Last year the Pittsburgh Pirates drafted outfielder Justin Bencsko in the 20th round as a senior out of Villanova. In his senior year, Bencsko put up a .356/.445/.490 line, with 24 stolen bases. A big issue was that he had no power, and didn’t really start hitting until his senior year came along. After signing with the Pirates, Bencsko went to State College, where he put up a .188/.291/.275 line in 69 at-bats.
Bencsko returned to State College this year, where he got off to a great start, hitting for a .346/.469/.385 line in 26 at-bats. He still wasn’t showing much power, although he was putting up a nice average and on-base percentage, which isn’t a huge accomplishment for a 23 year old in the New York-Penn League. He carried his strong hitting over to the last week and a half of July, where he ran in to a slump, going 2-for-25 in his last eight games.
Bencsko was promoted to West Virginia yesterday, where he got off to a nice start, going 3-for-3 with a walk and two doubles. That matched his total doubles from State College this year. The most encouraging sign out of Bencsko this year has been his hitting skills. He’s a one tool guy, with that one tool being speed. He’s not just fast. He might be the fastest player in the system. The line between “speedy organizational player” and “legit prospect” really comes down to whether or not he can hit. He’s put up a nice average and on-base percentage so far, but it’s the lower levels, and he had a poor strikeout percentage (30.3%).
Bencsko’s speed gives him some value that you wouldn’t normally find in a 20th round pick. It doesn’t guarantee that he won’t just end up as an organizational player, but the speed does give him a shot to be better than that. His speed makes him a weapon on the bases, gives him good range in the outfield, to the point where he can play center field, and allows him to pick up extra hits by beating out throws. If he does make it to the majors, his ceiling would likely be a Nyjer Morgan type, and it’s more likely he’d end up as an Xavier Paul type bench player. For either to happen, he would have to improve his hitting skills, specifically working on his average, and cutting down on his strikeout rates.