In early February the Cincinnati Reds traded for outfielder Will Benson. The 24-year-old had struggled in the big leagues, but had found a lot of success in 2022 in Triple-A where he posted a .948 OPS with 16 steals in 20 attempts.
Benson got out to a hot start in spring training before cooling off a bit, but he still hit well enough to earn a spot on the opening day roster. When the regular season began he was ice cold. Over the first two weeks of the season he went 1-20 with a walk and 12 strikeouts. Cincinnati optioned him back to Triple-A at that point.
For the first two weeks in Triple-A things didn’t get much better. He would go just 4-38 (.105) in 12 games through the end of the month. He struck out 21 times in 49 plate appearances, though he also walked 11 times. Benson wasn’t expanding the zone a lot in that stretch but he also couldn’t do much of anything in the strikezone during that time, either.
When May began things started to click for Benson in Triple-A. In the first game of the month he went 2-5 with a home run. Two days later he picked up another home run. Through May 19th he went 14-54. That’s a .259 average and while that isn’t something to write home about, it was a big step forward. In that same time frame he also walked 21 times and struck out just 13 times in 79 plate appearances. He was making significantly more contact, and he was starting to do damage, too – slugging .556 in that span.
Needing an outfielder, Cincinnati recalled him from Triple-A. Benson played in two games during that call up, going 0-5 with two strikeouts before being sent back to Louisville. He would go 2-6 with two doubles against Syracuse but an injury opened up a spot with the Reds and he was back on a plane the next day to join the team in Chicago. Benson has been with the team ever since. Over a little more than two weeks he has now played in 13 games and is hitting .361/.425/.500. In those 40 plate appearances since he’s walked four times and struck out just six times. More contact, more power, hitting well across the board.
The sample size in the big leagues is small here. But it also looks like nothing he’s ever done in the big leagues before, too. In 2022 he had three walks and 19 strikeouts in 61 plate appearances with Cleveland. In his first go-around with Cincinnati in April…. well, those numbers are above and were even worse. What he’s done since the start of May in Triple-A has now somewhat carried forward for a few weeks in the big leagues.
Benson has hit well in Triple-A before. In limited action he has not been able to carry that forward to the highest level prior to the last two weeks. Always an incredibly athletic player, are we seeing him figure things out against big leaguers in real time? We’re probably not going to know for sure for a while, but right now he’s doing things he’s never done before in the big leagues.