Cleveland Indians 2017 top prospects: No. 10, Will Benson

Credit: Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports
Credit: Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports /

Fresh off being drafted 14th overall, outfielder Will Benson debuts at number 10 on our Cleveland Indians 2017 top prospect countdown.

Who is Will Benson?

Will Benson makes his Cleveland Indians prospect list debut after being selected in the first round (14th overall) in the 2016 June draft. Just 17 when he was drafted, he signed a week later for $2.5 million, turning down a commitment to play at Duke University.

The Atlanta, Georgia native bats from the left-side and has a very athletic 6-foot-5 frame. Benson was considered an outfielder/first baseman coming out of high school but played exclusively right field with the Tribe’s Rookie Affiliate this past summer.

Strengths and Weaknesses

Benson was a small surprise at No. 14 overall for the Indians this past summer, but it wasn’t for his lack of athleticism. For as tall as he is (some reports have him at 6-foot-6 even), he has a rare combination of speed and agility.  Had he not signed with the Indians, Benson planned on not only playing baseball for the Duke Blue Devils but walking onto their basketball team (he was a high school All-State honorable mention in basketball).

Benson struggled somewhat in his transition to pro ball, hitting just .209 in 44 games. He also struck out nearly one-third of the time (32.6 percent). When Benson did hit the ball, though, he hit it with authority.

He posted a stout .215 ISO (isolated power) and of his 33 hits, 19 went for extra-bases, including six home runs. He also posted a solid .321 on-base percentage thanks to his 12 percent walk rate. He will likely always have some swing and miss in his game but he has elite bat speed, which should lead to enough power to make up for it.

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Defensively, Benson was touted as a first baseman who could play outfield by most coming out of high school. He was considered one of the best first basemen in the draft, but the Cleveland Indians saw his athleticism and speed and are giving him every chance to stick in the outfield.

His 6.6 60-speed should allow him to get to balls even if his range isn’t the greatest, especially if in a corner outfield spot. He also has a very solid arm, which should allow him to stick in right field versus left field, though he could play either.

Where does he go from here?

Being a first-round pick brought tons of expectations down on Will Benson, which can be unfair for a kid that just graduated high school and became old enough to vote. He looked very good in Arizona though, and the Indians could send him to Class-A Lake County to begin the season. He’d begin the year as just an 18-year-old in full-season ball, which is somewhat aggressive but Benson has the smarts and athleticism to succeed.

Benson has drawn comparisons to Chicago Cubs outfielder, and former Atlanta Brave, Jason Heyward. It’s not a truly fair comparison to make of a teenager, but both players were taken 14th overall out of Atlanta high schools and both were big athletic freaks. Benson doesn’t have the defensive skill Heyward has but could hit for even more power. The swing-and-miss tendency is a legit concern with Benson as well, and it could end up keeping him from becoming a star.

That said, the power/speed combo Benson shows off is more than enough for one to dream on. He won’t see Cleveland anytime soon and the Indians can take their time with Benson, allowing him to work on his hit tool.

Next: Indians 2017 Top 30 Prospects: No. 11, Juan Hillman

His defense will also likely keep him from ever being a true “five-tool” player, but he could be the most exciting teenage prospect the Tribe has had since Grady Sizemore with the potential to become a 30 home runs/30 stolen base guy if everything clicks.