Monday, May 27, 2013

Joe Benson, failed prospect

Joe Benson during spring training this year, when he
was one of three contenders for the Twins center field job.
Baseball is a difficult sport to master. High draft picks in the other major team sports routinely step immediately into starting lineups; in baseball they universally spend time, often years, in the minor leagues honing their skills.

And some of them, a lot of them, never make it.

That Joe Benson was a highly regarded prospect is obvious; he was the Twins second-round draft pick in 2006 (Chris Parmelee was their first-rounder), and he twice cracked Baseball America's Top 100 prospects, albeit barely (No. 100 in 2011, No. 99 in 2012). 

After his September 2011 callup, it seemed just a matter of time before he became a fixture in the Twins outfield.

Last weekend, the Twins needed a spot on the 40-man roster so they could activate P.J. Walters to make Saturday's start. They got that spot by waiving Benson, who was claimed by the Texas Rangers. 

Benson almost cleared waivers; Texas was the next-to-last team in the progression. Only St. Louis didn't have the opportunity to claim Benson.

Benson's 25 now, and he still possesses the athletic gifts that made him a high draft pick. But he's made almost no progress in the last couple seasons turning his speed and strength into usable baseball skills.

He left Rochester, the Twins' Triple A affiliate, with a slash line of .192/.256/.285; this follows an injury-plagued 2011 in which he combined at four levels for .202/.288/.336. This season he had 10 walks and 51 strikeouts in 165 plate appearances.

The Rangers shipped him down a level, to the Double A Frisco Roughriders of the Texas League, and he hit a home run Sunday in his first game there. He also struck out once. 

He's still young enough to find the ballplayer in the talent. But he has a long way to go, and it was increasingly obvious that it wasn't going to happen with the Twins. I don't blame them for pulling the plug.


  1. What I don't understand is if you saw him as a non-prospect, why wouldn't he be a good 5th outfielder? +d, +speed, + pop as a guy who can pinch hit? He's gotta be better than Wilkin as the 5th OF'er?

  2. I keep hoping that we'll cut Butera loose. If we have Mauer, Doumit, and Herrmann (even Escobar in an emergency) ahead of him. All these guys are better hitters than Butera. While I was frustrated by Benson's struggles, he still had some upside, while Butera is a good-field, no-hit catcher, who is more easily replaced.