KC Royals: Why Andrew Benintendi belongs here

(Photo by Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images)
(Photo by Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images) /

Andrew Benintendi has joined the KC Royals. Will he prove he’s what they need?

Between now and Opening Day, the Kings of Kauffman writers are analyzing how various KC Royals performed last season and predicting how they might fare this year. Up today is new outfielder Andrew Benintendi.

Boston outfielder Andrew Benintendi fractured his right rib cage and suffered a few minor fractures in a game last August, tripping over second base in pursuit of third. It was just another bad moment in a disappointing season for Benintendi, who this season will patrol left field for the Royals.

Benintendi, 26, appeared in 14 game in the 2020 season, batting .103, having an OBP of .314, and slugging .128. That performance gives fans reason to doubt whether he’s the power arm the club needed to take retired Gold Glover Alex Gordon’s place in left field.

Benintendi was a power force for Boston from 2016-2018, helping lead the Red Sox to their 2018 World Series victory. He slashed .290/.366./.465 in 2018, with 87 RBIs and 16 home runs, and seemed to be riding the baseball high of his life. But a disappointing run in 2019 and an even worse season in the COVID-shortened 2020 campaign gave the power hitter reason to doubt the next steps of his journey.

Kansas City General Manager Dayton Moore made no offseason secret of his team’s search for a lefthanded outfielder with punch, which is exactly what he and the team got when they acquired Benintendi in a three-team trade with Boston. Benintendi is a player who’s performed at every level to the highest degree. He’s been part of the playoffs and got himself a World Series in his five seasons in the majors.

Despite struggling the past two seasons, Benintendi has historically owned every pitch he’s given and that’s exactly what the Royals’ lineup needs to become a winning team again.

And with what he’s showing at the plate this spring, he may be starting to find his footing. In his 40 Cactus League ABs, he slashed .225/.340/.350. Benintendi will use his in-depth experience at the plate to lead the Royals to where they need and deserve to be.

Baseball Reference and FanGraphs projections for Benintendi’s 2021 season

Baseball Reference doesn’t think Benintendi will disappoint in his average and OBP, predicting the lefty to have 289 ABs while slashing .263/.347/.426 and adding eight homers to his career total. FanGraphs seems to agree with Baseball Reference, predicting the outfielder will add 13 homers to his career numbers, while slashing .253/.344/.409, but by nearly doubling Baseball Reference’s projected ABs to 509 appearances. Whatever site you reference, both FanGraphs and Baseball Reference believe Benintendi is going to show up and show out.

What will the 2021 season hold for Andrew Benintendi with the KC Royals?

Andrew Benintendi belongs in Kansas City. The Midwest is his holy ground and fans will see that on display this season. While having setbacks in the past, Beni has proven he can overcome adversity and bounce back even better than before. Will he return to his 2016-2018 peak years? No, because he hasn’t peaked yet. He’ll show Kansas City he’s even better than he was in Boston.

While he has some big shoes to fill in left field, fans can expect to see a lefty who isn’t afraid to swing on any pitch that enters his box. Beni is historically a beast at the plate and he proved that in his college years. In just his second year at Arkansas, he slashed .376/.488/.717, and improved his swing even more during his time in the majors.

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As long as Benintendi doesn’t solely set his focus on hitting homers like he did in the 2019 season, and gets on base and drives in the runs the KC Royals need, there’s no reason to doubt he was meant to wear Royal Blue.