Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Competition for 2013's Twins Youngest Player

Last year the youngest player who appeared with the Twins was Liam Hendricks, followed closely by Educardo Escobar. Both were 23 years old. Neither one, however, spent the entire year with the Twins. Alex Burnett was the youngest player who was on the roster the entire season. He turned 25 last July.

This spring there are five players competing for spots on the opening day roster who could be this year's youngest player. From youngest to oldest:

Aaron Hicks (Oct 2, 1989) will be 23 on opening day. If he wins the center field job, as seems likely, he will have jumped over AAA. For comparison, he's about five months younger than Ben Revere was last year at this point.

There are three players who will be 24 on opening day:

Liam Hendricks (Feb 10, 1989) Hendricks is again competing for a rotation spot. He won a spot out of spring training last year, but didn't hold it. Its not impossible the same thing will happen this year with Diamond starting the year on the DL.

Eduardo Escobar ( Jan 5, 1989) Escobar spent most of last year in the major leagues with the White Sox. The Twins sent him to AAA after acquiring him in the Liriano trade and he was called up again in September. He looks to have a good shot at sticking this spring, but that might depend on the Twins carrying two utility infielders.

Ryan Pressly (Dec 15, 1988) Pressly is a Rule 5 choice and has to stay on the roster or be sent back to the Red Sox. So far he looks like he has a chance to stick. But he will have to hold down a bullpen spot all year.

And there are two players who will be 25 on opening day, slightly older than Burnett was last year.

Joe Benson (Mar 5, 1988) Benson struggled last year. He has a chance to stick either as the starting center fielder or as an extra outfielder. More likely he starts the year at AAA.

Chris Parmelee (Feb 24, 1988) Parmelee is virtually guaranteed the right field position. Assuming he doesn't fail miserably and end up back in the minor leagues, he will be the youngest player if none of the other's make it.

How much difference does age make? A fair amount. Players usually reach full maturity around 27 or 28. Players who don't stick at 25 or 26 tend to be players whose best year just gets them over the hump into the big leagues. By then, they don't have much room for improvement.

Of course, being young doesn't guarantee improvement. Luis Rivas was the Twins regular second baseman at age 21 in 2001.  He was one of the youngest players on his team at each step through the system. But he he was back in the minors by 25 and only got a couple chances after that. His major league career was ending at an age when most players were just getting started.

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