Saturday, September 17, 2011

Contemplating Joe Benson

Joe Benson's nine major league hits (entering
Saturday's play) include five doubles and a triple,
giving him a slugging percentage of .552.
Joe Benson has started every game since getting his September callup. He started by going 0-for-11 in his first three games with the Twins. He entered Friday's game 5-for-25 (having, obviously, gone 5-for-14); on Friday he went 4-for-4 with a triple and a pair of doubles.

And suddenly he's hitting .310. Ah, the wonders of small sample sizes.

Athletically, he's prime meat: A right fielder's throwing arm with center field speed (Dan Gladden said during spring training that he thought Benson is faster than Ben Revere), he also has power.

Benson had trouble in the lower rungs of the farm system with pitch selection — few walks and lots of strikeouts. But this year he increased his walks, cut down on the strikeouts and raised his batting average. (Benson's minor league stats here).

But he was repeating Double A this year. Benson has a pattern of struggling initially with each step up the ladder. He opened 2010 at Double A, struggled, was returned to High A, then moved back up to New Britain.

It's that pattern that makes it unlikely that the Twins would plan on Benson for 2012. Skipping Triple A completely is plausible if the player is truly dominating Double A, but Benson's walk-to-strikeout rate isn't that good. It's passable, but not dominating.

And if Benson isn't ready for a regular outfield job in 2012, it becomes a lot trickier for the Twins to let both Michael Cuddyer and Jason Kubel leave as free agents this winter.

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