The Runner Sports

Astros On The Farm: Michigan RF Carmen Benedetti, And His Unlikely 70s-Era Houston OF Mentor

“What’s in a name?” In some cases, a lot of letters. The Houston Astros chose a man of many letters from Michigan in the 12th round of the 2016 draft, Carmen Benedetti, known in Twitterland as @Carmatron32, from which we can sense, at the very least, a penchant for massive chili dogs, if not a yen for Tums.

Not to be confused with Boston Red Sox rookie phenom, Andrew Benintendi, or legendary singer, Anthony Benedetto (Tony Bennett), the Houston Astros apparently made a deal that Carmen Benedetti couldn’t refuse. This, after the 6’2″, 225-pound Benedetti put up Wolverine numbers the Astros couldn’t ignore.

He’s Gotta Be Him

Benedetti grew up a long toss from the Canadian border and Lake St. Clair, in Grosse Pointe, Michigan. Mostly a soccer rat as a kid, he largely ignored baseball until just before attending Grosse Pointe South High School, where he was an honor roll student and a Detroit Tigers fan. He proudly owns South’s single-season records for batting average (.557), hits (54), RBIs (49), and doubles (17). He was named All-State first team selection three times, and hit .500 with 6 home runs and 33 RBIs in 2013, his senior season.

It didn’t take a lot for him to decide on the hour-long drive west to the University of Michigan. He was a member of the Big Ten All-Freshman Team in 2014, and was named to the John Olerud Two-Way Player of the Year Watch List his sophomore season, in which he hit .352 with 25 doubles, two triples, five home runs, and 71 RBIs to go along with a .541 slugging percentage and a .418 on-base percentage.

The left-handed hitter’s star continued to ascend in his junior season, as he gathered 18 multi-hit games with eight multi-RBI outings while making 16 relief appearances, totaling 14.2 innings.

Benedetti finished his Michigan career with a .323/.410/.485/.895 line in 165 games.

The Rainbow Connection 

Receiving a $100,000 bonus for signing, Houston assigned Benedetti to the Class A Short Season Tri-City ValleyCats in the New York-Penn League for the ’16 season, where he put together a .309 BA in 165 ABs. Six doubles and a homer went with his 22 runs scored and 19 driven in, with an OBP of .366 hinting that his walk total of 15 against a bloated strikeout total of 39 needs to improve.

While with Tri-City, Carmen met an instructor in the Astros organization with whom he had plenty in common, according to an October 19, 2016, article on mgoblue.com. It was fellow right fielder Leon Roberts, a 10-year major league veteran who spent two seasons in an orange rainbow Astros jersey in 1976 and ’77.

Roberts led the University of Michigan with a .367 batting average in 1972, the same year the Detroit Tigers selected him in the 10th round of the amateur draft.

Benedetti led the Wolverines by batting .352 in 2015, before his 12th-round selection by Houston.

The two hitters connected last summer with the ValleyCats.

“Leon Roberts told me he played for (longtime Michigan coach) Moby Benedict (now 82),” Benedetti said recently, “and he also played football at Michigan. He was the Astros’ roving outfield instructor, and so I got to pick his brain and talk a whole lot.

“Talk about a guy who is old school, which I like, and he simplifies everything for you. It was awesome. He’s been a hitting coach and instructor through baseball for many years, and, really, forever.”

Roberts, who replaced Hall of Famer Al Kaline in right field for the 1975 Tigers, and was traded by the Toronto Blue Jays to the Kansas City Royals for Cecil Fielder in 1983, is 65. Roberts batted .301 (sixth in the American League) with 22 homers and 92 RBIs in 1978 for the Seattle Mariners in his top season, immediately following his Houston tenure.

Benedetti said he’d struggled for two games, but Roberts spotted something delaying his swing and suggested an adjustment.

“It was something with my hand positioning,” said Benedetti. “I was bringing my hands too far up, and wasn’t able to get to certain balls. He said, ‘You don’t have to be as exaggerated. Just hold your hands back a little bit.’

“And it was, ‘Boom.’ Every ball I hit was square. I got slow to the ball, calm to the ball. In the next two games, I had five hits. The guy knows his stuff, and it was really cool getting to know him, especially him being a Wolverine, and having that connection.”

Probably Benedetti’s most impressive 2016 statistic as a left-handed hitter was batting .304 against lefty pitchers and .311 against right-handers while at Tri-City.

“I Wanna Be Around”

Benedetti’s walk to strikeout ratio has improved markedly, so far, this year in his stint with the Astros’ full season Class A Quad Cities River Bandits of the Midwest League. In 215 plate appearances, he’s walked five more times than he’s whiffed (38-33), contributing to a helium-filled .439 OBP. His .322 batting average looks extra good when put up against his .916 OPS.

Benedetti spent the last two weeks of June on the disabled list, but returned with a vengeance, and an understanding of what it takes to regain one’s rhythm: “Even not playing, I was working on getting timing with pitchers. I was making sure I wasn’t out of sync when I came back,” offered the 22-year-old in early July. In his third game after returning from the DL, Benedetti collected a career-high five hits and 2 RBIs as the River Bandits topped the Burlington (IA) Bees (Angels), 8-6, July 3. He created more fireworks, batting second as a DH, by going 4-for-5, with 4 runs batted in and 2 scored, in a 13-3 mauling of the Kane County Cougars (D-backs) just three days later.

Carmen Benedetti’s Organizational Impact

During the walk-up to the trade deadline (and with an eye toward an MLB debut of around 2019), a player like Benedetti might make it easier for GM Jeff Luhnow to part with, say, a Derek Fisher (Houston’s MLB-ready left-handed hitting OF prospect) in exchange for a bullpen add (or the oft-rumored starter).

Related: Derek Fisher Represents Fresno and the PCL in 2017 AAA All-Star Game

Hardly fleet afoot, and in need of defensive refinement, Benedetti possesses a skilled bat from the left side, and there appears to be plenty of room in that 225-pound body to pack on some muscle for projecting bigger power numbers.

You Talkin’ to Me?

By the way, if you run into Carmen on the street, ask him to perform his hidden talent. Then, watch his ears.

Related: Astros Catching Prospect, Jake Rogers, Discovers Bat Goes Hand in Glove With His Defensive Skills

Benedetti Photo Credit: John Ginder, AstrosFuture.com

Brad Kyle

Brad Kyle

Brad Ramone with (L-R) Dee Dee, Johnny, and Joey Ramone, backstage at Houston's Liberty Hall, July, 1977.

Johnny, the Ramones' influential guitarist, who passed away in 2004 at 55, was an avid baseball and New York Yankees fan since childhood. He even once ranked baseball above rock'n'roll in a personal Top 10 List!

Like Johnny, my love for rock is only equaled by my love for baseball and my hometown Houston Astros, present and past!

At TRS, you'll get full Astros coverage, minor league peeks, player profiles, interviews, MLB historical perspective, and maybe a little rock'n'roll!
Brad Kyle
  • Astros Future

    Where did you get this photo from? Looks a lot like one of the photos that my writer took, though I see no credit.

  • Brad Kyle

    Merely an oversight, I assure you, Jimmy! I’ve corrected, and have credited John fittingly! Thanks for the eagle-eye!! Brad

    • Astros Future

      Thank you, Brad! Nice write-up on Carmen.