Friday, February 22, 2013

Pop off the Bench

There is a report the Ron Gardenhire would like to have some "pop off the bench" this year. So who are some of the players in camp who might win a spot and provide some power as bench players? Here are the possibilities in approximate order of how likely they are to make the team:

Joe Benson

Benson is competing for the starting center field position, but if he doesn't win that he may still end up on the roster as a bench player. He has the defense to play anywhere in the outfield. As a hitter, he displayed good power in a couple seasons at New Britain. If he can make contact, he will hit a few out of the park. He would provide some pop on the bench. If Mastroianni wins the center field spot, Benson is probably the leading candidate for 4th outfielder. If Hicks is in center, Mastroianni is the 4th outfielder. In that case, Benson would have to make the team as a 5th outfielder. That is not impossible.

Mark Sobolewski

Sobolewski is a third baseman who is reported to be very good defensively. He had a bit of a break out last year by displaying some pop at AA, hitting 18 home runs and 17 doubles in 374 at bats. He would need to win a spot as a 5th infielder. If Plouffe remains somewhat defensively challenged at third, Sobolewski could be a late inning defensive replacement, in addition to providing some power on the bench.

Jeff Clement

Clement is an interesting character. The Twins drafted him as a catcher out of high school, but failed to sign him. He had a successful college career and was drafted in the first round by Seattle, despite some questions about his defense at catcher. Those questions were never answered and he has played exclusively at first base the last 3 seasons, with the exception of one start at catcher in 2010.  He hit 16 HR and 35 doubles last year in the International League.  If you hear the Twins are having him try catching, he might be a candidate for emergency catcher and hitter off the bench. But its hard to see how they carry him as a backup DH/1B.

Wilkin Ramirez

Ramirez hit 19 HR last year between AA and AAA. He does not play center field, so he is probably not a candidate for the 4th outfield spot. He would need to be the 5th outfielder on the roster.

Chris Colabello

Colabello hit 19 HR and 37 doubles last year at New Britain. He was picked up as a free agent signing out of an independent league. Like Clement, he appears to be exclusively a first baseman. He's also the same age as Clement and has not played above AA.

Oswaldo Arcia

There is almost no chance that the Terry Ryan would let Gardy keep Arcia on the bench, even if they decided he was ready to hit in the big leagues. If Arcia was to make the team, it would likely mean either Parmelee or Doumit were on the bench to provide room for Arcia to play every day.  

Waivers or Trade

There does not appear to be anyone else in camp that would provide any power off the bench. But its possible that as we get toward the end of spring training the Twins will make a trade or grab someone off waivers who can be a bench hitter. In many ways, this may be their best option. Hitting off the bench is something more suited to a veteran with major league experience. None of their current candidates fit that profile.

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