The eighth in my 2016 MLB Draft profile series features a tall left-handed prep hitter in William Benson, who draws comparisons (fairly or not) to Jason Heyward.
6’6, 220 pounds
Position: Outfield, First Base
DOB: June 16, 1998
Slot recommended bonus (No. 20): $2,316,300
Slot recommended bonus (No. 32): $1,940,700
Slot recommended bonus (No. 36): $1,791,000
Editor’s note: All information of draft prospects compiled from internet sources, scouting reports and video.
Benson might be the most projectable prep position player available in the first round of the draft. His 6-foot-6 frame has the ability to add a little more weight and tap into his massive power potential. But if he adds weight, that could limit him defensively. Also, he might not need to add weight to get to his power. There’s no doubt the talent is there for Benson to be a star player.
While the Heyward comps are impossible to ignore (same region, same kind of build), Benson might have more offensive potential than Heyward (who is a good offensive producer). His bat speed is among the best of any player in the draft. Coupled with is strength, it gives him the immense power potential not seen from other prospects. The bat speed is present, the strength is present and he makes incredibly hard contact. So, why isn’t he getting more Top 10-15 buzz? It’s the rest of his swing.
Perfect Game wrote him up and said his swing “is almost unnaturally short and has a severe cutoff out front. That lack of extension will create issues with Benson in the future with both his power potential and his plate coverage if it can’t be corrected.” Dodger fans know extension on a swing well with Matt Kemp, and that’s what Benson lacks at present.
Benson’s stances have varied. In one iteration, his lower-half is somewhat twitchy when he’s in the box. He doesn’t have much of a stride toward the pitcher and the bat sits on his shoulder for a long while. In another, the bat is up and he does a double toe-tap for his timing mechanism. Despite the unconventional look, the first one appears to be more natural for him. Either way, he makes both stances work with an incredibly quick bat thanks to strong forearms and wrists. His power is apparent when he gets his arms extended and, like many tall hitters, can struggle with hard stuff inside.
Defensively, he’s a really good athlete for a kid his size (hence the Heyward comps). He’s a profile right fielder due to his strong arm, but there has been talk of him moving to first base if his athleticism diminishes if he adds weight. That would almost seem like a waste. More likely, he remains in right field, with left field being the backup option before a move to first base.
Video courtesy of The Prospect Pipeline and Taiwan Baseball Notes
Make no mistake: Benson is a project as a hitter. If the Dodgers pop him, don’t expect to see him in Double-A at age-20, ala Cody Bellinger and Alex Verdugo. But if he is coached well and the Dodgers have patience, it could very well pay off. He might make more sense for a team that can afford to have Benson develop a little slower than other prep hitters.
He has the option to attend Duke if he doesn’t get what he wants in the way of a bonus, but if he’s a Top 40-ish pick, he’s probably going to sign. I wouldn’t take him at No. 20, but if he’s there at 32 or 36, that’d be pretty good value for a guy with this much boom (and bust) potential.