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Red Sox prospect Andrew Benintendi: Secondary Average machine

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Bruce Thorson-USA TODAY Sports

One of my favorite baseball statistics is Secondary Average, developed by Bill James. It dates from the 80s, making it an oldie as far as advanced sabermetrics go, but it is still a goodie. It was a breakthrough stat back in the Baseball Abstract days and while we have more sophisticated metrics nowadays, I still like looking at SEC and have a liking for players with high SECs.

The Wikipedia entry explains it quite nicely:

Secondary average, or SecA, is a baseball statistic that measures the sum of extra bases gained on hits, walks, and stolen bases (less times caught stealing) depicted per at bat.[1] Created by Bill James, it is a sabermetric measurement of hitting performance that seeks to evaluate the number of bases a player gained independent of batting average. Unlike batting average, which is a simple ratio of base hits to at bats, secondary average accounts for power (extra base hits), plate discipline (walks), and speed (stolen bases minus times caught stealing

A player can possess a low batting average yet still be a valuable offensive contributor if he has a high secondary average.[3] However, a low secondary average is not necessarily an indicator of a poor hitter. Ichiro Suzuki is an example of a hitter who relies on batting average for most of his offensive production.[4] Furthermore, batting average and secondary average are not mutually exclusive; a player can have a high batting average as well as a high secondary average

One of my favorite players in the 2015 MLB draft is Andrew Benintendi, drafted by the Red Sox in the first round from the University of Arkansas. As you likely remember, Benintendi was the Golden Spikes winner as the top player in college baseball this year, on the strength of his .376/.488/.717 campaign. . .20 homers, 24 steals, 50 walks, 32 strikeouts in 226 at-bats. One hell of a season, and his Secondary Average was an insane .659.

Benintendi has now played 25 games in pro ball, for the Lowell Spinners in the New York-Penn League. The slash line stands at .244/.380/.465, 19 walks, 14 strikeouts in 86 at-bats, five steals in six attempts.

Thirty years ago people would probably complain about his batting average being too low, but nowadays we know better, thanks to concepts like SEC, OPS+, and wRC+. Sure, he's not hitting for a high average, yet. But he's drawing walks, not striking out much, stealing bases at a valuable clip, and hitting for power. His wRC+ is quite good at 149; his OPS ranks seventh in the league, and his SEC is a very robust .488.

Did I mention he's also playing excellent defense (3.23 range factor, five assists already, zero errors and enthusiastic scouting reports)  in center field?

Basically Benintendi is doing everything he was expected to do except hit for a high average. My guess is that will come eventually, but even if it doesn't and he's just so-so in that department at higher levels, every other part of his game is excellent. His skill base in college was very broad and so far the same has held true in pro ball.

Hey I just noticed this: Benintendi played in the Southeastern Conference, the SEC, and he has a high Secondary Average, the SEC. Nice coincidence, that.