Two-way talents like Michigan’s Jacob Cronenworth don’t come along very often college baseball. You’ll often see a transcendent hitter who dabbles with pitching or a top-notch pitcher who can pinch-hit or make a spot start here or there and handle himself in the field, but it’s really rare to see someone who can handle both things basically on a full-time basis and be among the best options on the team at both sides of the game.
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That’s what he did last year in hitting .338/.419/.494 with 6 home runs and 48 RBI and putting up a 3.67 ERA with 8 saves in a versatile role that had him both starting games and closing them at different points of the season.
Even if it were more common to see true two-way stars in the game, you certainly wouldn’t expect a program to be able to produce two in a row back-to-back, but that’s what the Wolverines have done with Cronenworth and now Carmen Benedetti.
It’s not even as if Benedetti has the potential to develop into the same level of player Cronenworth was. He very well might be that good both at the plate and on the mound right now. Last year, he led the team in hitting at .352, in slugging percentage at .541, in doubles with 25, and in RBI with 71. He also got on base at a .418 clip and had 5 home runs.
On the mound, he was nothing short of unhittable out of the bullpen. In 18 appearances, he had a 1.84 ERA and opposing batters hit just .085 against him. If you’re going to criticize anything, it’s that he was “just” a short reliever, as he threw 14.2 innings over those 18 appearances, but when you give up so few hits and strikeout 23 batters in those innings, it’s tough to argue with the effectiveness.
With a fastball that sits in the low-90s, Benedetti’s stuff plays up in this short relief role, so even if the amount of work doesn’t really change in 2016, we should expect him to man some high-leverage innings for the Wolverines in the season to come.