One of the first signs of the baseball off-season that we are getting closer to spring is when top prospect lists start coming out. While the crown jewel of prospect lists, Baseball America, doesn't come out for a few more weeks it's great to get the MLB.com rankings at a time when there isn't much other baseball news happening. Typically the biggest conversation to come from these rankings is who came in at number one. This year is no exception as Red Sox outfielder Andrew Benintendi surprisingly landed the top spot.
2016 couldn't have gone much better for Benintendi. He began the season in single A before getting called up to AA after a little over a month. In 97 games between the two levels he batted .312 with 31 doubles, nine homers, and 16 steals. He somewhat surprisingly got called up to the bigs in early August. In 34 games with Boston Benintendi would go on to hit .295/.359/.476 with 11 doubles, two homers, and a stolen base. All the doubles are a great sign for a young hitter since they usually translate to homers once the player fills out his body. Since he didn't exceed 130 plate appearances in the majors he was able to retain his prospect status heading into 2017.
Benintendi' success at the major league level must have been the determining factor for MLB.com to rank him over former teammate Yoan Moncada. In 2016 Moncada arguably had the better minor league season than Benintendi. He hit .294 with 15 homers and 45 stolen bases to win minor league player of the year for Baseball America. However, he went just 3-19 with 12 strikeouts in the majors. While his future remains bright Benintendi has already shown the ability to hit major league pitching.
Perhaps the most positive development of Benintendi's season was the fact that he didn't look overmatched in the playoffs. While most of the Red Sox lineup struggled against Cleveland, Benintendi went 3-9 with a home run in game one. Heading into 2017 he is going to be the favorite for AL rookie of the year and Sox manager John Farrell is reportedly considering batting him second. He has also added 20 pounds of muscle this winter, which should help him hit for more power in the heart of the Boston lineup for years to come.