Drawing comparisons to Red Sox greats past and present, Andrew Benintendi enters the 2017 season as baseball’s top prospect and a hobby treasure. The 22-year-old outfielder arrived in the majors just a year after being taken with the No. 7 overall pick in the 2015 MLB Draft. He instantly impressed with spectacular all-around play and remarkable poise during the Red
Sox run to the AL East Division Title.
After dominating every level of the minor leagues and forcing his way onto the Red Sox everyday lineup, Benintendi became an instant hit with baseball card collectors. His first big-time baseball card, the 2015 Bowman Chrome card issued just months after the draft, sells for $6. Rare purple refractor versions, limited to a production run of 250, sell for $80 and are on the rise.
Benintendi’s timely hitting and outstanding defense quickly caught the attention of collectors throughout the country. Certified autographed versions of the Bowman Chrome purple refractor card gained momentum over the winter and are currently selling for $405. Because the full-bled, high, gloss photos are susceptible to dings and damaged corners, PSA-10 versions (the highest possible grade) are extremely rare and have sold for $1,400. The paper, smudge-free, non-chrome versions — ideal for in-person autographs — are readily available for $3.
Benintendi looked like a major leaguer from day one, batting .295 with a .835 OPS in limited play cut short by a knee injury. With his rookie status still intact after a 34-game introduction to the majors last season, Benintendi looks to become the first Red Sox Rookie of the Year since Dustin Pedroia in 2007. Benintendi’s true rookie card is from 2017 Topps Series 1,which is selling for $3. Because the 2015 Bowman Chrome card is part of a Prospects subset, it is not considered a rookie card.
Small in stature like Pedroia and Mookie Betts, Benintendi fits perfectly on the Red Sox undersized, overpowering lineup. The Red Sox are hopeful Benintendi takes a similar career path as Betts by adding strength and home runs to his repertoire in year two. Collectors crave game-used memorabilia cards of baseball’s top sluggers. Playing in Boston heightens Benintendi’s popularity. His 2016 Elite Extra Gold Triple Jersey card is available for $15 for the time being.
Benintendi reminds veteran Red Sox fans of Fred Lynn circa 1975. He has the same smooth, graceful lefthanded swing as Lynn, the first player to take AL Rookie of the Year and MVP honors in the same season. Like Lynn, Benintendi has the ability to wrap the ball around Pesky’s Pole and drive the ball off and over the leftfield wall. The Red Sox would be thrilled if Benintendi approaches Lynn’s rookie season production when the 23-year-old centerfielder hit .331 with 21 homers, 105 RBI and slugged .566. Lynn’s rookie card is a highlight of the 1975 Topps set. The not-so-pleasant on the eyes orange and yellow framed card is a nice addition to a
ny Red Sox collection for under $10.
Benintendi put himself on the baseball map by hitting .564 with 12 homers and 57 RBI in his senior year at Madeira High School (Ohio). After being named the ABCA/Rawlings National High School Player of the Year, Benintendi was drafted by the Cincinnati Reds in the 31st round of the 2013 MLB Draft, but opted to refine his baseball skills at the University of Arkansas. As sophomore with the Razorbacks, Benintendi led the Southeast Conference in batting (.380), home runs (19), and slugging (.715) en route to being named the Baseball America College Player of the Year and receivin
g the Golden Spikes Award as college baseball’s most valuable player.
Highlights from Benintendi’s college career are captured in the 2015 Panini Contenders set. Action shots of Benintendi in his Razorbacks uniform are available for under $4 with game-used jersey cards selling for $15 and are on the rise. Certified autographed Panini Contenders cards of Benintendi in his college uniform is selling for $60, while limited versions serial numbered to 23 sell for $190 on eBay.
Christmas comes early for Red Sox fans as the Old Towne Team acquires the best available pitcher for four prospects. Never one to shy away from a blockbuster deal, Red Sox baseball cazr Dave Dombrowski has put the Red Sox in prime position to be baseball’s best for the next several years.
WHAT DOES THE SALE TRADE MEAN TO THE RED SOX?
Chris Sale joins a rotation with Cy Young winners Rick Porcello (2016) and David Price (2012) not to mention 2016 All-Stars Steve Wright and Drew Pomeranz. Clay Buchholz and Eduardo Rodriguez provide depth and possible trade chips for roster flexibility and future improvements.
If all goes according to plan, the triple-headed monster atop the rotation will account for 50 or so wins and more the 600 mostly-quality innings. Improving the pitching rotation was not a top priority for the 2017 Red Sox, but Sale is a big-time difference maker. With a vastly improved rotation combined with a rebuilt bullpen and a dynamic offense, the Red Sox are clearly the team to beat in the American League.
