Will Benson is getting the call to the majors. The 24-year-old will be making his MLB debut tonight (though he’s not in the starting lineup) as the Guardians take on the Diamondbacks.
Benson, a former first-round pick out of Westminster High School in Alabama, slashed a .278/.426/.522 line with the Triple-A Columbus Clippers this season, hitting 17 home runs along the way to finally getting the call.
While he’s always had most of the tools as a 6-foot-5 outfielder with a massive arm and power potential, he flowed up and down top prospects lists as contact issues throughout his minor-league career left some wondering if he’d ever even make it to the majors. Strikeout issues were aplenty, which led to him repeating his Single-A season in 2018-2019 and peaking with a 39.3% whiff rate in limited Triple-A action last year. His struggles last season led to him being left off of FanGraphs top 48 Guardians prospects and MLB Pipeline’s top 30 prospects prior to the season.
An outfielder through every level of the minors, Benson recently started getting work at first base — presumably because the Guardians could use a big bat there. He played 24.2 innings at first for the Clippers, with two assists and no errors in three games.
Benson replaces Alex Call on the active roster, a right-handed outfielder who has been optioned to make room on the 25-man roster. As for the 40-man roster — Benson was left exposed to the Rule 5 Draft that never happened in December and had to be added today — Anthony Gose has been added to the injured list. Gose hasn’t pitched since July 2 with a triceps injury and is eligible to return on Sept. 1.
It seems like Benson has been around forever, seeing as he was drafted as an 17-year-old by the Guardians in 2016. He joins a rapidly growing list of players from that draft to make it to the majors — most recently Nolan Jones (drafted in the second round, 55th overall). Shane Bieber (122nd overall), Aaron Civale (92nd overall), and Zach Plesac (362nd overall) all came from the 2016 class as well, and Connor Capel (152nd overall) recently debuted with the St. Louis Cardinals. Tanner Tully (782nd overall) reached the majors too, but was DFA’d and brought back to Triple-A earlier this year.
Should you ever doubt Benson’s dedication to baseball, and specifically Cleveland baseball, never forget that he turned down an offer at Duke to join Cleveland back in 2016 and within days was laying out his plans for how he plans to impact baseball and help young kids fall in love with the sport.