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What now for Joe Benson?

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The Twins made a few more cuts today, which is common during these final days of Spring Training. Joe Benson was cut and that is very disappointing to me. Benson is a player that I have been excited about for many years and a player who was given the opportunity to win the open center field job, after the trades of Ben Revere and Denard Span. Benson was not impressive this Spring. I don't put a lot of stock into Spring Training stats, but a .151/.286/.283 line with 15 strikeouts in 63 plate appearances is not something that wins an open job. He flashed power, but it was rare, and he was never in a position to use his speed on the bases.

Beyond the unimpressive stats were a few miscues in the outfield and a general lack of "seizing the opportunity" that he was given. Benson's demotion to AAA means that he will be out of options after this season. If he remains on the 40-man roster through the year, he'll need to make the team next Spring, or risk being released from the organization that drafted him back in 2006. I know that I did not expect Benson to be in this situation, especially after his call-up back in September of 2011.

That September seems like a billion years ago. Benson's 2012 was injury-plagued, or really injury-nuked. He missed a lot of time, and when he played, he wasn't very special. However, his return to AAA could be exactly what he needs. Benson should not have been considered for the 4th outfielder position. While he isn't young, he is inexperienced, and he needs to play every day. In AAA, he will play every day, likely in center, and rack up at bats. He needs to work on the same thing he has always needed to work on: contact. He strikes out far too often, which really masks the fact that he has great power and speed.

I still hold out hope for Benson, but my hope is waning. I see Benson as a player that either isn't concentrating hard enough, or is concentrating too hard. I'm not close enough to know which side he's on. He makes mistakes in the field, although he is a good fielder. He strikes out a lot, and seems to swing a bit too hard at times. If concentration is an issue, it can be worked on. He might still be rusty, after a 2012 season when he spent much of his time trying to get healthy. If he can get into a rhythm at AAA, he might get called upon later in 2013.

I think this move pretty much cinches the Opening Day center field spot for Aaron Hicks. Unless the Twins really like Brandon Boggs, it would seem that Hicks will start in center and Mastroianni will be the 4th outfielder. Hicks will not be kept as a reserve, so he is the starter or he's joining Benson in AAA. I don't see that happening. I like Mastroianni in that 4th outfielder role and I am very excited to watch Hicks all year.

Getting back to Benson, all is not lost. He certainly has a long way to go, if he wants to get back into the Twins' long-term plans. He'll need to show that he can hit over .200 at AAA before he gets anywhere near Minnesota. He also will need to show that he can handle an outfield position, a task he certainly has the natural talent to accomplish. If Benson can basically do what everyone wanted him to do in 2012, things will be fine. If his 2013 season looks like his 2012 season, he may be with another team, come Spring 2014.

I wrote about Benson in more detail a few months ago. If you want to know why I am infatuated with what Benson could become, please take a look.

