The follow excerpt is from an interview between sports talk show host Bo Mattingly and Dan Shaughnessy, a longtime Boston Globe sports columnist. They discussed the rapid rise of outfielder Andrew Benintendi, the former Razorback who has gotten off to a successful 2017 season start with the Boston Red Sox.
Dan Shaughnessy: He wasn’t in the major league clubhouse last spring. You know, the star of the year at single A and then just about to take these three games at double A and then he’s in the big leagues and he’s not a very big guy… I was dazzled that he was so major league ready — a 21, 22 year old kid walking in to that situation and he made everything look fairly easy, he’s a fluid player.
I don’t have to tell you guys, but to see him perform at this level with the same ease and ability that he’s had at all the other levels I thought was quite and achievement. He was a guy we watched really closely at spring training and the job was his. He was the left fielder, and then he went out and double earned it on top of that, and then of course, [had] a big opening day.
I just want to see more. I’m so impressed and I’m kind of a tough mark on this stuff. I didn’t think it would be so seamless, this transition, with so little professional baseball under his belt and very little above single A… It’s like the higher you put him, the level, he raises his game. So I just want to see more. He’s beautiful to watch.
If you get a chance, there’s a picture by Stan Grossfeld. He’s a two time pulitzer prize winner, and he’s been attending at the end of his game yesterday and that home run. He looks like the top of every baseball trophy you’ve ever seen; he’s got both hands on the bat, perfect follow through, head tracking the ball and the way his feet are angled and twisted, it’s just a beautiful shot and again that would be his baseball card if you had to do one right now.
…We’ve had guys come through but generally … with Nomar [Garciaparra] there was a larger sample and Nomar was hitting .370 in the big leagues, right-handed his third year in at a really young age. Brady Anderson was sort of a phenom when he came up and it didn’t really happen for him here. He struggled like most young players.
And Andrew—they all struggle, he will at some point. The comparisons can be unfortunate when we [media] do this, but the Fred Lynn thing is unfair to him because Fred Lynn hit .331 and was MVP in his rookie year, and that’s too much to ask anybody to do. He was playing center field, which is of course Andrew’s natural position. And he’s a little bit bigger. But he had the pedigree of being [from] USC and triple A. I don’t know whether he was MVP but he spend quite a bit of time down in the bushes while they were waiting his turn up here. So this is just a more expedited path and you don’t want to put too much on them.
[Andrew Benintendi] did get bigger in the off season by design. He claims that does not sacrifice any of his speed but he’s a good 15 pounds more muscular than he was. He doesn’t need to be that physical; as a corner outfielder you want more than 12, 15 home runs. He looks capable of being that, but when we first saw him last year that was my first thing. It’s like, you just don’t see corner outfielders that are that short, that slight.
Bo Mattingly: When you talk the scouts and front office types, what is it about Andrew Benintendi that they think gives him a chance to be not just a flash, but a long term all-star kind of player in major league baseball?
Dan Shaughnessy: …That’s one of the reasons I’m so in on this guy. Not this many people can be wrong, and the folks you’re talking about—they don’t make their judgements based on one game, they see a larger sample that’s telling us he will get the power of the big leagues and he can be a five-tool guy. They’re all in, too, pretty much.
You get [picked] seventh in the country, you’ve got something there. I’m heartened to see that people who are not mutants can still play this game and get it done. When you stand next to Reggie Jackson now, I mean, you’re like “God, he was was never that big.” He was really stacked and muscular, but Reggie’s not that tall, he’s shrank a little bit in his old age but he’s not big, not much bigger than this kid. You didn’t used to have to be enormous, and most of them are now. Especially the pitchers. They draft 6’5, you know. That’s what they look for and I understand that. That’s why there’s so many guys throwing 96 coming out of the bullpen.
So, it’s nice to see the game, you know, an outfielder come to the big leagues and Mookie Betts is another example of course because he’s not a superhuman physical specimen. …With Benintendi they talk about the usual hand eye coordination, his ability to recognize pitches, to wait to adjust, doesn’t seem to get fooled that much with the big-league pitching…
He hit the exact same in the big leagues that he hit in the minors last year. He had more power this spring. I talked to him about it and he says that was due to the strength and the weight, that the ball’s going further to left center for him. Edge velocity is better. It’s just a lot to look forward to. I think the fans here are really going to be jumping on this and anxious to see more.
Make sure to listen to the entire interview at sportstalkwbo.com.
The above excerpts have been lightly edited and condensed for clarity. In every case, the speaker’s original meaning has been maintained.