The American League Championship Series matchup between the Boston Red Sox and Houston Astros is fascinating, and that’s before you consider the various connections between the teams.
Take the case of Andrew Benintendi, for instance. He’s a key player for Boston and could play an important role in dethroning the defending World Series champions. But did you know the Astros almost drafted the talented outfielder back in 2015 before the Red Sox picked him at No. 7 overall?
Astros assistant general manager Mike Elias, who heads the organization’s amateur draft process, revealed last October in an interview with NBC Sports Boston’s Evan Drellich that Houston probably would have selected Benintendi with the No. 5 pick if fellow outfielder Kyle Tucker no longer was available.
(The Astros held two top-five picks that year. They also drafted infielder Alex Bregman, who coincidentally was drafted by the Red Sox in 2012 but didn’t sign, at No. 2 overall.)
“It was definitely an option for us, that we could have drafted both players (Bregman and Benintendi),” Elias told Drellich. “We liked both players quite a bit. We were in a unique situation that year because we had the two picks (second and fifth overall).
“I can say with all honesty that if Tucker had been gone, like say if the Rangers took him right before us, we take Benintendi.”
The Arizona Diamondbacks had the No. 1 pick and chose Dansby Swanson ahead of Bregman. The Colorado Rockies and Texas Rangers then chose Brendan Rodgers and Dillon Tate at No. 3 and No. 4, respectively, before Houston selected Tucker at No. 5, bypassing Benintendi in the process.
It’s hard to say at this point whether the Astros made a mistake, although drafting Bregman, an All-Star coming off an excellent regular season, certainly would soften the blow. Tucker has appeared in just 28 major league games and MLB.com ranks him as the No. 5 prospect in baseball, so it’s entirely possible he could be better than Benintendi in time.
But if Benintendi rakes in the ALCS, well, it’ll definitely be a tough pill for the Astros to swallow. He was sitting there for the taking in 2015, yet the club looked elsewhere, for better or worse.
“And credit to the Red Sox, I heard that their area scouts did a great job of identifying (Benintendi) as early as the previous fall, and they were able to focus on him early,” Elias told Drellich last October. “But we liked him a lot. It was basically between him and Kyle Tucker, who’s doing well for us. We liked the idea of coming away with a polished college player like Bregman and then an upside high school player like Tucker.”
The Red Sox and Astros owned the two best records in Major League Baseball during the regular season, and both rosters are stacked with talent. That’s only part of the story, though, and the Benintendi “what if?” will loom large every time he steps into the batter’s box for Boston during the ALCS.