Thursday, February 28, 2013

Hicks, Mastroianni AND Benson?

I did a story about Brian Dinkelman that explained how he might make the major league roster. That is an extreme longshot, but I think its helpful to think through the question of how player's specific abilities may push them ahead of better overall players. In Dinkelman's case that is his ability to play both the infield and outfield.

So the question here is why might the Twins include all three of the players competing for the center field position on their opening day roster. The starting point for this is that Hicks has  to win the center field competition. If he doesn't, it is very unlikely Terry Ryan will let Gardenhire keep him on the major league bench. He needs to play every day.

Mastroianni is virtually guaranteed the fourth outfield spot if he doesn't win the starting center field position. He can play all three outfield positions, he is a great base runner and he hits enough to play every day for a stretch if needed. He is probably better suited to be the 4th outfielder than he is to start in center field.

Keeping Benson as a fifth outfielder is a lot more dicey. The real problem for Benson offensively is that he strikes out a lot and his batting average is not all that great. His strengths are his power and he has drawn a fair number of walks in the minor leagues, so his on-base-percentage has been better than his batting average might indicate.  However, Benson is also still only 25 years old, so he might be better off playing every day in the minor leagues and refining his hitting skills.

There are reports that Gardenhire wants some "pop" on the bench. If Benson shows he will make enough contact to use his power, he would give Gardy that. He also can play all three outfield positions with plus range and arm. And a late inning defense with Mastroianni and Benson replacing Willingham and Parmelee would give the Twins three center fielders in their outfield.

Its an unlikely choice. But its not an impossible one. Even with a third catcher, the Twins still have room for an extra infielder or extra outfielder.  If they decide to carry five outfielders its possible Hicks, Mastroianni and Benson will all be around for opening day.


Jim H said...

I think it is unlikely that all 3 make the opening day roster as well. Benson needs to play nearly everyday, just like Hicks. It is hard to see that happening with both on the roster. If the Twins were to make Willingham a nearly full time DH, then it might work. But I think they want to give Doumit more AB's than he would get as Mauer's backup.

I am not convinced that Hicks is really ready to play in the majors, but if he is close the Twins will likely go with him. Benson window of opportunity could get pretty small if Parmelee can play adequately in RF and Arcia shows he is ready for the big leagues sometime this year.

TT said...

I agree on Benson's window of opportunity. But, I am admittedly not all that high on Benson. I think he is a 4th outfielder. Solid defender with good arm and plus power. But won't hit often enough to play every day. If the Twins agree, then he needs to get major league experience more than he needs more repetitions at AAA.

Jim H said...

I don't know what to think about Benson. He has really put up better minor league numbers than Parmelee, but he hasn't shown the improvement Parmelee has at the upper levels. Benson's minor league numbers aren't that far off what Cuddyer did, as an example. But good minor league minors don't really guarantee major league success. Ask Restovich or Buck Buchannon.

What I think is Benson will likely eventually carve out a decent major league career. I don't think it will happen this year, and it may not happen with the Twins. I believe he will start, at least for a few years, although I can see why you consider him likely a 4th OF. Power, speed, and defense is not that common a combination, so he will get some chances.

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