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Keep the Same Approach Despite a Power Surge

BINGHAMTON, N.Y. – Whether it’s through workouts away from the field or natural growth, chances are a baseball player who sticks with the game for years will go through a noticeable increase in strength and power at some point.

Andrew Benintendi took major strides toward becoming one of professional baseball’s hottest prospects in 2016 when he went through an extreme power surge between the 2014 and 2015 seasons at the University of Arkansas.

Benintendi says when swings start yielding more impressive results, it is important for a player not to change his approach.

“I still think the same way,” the 22-year-old outfielder said July 31 after mashing two home runs and two doubles for the first five-RBI game of his professional career, helping his Portland Sea Dogs beat the Binghamton Mets in an Eastern League game. “My entire life I’ve basically been hitting the same way.”       

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Benintendi, who is ranked as one of the top 10 prospects in all of minor league baseball by Baseball America, was referring to the thought process he brings to the plate for each at-bat and each pitch he sees. The way he has been hitting the last two years has advanced Benintendi quickly to the Double-A Eastern League and the second-highest team in the Boston Red Sox farm system.         

The former high school standout from Cincinnati hit just one home run as a leadoff hitter at Arkansas as a freshman. A year later, he led the nation’s Division I college players with 20 home runs to earn the Dick Howser Trophy as the top college baseball player and the Golden Spikes Award as the top amateur player in the country.              

Benintendi said one of the keys to continuing that success has been not overreacting to the better results he is getting.               

“I think I’m just staying with my routine, going with the same approach and everything’s taking care of itself,” he said.       

Benintendi explained the big increase in production as coming from an improvement in strength while he was developing as a hitter.

“I think I’m just getting stronger,” said the 5-foot-10, 180-pounder who has impressed scouts with both his bat speed and his strike-zone discipline. “I consider myself a gap hitter and some balls have been going out of the yard.”        

Benintendi keeps trying to hit the ball hard through the gaps. Frequently, the result is even better, such as in the five-RBI game when he ripped towering homers of 406 and 422 feet on the first pitch of two different at-bats. 

“I think when you start thinking about being a power hitter, you start thinking about home runs and that’s when you start popping up,” he said.               

After being picked seventh overall by the Red Sox in the 2015 Major League Baseball Draft, Benintendi has been getting the right “pop” from his controlled swings.             

Benintendi hit 11 home runs while batting .313 in 54 games at two levels of the minors after signing with the Boston organization following the 2015 draft. He put together at 23-game hitting streak at high Class A Salem early this year to earn a promotion. Following a brief adjustment to the Double-A level, the Futures Game selection is hitting .346 with 12 doubles, 8 homers, 5 triples and 35 RBI in his last 42 games.

From GameChanger and Tom Robinson.