Spring training stats aren’t worth paying attention to, but spring training performance certainly is, on a day-to-day basis. Each day, we here at FanRag Sports will be singling out one player who had the best performance of the day, and what it might mean going forward.
While we try to give every team some love this spring, today we’ve been forced to feature the same team for a second consecutive day; on Thursday, Jackie Bradley, Jr. stole the show with a two-home run day. On Friday, it was his outfield teammate Andrew Benintendi who had people talking following a 4-for-4 day that included a home run and two doubles (though, admittedly, 16-for-16 would have been far more impressive).
After the game, Benintendi spoke to reporters about his bat beginning to come around this spring:
“Starting to click a little bit,” Benintendi said. “Last year I was hitting ninth and it was my job to see pitches and work the count and get on base before we flipped the lineup so, I still think I was aggressive at some points last year. Just trying to work on that right now.”
The Red Sox made a decision this past winter, if not directly than certainly indirectly, when they chose to trade top prospect Yoan Moncada to the White Sox, but to keep Benintendi in town. There’s no real way to know if Benintendi ever came up in talks — whether on that deal or any other — but the point remains that Boston chose to hold onto their now-top-prospect in Benintendi, and they did so for a reason.
In his first taste of MLB action, the 2015 seventh-overall pick did not disappoint. The University of Arkansas product made his MLB debut on Aug. 2, and played himself into more or less an everyday role through mid-month before an injury sidelined him. He returned in mid-September, started all three of Boston’s postseason games, and even hit his first postseason home run in the process.
For his first partial season, which included just 105 official at bats and thus saved his rookie status for 2017, Benintendi hit .295/.359/.476 with two home runs, 14 RBI and a stolen base. He played a slightly-below-average defense, but between getting used to Boston’s Green Monster and coming back from a leg injury, expecting improvement on both sides of the ball seems fair — especially for a player who won’t turn 23 until July.
Between Benintendi, Thursday’s Player of the Day Jackie Bradley, Jr., and MVP runner-up Mookie Betts, the Red Sox should have one of the most entertaining, talented outfields in baseball. Factor in their ages, and it could be an outfield that sticks around Fenway Park for years to come. If that’s the case, expect plenty of winning, a whole lot of dancing, and a good deal of repeating in Boston.
Betts is the bona fide superstar. Bradley, Jr. is the once-promising prospect who has finally turned into the player everyone expected. And for now, Benintendi is the top prospect who’s already showcasing what made him a top-10 pick and got him to the big leagues in just over a year. If he keeps it up, Spring Training Player of the Day is only the beginning.