On the night of August 11, it appeared as though Red Sox outfielder Andrew Benintendi was on the verge of potentially turning his 2020 season around.
Entering the day with just two hits through his first 36 plate appearances of the year, the 26-year-old managed to double his hit total within the first three innings against the Rays that Tuesday with a pair of leadoff singles.
Fast forward to the eighth, and Benintendi again reached base after getting plunked by an Aaron Loup sinker.
An Alex Verdugo single to shallow left field moments later allowed Benintendi to advance to second base, but as the University of Arkansas product rounded the bag to take off for third, he subsequently slipped while on the run and wound up getting caught in a rundown.
As he made one last effort to reach third base, Benintendi slid head first before getting tagged out, but appeared to get up rather slowly after said out was recorded.
On August 12, the Cincinnati native was placed on the injured list after getting diagnosed with a right rib cage strain, which would wind up costing him the rest of the season.
“It’s frustrating,” Benintendi said at the time he was placed on the IL. “I got a few hits. I was feeling good. Felt like I was about to get hot, so, I mean, I’m frustrated.”
With his 2020 season prematurely coming to a close, Benintendi has now seen his on-field performance continue to decline going back to the start of the 2019 campaign.
In his first full two seasons with Boston, the 2015 first-round draft pick got on base 36% of the time while posting an OPS+ of 113 over a 299-game span that saw him nearly win American League Rookie of the Year and become a first-time All-Star.
Since then, though, as previously mentioned, Benintendi has been rather underwhelming, as he slashed .266/.343/.431 with 13 home runs and 68 RBI in 138 games played last year before running into the buzz saw that was 2020.
Still, even as he trends ever so slightly in the wrong direction two years out from free agency, Benintendi is still viewed as a plus-player in the eyes of the Red Sox front office. Chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom made that much clear when speaking with reporters via Zoom on Tuesday.
“I think talent-wise, I wouldn’t factor this year into an evaluation of his talent at all,” Bloom said of Benintendi’s prospects. “I mean, this guy has great all-around ability. It’s just unfortunate how the year started. He actually looked great at Summer Camp, and then for whatever reason the season opened and he wasn’t operating on all cylinders. He had a couple bad weeks and then got hurt, so I wouldn’t let that change anyone’s mind.
“I thought he looked great coming in both in spring training and Summer Camp,” Bloom continued. “This is a guy who has shown the ability to perform at a really high level, including in some really critical situations. Still young, still has all that ability. It’s just a shame that his year kind of got wiped out.”
As he continues to recover from that rib cage strain, Benintendi is expected to undergo a typical offseason where he will not be limited in his activities.
“He’s not full-go at this moment if we were still playing,” said Bloom. “That shouldn’t be a surprise. But, substantively, his offseason should be pretty normal.”
From there, depending on what Bloom and Co. do between now and February, Benintendi should be in line to be a prime bounce-back candidate in 2021, especially with the potential he still brings to the table.