HOW GOOD IS CHRIS SALE?
Sale had yet to win a Cy Young Award, but his resume is quite impressive:
- Finished in the top six of the AL Cy Young voting each of the past five years with a high of third place in 2014 when he compiled a 2.17 ERA.
- Had a league-leading 274 strikeouts in 208.2 innings in 2015.
- In the past five years, just one major league pitcher has a lower ERA than Sale’s 3.04 and more strikeouts than his 1,133. His name is Clayton Kershaw.
- Has struck out 27.9% of the batters he’s faced in his major league career, which is best among pitchers with at least 1,000 innings pitched.
- Has produced more value by Wins Above Replacement than any other players from the 2010 draft class, ahead of Bryce Harper and Manny Machado. Read that last bullet point again … slowly … Yes, it’s true, Chris Sale has been that productive.
- Has finished in the top 10 among AL pitchers in WAR four times, strikeouts five times, and ERA five times in just five seasons as a starter. That is a gigantic WOW!
- Ranks first among all active AL pitchers in career WHIP (1.01). Partner in crime and fellow southpaw David Price ranks second (1.14).
- Is 4-1 with an anemic 1.17 ERA in 10 career games against the Yankees.
Always a good sign when your newly-acquired, yet-to-reach-his-prime, 27-year-old-pitcher has a more accomplished career than his two Cy Young Award winning teammates.
AT WHAT COST DID THE RED SOX ACQUIRE CHRIS SALE?
A pitcher of Sale’s caliber does not come cheap. With an aim towards the World Series, the Red Sox paid a steep price to acquire one of the game’s best pitchers.
The deal would not have happened without 21-year-old Cuban import Yoan Moncada changing his red sox for white. The No. 1 prospect in Baseball America’s “Midseason Top 100”, Moncada has compiled a .875 OPS with 94 stolen bases in 187 minor league games. The switch-hitting, fielding-challenged Moncada was also named Baseball America’s 2016 Minor League Player of the Year. He’s projected to be the White Sox second baseman of the future.
Comparisons to Harper, Machado, and Mike Trout are a bit premature as Moncada strikes out at an alarming rate and is suspect defensively, but his raw potential is staggering. He has big-time speed and major power potential built into a 6’2”, 205-pound frame. With second base his likely landing place, Moncada reminds many baseball people of Robinson Cano.
The White Sox also receive flamethrowing prospect Michael Kopech, a potential ace with with a checkered past. One of the game’s top pitching prospects, Kopech’s fastball consistently clocks at 101 mph and has reportedly topped out at 105 mph. He also throws a plus curveball and is developing a change up. Missed time due to a PED suspension and broken hand resulting from an altercation with a teammate have slowed his growth and caused reason for concern. But Kopech has a big-time arm and the White Sox believe he is worth the gamble.
Luis Alexander Basabe, a speedy centerfielder with many tools, and Victor Diaz, a strong-armed reliever with command issues complete the deal. Both have significant upside, but are several years away from cracking the majors.
Yes, the bounty was high, but opportunities to acquire the Chris Sales of the world are few and far between.
IS THERE ANY RISK INVOLVED FOR THE RED SOX?
There is always some risk involved with blockbuster deals. Sale’s low-slot, high-elbow pitching motion accounts for deceptive movement to his pitches, but also puts him at risk for declining velocity or potential injury. Some scouts believe Sale’s pitching motion will cause accelerated wear and tear to his elbow. The Red Sox are using the past to project the future. In his five year career, Sale has never made fewer than 26 starts and has qualified for an ERA title every year. With the Red Sox pitching depth, an occasional skipped start to rest the arm should not be an issue.
The Red Sox are taking minimal risk financially as they control Sale for three years for $38 million — an absolute steal for an ace in today’s pitching market. He will count just $6 million against the luxury tax next season. The likely shedding of Buchholz’s $13.5 million contract before the start of the season will keep the Red Sox under the $195 million luxury tax threshold.
DID THE RED SOX MAKE A WISE DECISION IN TRADING FOR SALE?
Absolutely, positively yes. Red Sox ownership brought Dombrowski to Boston to win a World Series, not to have the most players in Baseball America’s Top 100 Prospects list. Sale in the starting rotation brings the Red Sox closer to the ultimate goal than Moncada, Kopech, et al developing in the minors. The future is now.
Merry Christmas, Red Sox fans!