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.
Around the horn with the Red Sox lineup …
Ortiz is the only major leaguer to slug 30 homers and 100 RBI in each of the last three seasons. The Red Sox need the same production from their 40-year-old DH during the Big Papi Farewell Tour. The spotlight usually brings the best out of Ortiz, which is good news for the Red Sox. Ortiz rookie and memorabilia cards will be hot commodities by season’s end.
By all accounts, Ramirez’s transition to first base has been far from flawless, but much better than expected. I still have reservations. Ramirez has frustrated coaching staffs with overall indifference throughout his career. Entering his 13th big league season, should we expect a change in attitude? Ramirez has displayed the ability to field ground balls and handle cut-offs. He struggles with scooping balls thrown in the dirt. I’m having trouble picturing the less-than-nibble Ramirez starting and finishing a 3-6-3 double play. Much of the Red Sox success — or lack of success — will depend on Ramirez’s ability to be an offensive force while learning a new position — a position where there is little room for error.
When Pedroia is healthy, he’s one of the game’s best all-around second baseman and a lynchpin at the top of the Red Sox batting order. He’s at the point of his career where he may have to sit once a week or so. Keeping Pedroia strong and playing at a high level is one of the main goals of the coaching staff this season.
He’s becoming one of the game’s top shortstops right before our very eyes. Hard work has brought out his natural offensive and defensive abilities. Look for a little less batting average and a little more power and production in 2016. Buy his baseball cards early and often while they are still affordable.
A former first baseman, Shaw has quickly become the best third baseman on the team — not by default, but from tremendous overall play at the end of last season and to this point in spring training. A left-handed hitter with the ability to drive the ball to all fields, the Red Sox are intrigued by Shaw’s Fenway power potential. At this point, Shaw is an absolute must everyday player. Taking a look at Shaw’s early baseball cards isn’t a bad idea.
A complete bust. The weight issues, anemic hitting and lack of range are well documented. Quite simply, Sandoval was MLB’s Least Valuable Player last season. With little defensive ability these days and no proven record as a pinch hitter, the former World Series MVP is not expected to make much of an impact this season. With $75 million still owed to him, Sandoval appears to be untradeable — unless the Red Sox eat a ton of money. Bad situation not matter how you look at it.
He’s young, dynamic, extremely talented, articulate, good natured, and committed to excellence — reminiscent of Andrew McCutchen. Enjoy the ride folks, you don’t see this type of player very often. I’m looking for deals on his baseball cards as well.
JACKIE BRADLEY, Jr.
A bit of an enigma early in his career, Bradley needs to prove he’s more than an all-field, no-hit player. Defensively, Bradley is in a class by himself, combining speed, athleticism and an uncanny ability read the ball off the bat. Offensively he’s displayed stretches of power and production along with on base potential. There have also been miserable stretches of non-stop swinging and missing. Will the real Jackie Bradley Jr. please stand up.
The jack-of-all-trades player will get most of his at bats in left field to start the season. The Brock Star won’t put up huge numbers, but he’s a smart, steady, grinding type of player with lots of energy. One of the more valuable players on the team, Holt will also serve as backup for all infield positions. Just call him Ben Zobrist-lite.
Mashes left handed pitching, should be a good fit at Fenway. Platooning with Holt leaves the Red Sox left field is in good hands.
Castillo has a huge contract and lots of potential, but is fifth on the Red Sox outfield depth chart — not a good place to be considering all of the talent above him. A plus fielder and fast runner, Castillo has yet to prove he can consistently hit major league fastballs. Most of the competition in Cuba threw an assortment of junk, which Castillo mashed. He’s finding the power pitching of the majors much more challenging. Wouldn’t call Castillo a bust just yet, but the Red Sox may have overestimated his talent.
BLAKE SWIHART / RYAN HANIGAN / CHRISTAIN VAZQUEZ
Swihart gets the nod to start the season. The Red Sox expect big things offensively from 24-year-old switch-hitter and continued improvement defensively. Vazquez is a defensive specialist adept at calling games and framing pitches. The Red Sox will bring him along slowly, hoping to restore his cannon arm a year removed from Tommy John surgery. At some point, the Red Sox will need to decide between the Swihart’s offensive production and Vazquez’s defense and leadership. Not a bad problem to have. In the meantime, Hanigan is a sound backup.
