I was going over depth charts earlier tonight, getting ready for my fantasy baseball draft tomorrow night, when I came across Andrew Benintendi’s name midway down the outfielder chart. I moved it up a few spots as soon as I saw it. And in that moment, I almost shivered with excitement for baseball season.
I saw one of Benintendi’s first games, back in April 2017. He didn’t have a hit that day, but already, Boston was excited about their new, lefty-hitting outfielder, maybe because that description sounds pretty familiar. I checked in on him occasionally as the season went on, and when it ended, his numbers were right about where you expected them: .271/.352/.424, 20 homers, 20 steals.
I don’t know how the Red Sox find these guys. Honestly, I don’t. Whether it’s Benintendi or Dustin Pedroia or Kevin Youkilis or Jason Varitek or Bill Mueller, they always manage to find players who make you love baseball even more than you already do. Guys who aren’t superstars but are hard workers, who won’t win MVP (usually) but will play the game the right way, and leave it all on the field. Sure they’re clichés, but the facts are unimpeachable.
How can you not love a guy like Andrew Benintendi? Whether or not he grows into a star this year, or merely has a repeat, solid performance, the kid’s already a captain in the making. He doesn’t play David Wright’s position, but he certainly reminds me of the early days of David’s career. He’ll be a solid outfielder for a while yet; that much seems fairly easy to believe. But along the way, he might just become the face of the Red Sox, and when your team has a new face, it’s always worth getting excited about.
Which brings me to the Mets, who’ve found themselves in need of a face recently. Sure, we’ve got five pitchers who might have qualified at one time, or might qualify in the future, but for some reason, I just don’t see any of them as the face of our team right now. They haven’t been around long enough, or might not be around much longer, or just haven’t been all that good. Obviously, there’s David Wright, who’ll be our captain until the day he retires. But he may never play again, and won’t for at least eight weeks. So much as it pains me to say it, he’s not the face of the Mets either. There’s Michael Conforto, but he won’t play until May either, and despite the beauty of his swing, he’s played for a few years now, and hasn’t managed to put together a full, star-level season.
So who’s the young, up-and-coming face of our team? Our Andrew Benintendi? I see two fairly obvious candidates, so obvious, in fact, that I’m giving it to each of them as a co-award: Brandon Nimmo and Amed Rosario. For an eternal optimist like me, at least, it’s hard not to be excited about either one of them. You’ve got Nimmo in the outfield, wearing high socks, always smiling, taking a walk every game and shooting the ball all over the field. You’ve got Amed at short, covering ground like a jackrabbit, hitting line drives from whichever spot in the order he’s been given, and always coming off the field happy.
They’re not Andrew Benintendi. But we’re the Mets; we don’t really get guys like Andrew Benintendi. Each of our guys is flawed; neither has hit for much power so far, Nimmo hasn’t proven himself yet, and Amed doesn’t walk enough. But they’ve got every chance in the world to turn into quality everyday players this year, and a decent shot after that to anchor our lineup for years to come. And even if it all ends up coming to nothing, for now, I’d say that’s something to be excited about.