CLEVELAND, Ohio (WOIO) - If anybody was thinking of labeling former first round draft pick Will Benson a bust after a disappointing 2018 they have likely already changed their mind.
After dragging a .180 batting average through last season Benson has exploded. His average is up over 90 points (.278) and he is leading the Midwest League in homers (24), RBIs (45) and total bases (110). “It’s whatever I can do out there to help my team,” said the outfielder. “That’s the driving force behind everything.”
As a first-round pick in 2016 out of Atlanta’s Westminster high school, Benson was sent to rookie ball where he batted .209 in 44 games. He hit .238 the following year in Mahoning Valley, not great, but 58 points higher than his dismal 2018 season. The weight of being a first round pick burdened the young man. “I think I did a pretty lackluster job right off the bat. I put way too much pressure and stress on myself that should not have been there.”
After last year Benson was down, hungry for answers he turned to the tape. Watching his at-bats revealed things to him. “I found my approach was not where it needed to be. I saw pitches that I was swinging at that you’d look at and think ‘what are you doing?’”
Benson took that information to his coaches, and at the Indians offseason camps his coaches were on the same page as he was. They got busy, and the results paid off.
On April 18th the Captains played South Bend. Benson was a one-man wrecking crew. He slugged four home runs, one a grand slam, and drove in eight runs to power Lake County to a 12-6 win. Afterwards, Benson told MiLB.com “To look into the eyes of my teammates and see that they were amazed, that’s what made it, ‘Oh, this is legit.’ Most homers are cool, but this time, everyone’s faces were different. It was nice.”
So is 2019 so far. Benson made the All-Star team and a call up to Lynchburg cannot be far away. How long till he gets to Cleveland? 2021 is a reasonable target year as long he continues to develop.