Designated Hitter: Benintendi's approach stays consistent, from minors through majors

Posted
Things to ponder on a Sunday morning, while waiting for the coffee to brew and the bagel to be toasted.

While at the office Friday night, we had the Red Sox-Yankees game on TV. I saw Andrew Benintendi rob Didi Gregorious of extra bases in the fourth inning.

Benintendi has been nothing short of spectacular in his first full rookie season.

While his average has dipped a bit from the first couple of months, .279 is nothing to sneeze at. Going into Friday night's game, he had hit 17 home runs, which is three shy of what he hit in two full seasons of minor league baseball.

He is one of those players who lets what he does on the field speak for him.

In the Fenway locker room, he is polite and will answer questions. He is not particularly loquacious.

I remember meeting Benintendi just two weeks into his professional career, and he really hasn't changed all that much.

"I've been through it before. It's baseball," he told me when he was in the middle of an 0-for-14 slump.

"You have to take each day as it is. You might have a good day one day, and a bad day the next," he said, as we spoke in the visitors clubhouse at Joe Bruno Stadium in Troy, N.Y.

Benintendi was playing for the New York-Penn League's Lowell Spinners against the Tri-City ValleyCats.

Benintendi started off going 5 for his first 13 before hitting the slump.

"I think [the key] is just laying off some pitches, taking my walks and not striking out as much," he told me when we discussed the slump.

Sounds like what he did back then, he's doing now. That's why Andrew Benintendi has been so successful, so early.

———

In the great Northeast, the baseball debate has been raging: Will Benintendi, Mookie Betts or the Yankees' Aaron Judge be the face of baseball's future.

Judge was a first-round pick of the Yankees in 2013, but was the 31st player chosen.

"That's pretty good," Red Sox scout Ray Fagnant said. "That's pretty darn good."

The question I broached to Fagnant when I saw him earlier in the month was how did 30 teams miss on a guy with 37 home runs.

Sure, the Chicago Cubs drafted Kris Bryant with the second pick that year, and he has become a star in the Windy City. But if I asked you who the top pick was that year, you would have to Google it.

For the record, it was Mark Appel, who was taken by the Houston Astros. He had since been traded to the Philadelphia organization, and might only get into Citizens Bank Park with a ticket.

The same could be said for Detroit's top pick, the 20th overall, Jonathan Crawford. The right-handed pitcher has only made it as high as Class A. And then there's Billy McKinney, Oakland's No. 1 pick and 24th overall. He has played for 10 different minor league teams and is currently in the Yankees organization, playing at Triple A Scranton-Wilkes Barre.

Just don't tell Ray Fagnant that the Yankees were lucky Judge fell to them.

"The Yankees did a good job. They drafted him pretty high. He wasn't a 40th rounder. He's a high, high draft pick," Fagnant said. "Everybody saw him on the Cape. We had him at Fenway for a workout.

"Look at his stats last year. Yankee fans were mocking him last year because he was striking out so much."

In his late-season appearance in New York, Judge struck out 42 times in 84 at-bats.

"It takes some guys a little bit longer to develop," Fagnant said. "That being said, he's a first-round pick. He went where he should.

"If everybody had a crystal ball and said he was the best player in the majors last year, so unless he went one and one, everybody else did a bad job. They didn't. He's a first-round pick."

Reach sports columnist Howard Herman at 413-496-6253 or @howardherman.


TALK TO US

If you'd like to leave a comment (or a tip or a question) about this story with the editors, please email us. We also welcome letters to the editor for publication; you can do that by filling out our letters form and submitting it to the newsroom.



Powered by Creative Circle Media Solutions