At this point, the comparisons are impossible to ignore.
Andrew Benintendi, the baby-faced Boston Red Sox rookie outfielder with the golden bat, is reminding previous generations of the great Fred Lynn. Lynn’s rookie campaign in 1975 is the stuff of legend: He became the first player in major league history to win Rookie of the Year and Most Valuable Player in the same year.
And while Benintendi is a long shot to win both awards, consider this: Through 30 games in 2017, the 22-year-old is batting .325 with five home runs, 20 RBIs and a team-high 39 hits. Lynn’s stats through 30 games in his rookie year? A .337 batting average with six homers, 20 RBIs and 34 hits.
There’s plenty of merit to the Benintendi-Lynn comparisons beyond that brief sample size. Lynn was a stud from the get-go in Boston, pairing a sweet left-handed swing that produced both power and average with a terrific glove in center field. He went on to earn nine All-Star nods (six with the Red Sox), and bat .308 over seven consistently excellent seasons in Boston.
Benintendi appears poised for the same sustained success. He’s been essentially slump-averse since breaking into the big leagues last August, thanks to a seemingly unflappable demeanor and a compact lefty stroke that features few holes. Benintendi hasn’t been fooled by off-speed pitching, as evidenced by the Phil Hughes change-up he crushed for a home run Friday.
If we’re comparing swings, though, Lynn’s actually is much different. While Benintendi stays back and lets the ball get deep, Lynn would attack the plate and use a long stride to get out in front of the ball.
Indeed, Benintendi and Lynn are far from carbon copies of each other. The former is compact at 5-foot-10, 170 pounds and hails from Cincinnati, while the latter was a lean California native who stood at 6-foot-1, 185 pounds. Lynn won four Gold Gloves in Boston while patrolling center field with effortless grace, while Benintendi mostly has played left field, delivering very good if unspectacular defense.
So, is Benintendi really worthy of comparison to one of the “Gold Dust Twins?” In short: Yes.
The Red Sox’s seventh overall pick in the 2015 draft has met and exceeded expectations every step of the way. He shot through Boston’s farm system and hit .295 against big league pitching during his 2016 call-up after spending the entire year in Double-A ball. Like Lynn, Benintendi has the capacity to hit for both power and average, and his defense is improving by the day. He even switched to center field and batted clean-up (Lynn’s spot of the order) over the weekend, responding to the switch with five hits, four RBIs and four runs scored in two games.
Benintendi and Lynn have different approaches to the game. But in terms of on-field production and impact on the franchise, Benintendi appears on the fast track to being a staple of the Red Sox’s outfield for years to come — just like another guy we used to know.
Thumbnail photo via Jesse Johnson/USA TODAY Sports Images