There was one outfielder to watch in Salem last year; that is until Andrew Benintendi moved on to Portland, and then Boston. There were other outfielders. We just didn’t notice them.
In Benintendi’s shadow was Danny Mars, a slight 6-foot, 195-pound outfielder.
“Good player,” Benintendi said the other day from Fenway. “Hits well from both sides of the plate and plays good defense. Good teammate, too; someone I connected with.”
While Benintendi was in Salem, he roomed with Mars. At the ballpark, Mars was observant of Benintendi – “probably the most beautiful swing I’ve ever seen” – as well as teammates Yoan Moncada and Mauricio Dubon.
“Playing with those guys, you learn a lot,” Mars said. “It was a great experience. I feel I got a lot better from the first half to the second half last year – and a lot was from just watching them.”
Indeed, Mars batted .264/.686 OPS the first half, and .331/.844 the second half. He was invited to the Arizona Fall League, and then promoted to Portland this season.
Heading into Tuesday night’s game, Mars was batting .455/1.247 (10 for 22).
“He has been aggressive at the plate,” Sea Dogs Manager Carlos Febles said. “He has a good approach, hitting what the pitchers will give him.”
Mars can play every outfield position. He covers ground and showcases an accurate arm.
Solid, but not flashy, Mars isn’t listed on any prospect rankings. He hit two home runs in Salem last year. He already has one in Portland, but is not expecting to swing for the fences.
“When I make it my goal, I usually fail,” Mars said. “Power-hitting isn’t really my game. Getting on base and putting pressure on the defense (is) … just trying to make contact … if one goes out of the park, that’s fine.”
Speed helps, which accounted for Mars’ 18 doubles and 10 triples (and 31 stolen bases) last year. While watching the big-name prospects may have helped Mars, he also adjusted to the grind of a full pro season in Salem.
Mars, 23, was drafted in 2014, out of Chipola College, a two-year school near Tallahassee, Florida. He played 54 pro games that year and then missed much of 2015 with a wrist injury.
“Last year was my first season playing every day, learning about myself and my routine,” he said.
If Mars wants to watch Benintendi now, it will be on TV, along with Jackie Bradley Jr., and Mookie Betts – three young outfielders expected to patrol Fenway for years. That doesn’t seem to make room for an up-and-coming outfielder in the Red Sox organization.
“They’re obviously really good players,” Mars said. “It’s something you can’t control. The more you think about what you can’t control, the more stress you put on yourself.”
IN PAWTUCKET, lefty Brian Johnson got the call to pitch (Tuesday night) for Boston, while Henry Owens awaits his next start for the PawSox. Owens pitched last Friday for Pawtucket, so he would not have been ready for Tuesday night. And, likely, Boston wants Owens to continue to work on his command. It’s getting there. Owens’ ERA in two starts is 0.82. He has struck out 12 and walked six in 11 innings.
IN PORTLAND, Rafael Devers seems to have adjusted to Double-A pitching. He’s batting .351/.892 … Outfielder Aneury Tavarez is batting .342/.856. He should be in Triple-A, but likely won’t go up until he’s assured enough playing time.
IN SALEM, right-hander Travis Lakins is 2-0 with a 1.65 ERA and 21 strikeouts/three walks in 1611/3 innings. This is his second stint in Salem. He made 18 starts last year before a stress fracture ended his season … First baseman Josh Ockimey is hitting .429/1.152. Ockimey, 21, was ranked Boston’s 10th best prospect by Baseball America. He batted only .226 in Greenville last year.
IN GREENVILLE, the question concerns third baseman Bobby Dalbec. Dalbec, 21, tore up Lowell last year (.386) after he was drafted in the fourth round. The Red Sox usually push their prospects, but sent Dalbec to Greenville. He’s batting .325/.838.