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  • What to Watch in 2012: Revere's Average

    When he was a prospect coming up through the minors, Ben Revere showed promise as a lightning-fast outfielder who could make things happen with his legs and with his glove. He was drafted in the first round in 2007, put himself on the map by leading the Midwest League with a .379 average in 2008 and graduated to the majors by the age of 22.

    Revere's projected value in the bigs is overstated by minor-league numbers that include a .326/.385/.408 slash line and 154 stolen bases over parts of five seasons. His ability to terrorize opponents on the base paths will only be an asset if he's getting on at a steady clip, and since he's not going to be able to do so by coaxing walks, his offensive value will largely hinge on his ability to hit for average.

    While rising through the Twins' system, Revere never walked in more than 8 percent of his plate appearances at any level. It's not hard to see why; he likes to swing and put the ball in play, and pitchers at higher levels aren't afraid to throw him strikes on three-ball counts since he's virtually incapable of hitting the ball over an outfielder's head. This was particularly evident last year, when Revere drew a free pass only 32 times in 622 plate appearances between Triple-A and the majors. For reference, that 5 percent walk rate is only one point higher than Delmon Young's career mark.

    It'd be nice if Revere walked a little more often, but he is who he is and that's not likely to change. Therefore, he'll need to hit his way on base in order to maximize his impact. That was never really a problem for Revere the prospect, who batted over .300 at every single minor-league stop, but last year he got a cold dose of reality as big-league pitchers held him to a .267 average.

    He had stretches where the hits would fall in, and he did finish the season strong, batting .394 with seven multi-hit efforts in his final 15 games. Revere gets out of the box and down the line fast enough that he can frequently leg out singles on weak contact. Still, batting over .300 in a major-league season is a tough task, and it's near impossible when you're beating the ball into the ground nearly 70 percent of the time and when those grounders often don't make it past the pitcher's mound.

    As a defensive specialist and No. 9 hitter, Revere doesn't carry lofty offensive expectations, but last year's .619 OPS simply won't cut it for a regular. There's not much reason to expect a significant boost in walks or extra-base hits, so the key to offensive success for the young outfielder will be an increase in hard grounders that skip past gloves and line drives that drop in front of outfielders, at the expense of those weak infield rollers.
    This article was originally published in blog: What to Watch in 2012: Revere's Average started by Nick Nelson
    Comments 3 Comments
    1. John Bonnes's Avatar
      John Bonnes -
      I think I'm destined to be the Revere-bobo in this group. I might as well get started. I'm not going to take issue with too much you say here. In particular I agree that he's going to need to hit for a pretty high average to be valuable.

      But I think sabrmetric scriptures miss the point on Revere because he's a unique kind of player. Yes, he has a low walk rate like Delmon Young - but that really doesn't tell us anything because he has that lower walk rate for a completely different reason. Young couldn't tell where the ball was going and didn't really care. Revere just plain puts the ball in play because pitchers (as you note) are not afraid to challenge him.

      That difference is obvious in strikeout rate which sabrists tend to downplay because it doesn't matter how an out is made. But it does indicate what type of player a guy is, and in Revere's case, that nearly 1:1 K:BB ratio he had in the minors bodes fairly well for hitting for a high average in the majors.

      It certainly did for Juan Pierre, who had an eerily similar skill set in the minors - high BA, low walks, low Ks, lots of SB. It's become fashionable to mock Pierre because of the size of the contract the Dodgers handed him, but it misses the point that he had a damn fine career: 11 seasons, 7500 plate appearances, a .296 career BA and some decent WAR and WPA while playing somewhere between average and exceptional defense. (He's also made $55M, so tip of the cap to that.)

      The counter argument is Joey Gathright, who also fits this mold. But he hit .263 in the majors and that difference was enough to make him a fourth outfielder. So I agree, the BA is going to be the important trait.

      Revere looks like he's between them, but his minor league numbers are a bit closer to Pierre than Gathright, and his defense is more promising, too. He still has his hurdles to overcome, but I'm more optimistic that he'll reach the finish line.
    1. Seth Stohs's Avatar
      Seth Stohs -
      When he was in the minors, I would get beat up in comments and such for saying that "if Revere has a career near what Juan Pierre has had, Twins fans should be thrilled.' I agree with that. I do think that his value offensively will primarily be determined by his BA. I hope he hits that ball on a line more often going forward, and I think he will, and that some of those line drives can find gaps because he could rack up some doubles and triples and eventually he'll get one of those inside-the-park HR that he tried to get last year!

      John's right about Pierre being very valuable... until he became a free agent. I say that for the obvious reason, that he got paid too much. But also because when the biggest attribute a player has is his speed, that's going to disappear pretty quickly after 30/after free agency. So he didn't cover quite as much ground in the OF, making his arm more of a liability. He didn't get quite as many infield hits. His SB% dropped. And now he's a Phillies backup OF where, at minimum (or so) wage, he'll provide a little bit of value.

      Revere gives the Twins a ton of value with his range in the OF and what he can make happen on the basepaths, assuming he gets on base more. He'll be an asset until a year or two into arbitration.
    1. Fanatic Jack's Avatar
      Fanatic Jack -
      I'm just simply shocked at all the hatred towards Ben Revere. Yet every blogger out there continues to talk about Aaron Hicks and Joe Benson like they are the next Kirby Puckett. Revere is just 23 years old and basically jumped up two levels of minor league baseball to fill in for the injured Denard Span last year. He hit .267/.310/.309 in 481 plate appearances in 117 games for the Twins in 2011. Revere had only 406 plate appearances at New Britain (AA) in 94 games and even less time 141 plate appearances in 32 games at Rochester (AAA). This is a total of 622 plate appearances in 126 games between New Britain and Rochester and that could be considered a very small sample size. I’m quite certain we have heard that phrase being thrown around by some bloggers!! The fact that Revere is criticized for hitting .267 after making it to the big show this early in his career is really amazing. Revere puts the ball in play,does not strikeout very much, and this is very encouraging for a guy who uses speed to his advantage.

      There is no doubt Revere needs to draw more walks, learn how to bunt, and find a way to hit the ball into the gap more often. However, singles are perfectly fine when you have a guy on base capable of turning it into a double or triple everytime he gets on base. Revere has the potential to steal 60-80 bases in a 162 game season. If he can figure out how to do these things better offensively he will be fine. The last thing is Revere is much more valuable playing in centerfield than in left or right. His defense saves the pitching staff about 8 runs a year because he runs down everything. The coaching staff is making a mistake putting him in left field and Span in center. His arm is even more terrible than anybody could have imagined, but he takes away extra base hits and runs down the ball with reckless abandon. Span is scared of the wall and after two concussions might play more tentative in 2012. Give Revere some time and a little credit for a damn fine rookie season.
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