Red Sox fans think about the player that Hanley is right now, they absolutely expect Rafael Devers to be better. In fact, it could be argued that Devers is a better player than Hanley right now, but let’s now forget just how dominant of a player that Hanley Ramirez was offensively during the prime of his career.
In Hanley’s first six season that he played in over 140 games per season he averaged a slash line of .304 / 25 / 85 with an .881 OPS. He won a batting title and topped the 30 HR mark twice. He won a Rookie of the Year award, two Silver Sluggers and was a 3x All-Star before injury and age ultimately caught up with him.
While Devers likely won’t post the stolen base numbers that Ramirez put up in the early years, he’s not a base clogger (as evidenced by his inside-the-park HR in Game 4 of the ALDS). To project a full career for Devers that looks like the career of Hanley Ramirez in his prime would have the Sox in an enviable position and likely earn him a spot in Cooperstown when his playing days are over.
There are certainly issues that lie within the Red Sox organization, but fans can relax and enjoy the immense talent that both Andrew Benintendi and Rafael Devers display every game.