Comments

  1. Rosterman's Avatar
    Benson has to tear at AAA. The Twins still have to make a decision on Morneau, and this looks like the year they will make a decision, too, on Parmelee. The more I think about it, the Twins will make a qualifying offer on Morneau if he produces and Parmelee falters. Benson could be the right fielder if he goes on a tear at Rochester, of replace someone on the bench. The Twins still have him and control him. It is all up to Benson. First call if someone goes down with an injury! I picture Hicks getting the same chance Dozier did. If he falters, he'll have to struggle. If he really struggles, he may go back down for a stretch, but probably not until late season (i.e. Dozier). He needs to work harder than he has ever worked in his life, but his reward will be a major league job for many many seasons.
  2. YourHouseIsMyHouse's Avatar
    Benson had a huge opportunity in Spring Training and he completely blew it. Doesn't help that both of his competitors had incredible Marchs, but he could have at least made it close. This may have been his last chance, but like you say, he'll probably get another one next Spring. Unless the Twins let him leave via Rule 5. Although, that would likely require Benson turns in duplicate of last season (minus injury).
    Updated 03-22-2013 at 05:34 PM by YourHouseIsMyHouse
  3. Rick Niedermann's Avatar
    I just don't see enough talent with the bat to be an everyday player. At least not with the great group of kids coming up behind him. He's pretty much been passed by Arcia already. He might get a look as a 4th outfielder at some point during the season if injuries hit. If I'm the Twins I hope he does well enough in AAA, that he might be looked at as a platoon option with Parmelee in right if Parmelee struggles against lefties. His chances of making it with the Twins are pretty slim at this point though.
  4. Brad Swanson's Avatar
    I agree with basically everything that each of you have said. He faces a real uphill climb back into the Twins' plans. He is going to have to hit, and hit soon, in order to get called up. If Arcia hits like he always has, he might even get the first call, so long as a corner is open. Mastroianni might get the first shot at center, should Hicks have issues.
  5. beckmt's Avatar
    Benson needs to tear it up at AAA and that might not be enough if Arcia also tears up AAA. This is Benson's last shot with the Twins, so he could be traded as a throwin for some pitching(Houston perhaps).
  6. Seth Stohs's Avatar
    For those bashing Benson, how much was he able to do baseball activities throughout the entire offseason following his microfracture surgery? He wasn't able to do anything until late January. The Twins stood by his early struggles and he played well after that much more often. Giving up on him would be silly at this point. He was also injured all of last season. Yes, even when he was playing.
  7. YourHouseIsMyHouse's Avatar
    Quote Originally Posted by Seth Stohs
    For those bashing Benson, how much was he able to do baseball activities throughout the entire offseason following his microfracture surgery? He wasn't able to do anything until late January. The Twins stood by his early struggles and he played well after that much more often. Giving up on him would be silly at this point. He was also injured all of last season. Yes, even when he was playing.
    To be clear, he's getting old and the odds don't look very good for him. It's going to be tough for him to make the Twins outfield with Arcia and Hicks coming in at full force. Mastroianni also seems to be making himself important if you overlook potential. Willingham's contract will be up though and it'll be interesting to see how they handle it if he isn't traded.
  8. Brad Swanson's Avatar
    I hope my words weren't perceived as being overly critical. I still hold out quite a bit of hope for Benson. I see so much talent, it's really hard to ignore. That being said, it's hard not to think he has a long road to travel to get back to the team. The three OF starters seem to be pretty set and one of them would have to get hurt, traded or be ineffective, for a spot to even open up. Then, Mastroianni is there as well. I still hope Benson gets a shot this season, it just seems that a lot would have to change for him to get one.
  9. Jim H's Avatar
    At this point it is up to Benson. Willingham's and Parmelee's best position is DH. If Benson plays well at AAA, his chance will come. There is room for Arcia and Benson if they show that they deserve it. Even if the Twins decide to keep Morneau. The best case scenario for the Twins is if Willingham, Parmelee and Morneau all play well. Arcia and Benson play well at AAA and improve on their weak areas. At that point the Twins have all sorts of options. They could entertain offers on all 5. They could resign Morneau, trade Willingham or Parmelee. They could even trade Arcia or Benson if the offer is good enough and they are willing to put up with weaker outfield defense.

    I don't think Benson is out of chances. He will have to show he deserves more, but he is talented enough that he will likely get looks somewhere, even if the Twins give up on him.
  10. tellis205's Avatar
    I have been watching and hoping for Benson to do well for 5 years now ever since I saw him the 2nd year after they drafted him. You mentioned one important observation in your post. You don't know if he's concentrating enough or too much. Well, he's been quoted as admitting that he hasn't been focused enough in the past. And then this year he's probably been pressing too much. When I was down there last week, I noticed Benson was starting and didn't run out to stretch or get loose for about 10 minutes until after the other starters were out there down the left field line getting loose. Who knows why, it could have been a good reason. I do know that some of these guys, especially the ones who have much more ability than some of the others, sometimes spend a little too much time in the night life. I remember years ago when Justin Morneau, who hadn't been up for very long, was called into Mr. Gardenhire's office when they were in Seattle for a little talk about his full time committment to the club. Morneau listened and all the sudden began playing at a high level. All of these things are pure speculation. The Twins will not release Benson until he runs out of options, that much is a given. He has too much talent. It's all pretty much up to him how things go from here on out.
  11. Seth Stohs's Avatar
    Correct. No question the talent is still there. This spring was about getting back into some game action, and he did that. He's shown he's healthy, so as others have said, it is up to him. 25 is probably too old to come up and be a Hall of Famer. It's far from too old to mean he can't come up and be a very good player for awhile.
  12. stringer bell's Avatar
    Best wishes to Joe Benson, one of my favorites. I agree with Seth that this spring hasn't been a failure for Benson. He seemed a certainty for Rochester almost from the first exhibition game. He needs to thrive at Rochester in his last chance as a prospect. If he doesn't thrive, I think he goes from "prospect" to "suspect" and might bounce around the fringes of MLB.
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