While inquiring teams were looking for the former top prospect in a Red Sox deadline blockbuster, it was a wise move to hold on tight.
The Red Sox desperately needed bullpen help at the deadline, and acquiring a top level closer such as Edwin Diaz was a possible option. In return, the Mets wanted the Sox to give up Andrew Benintendi. Obviously, the price was a bit too steep and Dave Dombrowski decided that trading the third year outfielder was too high a price to pay for Diaz. A relatively wise decision.
Benintendi has followed up his solid season last year with a strong second half. After falling into a slump, Benny made some adjustments to his swing, including shortening his stride. After his adjustment, he surged, and he has been both hitting for power and getting on base recently. His slash line currently sits as .286/.361/.469 (as of 8/20) with 12 home runs and 37 doubles.
Though his numbers look very similar to his last year’s totals, Benintendi has been a different hitter this year. He has struck out 119 times, already more than his total of 106 the season prior. His BABIP is .362, which could indicate that he is simply having good batted ball luck, since his BABIP is far higher than the league average (.300) and his last year’s rate, .328. However, a look at his spray chart shows that he is quite adept at hitting the ball to the opposite field, so that teams cannot use a shift on him like they can on many hitters. When a defense shifts on a batter, it is much harder to get a hit on a ball in play, so a player like Benintendi would logically have a higher BABIP than an average hitter. Furthermore, Benintendi’s barrel% is 8.5%, which is far higher than the league average of 6.3%. The harder a ball is hit, the more difficult it is for a fielder to get to it. However, possibly the greatest factor in causing Benintendi’s high BABIP is his greatly improved launch angle. It has risen from 12.6 degrees in 2018 to 18.1 degrees this year.
Balls that are hit softly with an 18 degree launch angle can often fall for bloop singles, and when they are hit hard, they often fly over the outfielders’ heads for extra bases. As a result, Benintendi is currently tied at fourth in the MLB with 37 doubles. Simply put, Benintendi is hitting less grounders — which are likely to result in outs — and more line drives or long fly balls. A BABIP of .362 is still quite high, and some luck does factor into his success this season. Even so, his solid performance over the last two seasons is sustainable.
Andrew Benintendi was touted as an able fielder and possibly even a future Gold Glove winner as a prospect. He has not lived up to such expectations in the MLB. According to Statcast, his Outfielder Jump places in just the 25th percentile, while his sprint speed is just above average, in the 53rd percentile. Furthermore, Baseball Reference calculates his dWAR at -0.2, or slightly worse than the defense of a replacement level player.
Though Andrew Benintendi is by no means a perfect player, he is only 25 years old and still improving. He has shown the ability to hit consistently well, and trading him for an inconsistent (though promising) closer would have been a huge mistake for Dave Dombrowski. Due to the good judgement of the front office, we fans will have the opportunity to watch Benintendi produce at the top of the order for many more seasons.