Just about everyone on the 2018 Boston Red Sox had a good season, and Andrew Benintendi was no exception. Playing in just his second full season in the big leagues, Benintendi had an All-Star caliber season and was one of the Red Sox biggest stars. The young lefty isn’t even arbitration eligible yet, and he will enter 2019 as one of the biggest bargains in all of baseball.
2018 Recap: Andrew Benintendi
Andrew Benintendi built on his promising 2016 and 2017 seasons to produce the best year of his young career. Hitting out of the second spot, Benintendi recorded a .290/.366/.465 slash line with an accompanying 122 wRC+. The left fielder struck out just 16.0% of the time and made soft contact just 13.7% of the time.
Perhaps most encouraging is that Benintendi improved against left-handed pitching. It was no secret entering the year that Benintendi struggled against lefties, but he showed signs of improvement in 2018. On the season, Benintendi hit .247/.301/.393 with an 84 wRC+ against lefties. While these numbers aren’t great by any means, they’re a significant improvement over the .232/.336/.286 slash line and 70 wRC+ he posted in 2017 against lefties.
Additionally, Benintendi improved his all-around game during 2018. Despite his speed, Benintendi was one of the most frustrating baserunners to watch during the 2017 season and in early parts of 2018. However, Benintendi was a significantly better baserunner in 2018. While he only stole one more base, his BsR jumped from 1.4 to 4.3. Advanced baserunning statistics are far from perfect, but the eye test backs up his improved work on the bases.
Lastly, Benintendi continued to be a reliable glove in the outfield. While his defense gets overshadowed by genuine defensive superstars in Jackie Bradley Jr. and Mookie Betts, Benintendi is still one of the better defensive outfielders in the game. In 1,077.1 innings in left field, Benintendi finished the 2018 season with a 5.8 UZR/150. Additionally, he also made the catch of the year in Game Four of the ALCS.
While Benintendi had a fantastic season overall, he was not without his shortcomings. Benintendi’s power completely disappeared in the second half of the season and he never really got it back. While he was still effective with the bat, Benintendi had to become a contact hitter without much of a power threat.
Benintendi finished his season with an underwhelming 16 home runs, but almost all of that production came in the first half of the season. Benintendi hit just two homers after the All-Star break, leading to a slugging percentage of just .384 in the second half.
It’s all but certain that Benintendi will rediscover his power to start the 2019 season. However, his ultimate ceiling depends upon his ability to maintain that power over the course of a full season. Benintendi is already a great baseball player, but he has a chance to be one of the league’s elite if he can add more power to his game.
Benintendi just finished his age-24 season, so there’s every reason to believe the young lefty will continue to develop and grow as a player. He’s improved his hitting, fielding, and baserunning every year he’s been in the league, and that trend should continue in 2019. The sky truly is the limit for Benintendi, and there’s no telling how good he could be if he continues on his current trajectory.
The biggest thing Benintendi needs to work on next year is finding how power, and keeping it. Benintendi has a fantastic hit tool but should also have the ability to hit for power. In the first half of 2018, the lefty hit 14 home runs. If he can keep that form around for an entire season, Benintendi has the chance to be a borderline MVP candidate. While he may never be as good as Mookie Betts, he still could be one of the best players in baseball.