SAN DIEGO — After their day on baseball’s biggest stage on Sunday, second baseman (and All-Star Futures Game MVP) Yoan Moncada and outfielder Andrew Benintendi are slated to return to Double A when Portland’s season resumes on Thursday. Nonetheless, Portland may not be the final destination for either player this year.
Increasingly, with the amount of injuries that the Red Sox have faced in left field, there’s a growing question about whether Moncada or Benintendi might be able to help in the big leagues this year, a curiosity that grew after Dombrowski noted over the weekend (per Rob Bradford of WEEI.com) that he’s open to the idea of jumping players straight from Double A to the big leagues.
Moncada (hitting .312/.415/.532 with nine homers and 40 steals in High A and Double A this year) wouldn’t be able to help in the short term barring an injury to Dustin Pedroia at second base, given that the 21-year-old switch-hitter has only played second base in his professional career.
There’s still a chance he could contribute in the big leagues later in the year — even if just as a pinch-runner and/or bench bat in September — but for now, he doesn’t seem to be in a position for big-league callup consideration, at least in the short term.
“It’s not a decision I make if I make it to the big leagues or not,” Moncada said through a translator of his view of whether he might be ready to help the Red Sox this year. “Being in this setting [of a big league ballpark], all I’m going to do is continue to play hard so I can make it.”
Benintendi (.311/.376/.526) is another story, given the advancement of his approach, the fact that he’s spent about a month more in Double A than has Moncada (and, in the process, has both gone through a struggle and then come out of it), and that he’s considered the more polished player thanks to his two years of college ball in the SEC prior to being taken in the first round of the 2015 draft by the Sox.
“I think I’d be lying if I said I haven’t thought about it,” Benintendi said of the possibility of a callup. “[But] I trust the guys who make those decisions, trust in the process, and whatever happens, happens.”
If the Sox wanted him to do so — and again, it’s worth noting that he’s returning to Double A for the start of the second half on Thursday — could Benintendi make the jump straight from Portland to the big leagues?
Five pro scouts of other teams who have followed Benintendi’s progression offered divided views, with three saying that he could help now and two suggesting he needed time — at least one month, and perhaps two or three — in Triple A. A sampling of their reaction:
“Bring him up! He is hot right now. The Yankees brought up a young kid named Derek Jeter for a short stint in 1995 to fill a hole at shortstop and then sent him right back to Triple A when he wasn’t really ready. He turned out OK.”
“If not him, then who? . . . I would put him up there tomorrow.”
One scout, who viewed the outfielder as possessing “80” grade intangibles and a top-of-the-charts baseball IQ on the 20-80 scouting scale, suggested Benintendi would be major league-ready after 30 days in Triple A for a team that wasn’t in contention, and after two or three months in Triple A for a team that needed immediate production.
Another scout: “I do believe Benintendi needs some Triple A at-bats. He had his hands full adjusting early in Double A competition. I would give him at least a month.”
Which means . . .
The divided state of the industry is probably mirrored by dialogue in the Red Sox front office, with some believing Benintendi is in position to help immediately, and others thinking he would benefit from a healthy apprenticeship in Triple A before he gets his big league opportunity.
Of course, the fact that Brock Holt is expected to be healthy for the start of the second half and that Bryce Brentz (.308/.325/.436) has contributed in the big leagues suggests that there isn’t necessarily urgency to bring up Benintendi as an emergency stopgap at a time when Chris Young and Blake Swihart are sidelined.
Still, the fact that he and Moncada have initiated such conversation in the industry is a testament to the unusual talent that led both to the Futures Game on Sunday, and that could have one or both in the big leagues at some point in 2016.