With his job on the line, John Farrell has let it be known that Travis Shaw is in the mix for a starting position and Pablo Sandoval is playing for his job. Farrell told assembled media yesterday that Sandoval is “very well aware of it.” He also discussed “not limiting [Shaw] to just a utility player,” emphasizing that the the 25-year-old corner infielder “could be competing for regular at bats.”
In the wake of consecutive last place finishes, a bad start for Farrell and the Red Sox could mean a change in the Red Sox manager’s office by Memorial Day. Dave Dombrowski was not part of the management team that signed Sandoval to a five-year, $95 million contract, so he will have no qualms sitting the big money/underperforming player in favor of an up-and-coming, but still unproven player.
After posting a .797 OPS with 14 homers and 42 RBI in just 226 at bats last season, the Red Sox believe Shaw can be a productive major league hitter. The left-swinging slugger has been proficient in driving the ball to all fields, which makes him particularly intriguing at Fenway. He begins the spring like a man looking to win a job, hitting .419 in 11 games with a 1.132 OPS. Primarily a first baseman, Shaw, an exceptional athlete who has seen time at shortstop in the minors, has been solid at third base.
Sandoval is hitting .250 with an .847 OPS this spring. A wind-aided home run yesterday gave his power numbers a boast, but the Red Sox would like to see Sandoval drive the ball with more consistency. Defense has also been a concern. The hefty third baseman already has four errors and, like last season, has displayed minimal range at the hot corner.
Sandoval’s hitting and fielding woes have gone well documented, but his base running was atrocious last season, well-below standards for a major league player of any size at any position. Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe offers this synopsis of Sandoval on the base paths during the 2015 season:
- 17 times when Sandoval was on first base when a single was hit. All 17 teams, he advanced no further than second base.
- Sandoval was on first base only 7 times when a double was hit. Six times, he reached only third base. He didn’t score once in this situation.
- In the 11 times he was on second when a single was hit, he scored just 3 times.
- His “extra base taken percentage” was just 9%. In comparison, lead-footed David Ortiz was at 18%, Dustin Pedroia was at 32% and Mookie Betts was at 44%.
In short, competing in the American League East is a difficult task. Competing with Sandoval occupying a spot in your lineup every day might be an impossible task. Shaw deserves a chance to show his worth and Farrell needs to win.
The emergence of Xander Bogaerts was the top takeaway from the Red Sox dismal 2015 season. The 23-year-old shortstop had a legitimate breakout season, batting.320 — trailing only four-time league batting champion Miguel Cabrera — and appears to be on the verge of stardom.
In 156 games, Bogaerts compiled a .776 OPS, tops among American League shortstops. His 45 extra base hits 81 RBI — not to mention significantly improved defense — made Bogaerts the best all-around shortstop to wear a Red Sox uniform since Nomar Garciaparra’s prime years of 1998 – 2000.
A work in progress, Bogaerts sacrificed power for batting average last season. After hitting 13 home runs in his first 582 major league at bats, Bogaerts hit just 7 homers last season. Spraying the ball to all fields, while also finding the gaps, Bogaerts exploited defensive shifts by hitting to the open areas. The result was a higher batting average and increased production — more hits with runners on base while batting third in the batting order for much of the season.
Recently, Bogaerts has been working with hitting coach Chili Davis on harnessing his natural power. Davis is encouraging Bogaerts to still use the entire field, but to also take advantage of the game’s circumstances — turning on pitches on favorable counts and pulling the ball in the right situations.
Manager John Farrell has experimented with batting Bogaerts clean up, hoping to maximize the rising star’s production. Hitting behind Mookie Betts, Dustin Pedroia and David Ortiz will give Bogaerts more RBI opportunities, possibly enhanced with additional power. With his baseball IQ on par with his on-the-field proficiency, Bogaerts could be the anchor of the Red Sox lineup for many years to come.
Bogaerts is already entering his seventh season with the Red Sox. Impressed by his athletic ability and live bat, the Red Sox signed Bogaerts at the age of 17 out of his native Aruba for $410,000. As a teenager, Bogaerts impressed off the field at the World Baseball Classic, displaying people skills and speaking fluently to reporters in four different languages (English, Spanish, Dutch and Papiamento). One of his most limited baseball cards is the 2013 Topps Tribute World Baseball Classic Game Worn Jersey, which is limited to a production run of 67.
Bogaerts’ 2012 Bowman Chrome “First Card”, generally regarded as a rookie, is readily available, while the “Refractor Autograph” version is limited and highly coveted.