This one is fun. Any franchise would love to have either one of these guys, and there’s no wrong answer when picking between 21-year-old Nomar Mazara and 22-year-old Andrew Benintendi. That said, it is time for another rousing rendition of Dynasty Tale of the Tape, and making the tough decisions is what we do. Let’s dive in.
As an advanced college bat, Benintendi was always likely to move through the Boston system with relative ease. He exceeded the expectations of even the most aggressive (and by aggressive, I mean homerific) Red Sox fans, needing only 657 minor league plate appearances before getting the call. His .312 career minor league average was certainly impressive, so much so that he skipped Triple-A en route to Boston.
As a big leaguer, Benintendi picked up where he left off in the minors, hitting .295 (.284 TAv) in his first 118 major league plate appearances. He makes a ton of contact (his 9.6 percent career minor league strikeout rate is just bonkers), and those skills were on display even after his promotion, making contact on 82.8 percent of pitches, nearly five percentage points better than league average. Even if he struggles a bit after the league compiles a book on him, Benintendi should remain a batting average asset.
With the poise and stoicism of a seasoned veteran (his moniker, “The Big Chill”, couldn’t be more apropos), Mazara debuted at age 20 and immediately started hitting. He hit .282 in the first half before cooling off down the stretch, finishing the season with a perfectly respectable .266 average. He struck out in only 19.7 percent of his trips to the plate, an impressive number for a rookie. While Mazara had a solid inaugural campaign by all accounts, he could actually be well served to be a little more aggressive at the plate. Last season he swung at only 59.2 percent of pitches in the zone, a number over seven percent lower than league average. He was actually above average at making contact on those pitches (90.3 percent), so it’s possible that a tweak to Mazara’s approach could be beneficial to maintain his success at the plate. Advantage: Benintendi
Benintendi has shown the propensity to take walks and has never tallied a walk rate below 9.1 percent at any stop in the minor leagues. His 8.5 percent walk rate in his first big-league stint wasn’t all that remarkable, but it was slightly above average, and his plate discipline numbers indicate that it could even improve. Despite being a young hitter, Benintendi only chased 26.1 percent of pitches outside of the zone last season, a number comfortably better than league average. Once pitchers respect his skills at the plate a little more, the walk total could rapidly inflate.
While showing real patience at lower levels, Mazara’s walk rates have eroded as he climbed through the Rangers’ system. Last season he drew walks in only 6.9 percent of plate appearances. He should hit enough to not be an OBP liability, and he should improve the walk rate a bit as he progresses, but I wouldn’t expect him to ever truly excel in the category. Advantage: Benintendi
Benintendi has never been projected as a huge power hitter, but he does have some pop. He smacked 11 homers in each of the last two seasons, and while he only hit two dingers in the big leagues, that number is a little misleading. Last season, 36.3 percent of Benintendi’s batted balls (boom alliteration) were hit on the ground. Despite getting good loft on the ball, his HR/FB rate was only 6.5 percent. That number will likely rise, as will his home run totals. Benintedi might never hit 30 homers, but he should comfortably remain in the high-teens or low-20s for the foreseeable future.
As a 21-year-old, Mazara launched his age in homers, 20 of which came as a member of the Rangers. Perhaps even more impressive was the fact that he did so with a ground ball rate nearly 50 percent. Mazara faded a bit down the stretch, and he hit more grounders as a result. While he saw a dip in batting average and a slight downturn in homers, he still hit with pop, gaining nearly 40 percentage points in isolated power in the second half. It’s easy to imagine Mazara hitting 30 homers at full strength. Advantage: Mazara
So… the Red Sox lineup is kinda good. They led all of baseball in runs last season, and even without their large father in the middle of the lineup, they are returning a great, young core of players, and Mitch Moreland. Skipper John Farrell has already mentioned that he’s toying with the idea of hitting Benintendi out of the two hole, and if that happens, he will likely score all of the runs. All of them.
Last season the Rangers ranked as the seventh highest scoring offense in baseball, and Mazara still only managed to produce 59 runs and 64 RBI. Part of that is the result of hitting toward the bottom of the order, something that he projects to do again in 2017. His talent is undeniable however, and I wouldn’t expect that to continue for long. In the short term, this is a clear edge for Benintendi, but in the long run this contest will likely be really close. Advantage: Benintendi
Last season, Benintendi stole 17 bases across three levels. He had a slight hiccup in Double-A, trotting out a near 50/50 success rate, but otherwise he has been generally effective in his stolen base attempts. It’s easy to picture penciling him in for double digit steals for at least the next handful of seasons.
Mazara doesn’t really run. He was 0-2 last season in stolen base attempts and has stolen 12 total bases in his entire career, spanning four seasons. This one is pretty easy. Advangate: Benintendi
Injury/Playing Time Risk
Neither of these guys are in any serious jeopardy of losing playing time any time soon. Both seem to have transitioned from stand-out prospects to franchise cornerstones (even Dombrowski wouldn’t trade Benintendi). Last season Benintendi missed a little time after suffering an avulsion fracture below his left knee, but by all accounts he’s 100 percent and ready to go for 2017. There are even reports that he added 15-20 pounds of muscle during the offseason to combat the fatigue of the 162 game grind. #bestshapeofhislife
There are no injury risks surrounding Mazara, and he hasn’t missed any extended time for injuries (knocking on all of the available wood). This one’s probably a push, but I have an aversion to avulsions. Advantage: Mazara
Nothing against Mazara, he’s a very handsome fellow, but this is like pitting a community theater actor against Daniel Day-Lewis. Benintendi. In a walk. Advantage: Benintendi
When choosing between these two, you really can’t go wrong, which is good for me and my sterling fantasy record (well, sterling-ish…fine, mediocre, get off me). Each offers a distinct skill set and both are awesome, but at the end of the day I’m taking the guy that does a few more things in the more potent lineup. Advantage: Benintendi