Tuesday, March 2, 2010

The non-roster outfielders

Continuing my obsession with the 25th spot on the Twins roster — specifically my belief, as described in the Monday print column, that the Twins need a true outfielder on the bench more than they need a second infielder:

Jacque Jones is not the only non-roster outfielder in major league camp. (Major league camp includes the 40 players on the roster and selected players with minor-league contracts. Most of the minor leaguers are down the street in the minor league complex, or will be when they report.)

Also invited: Ben Revere, the Twins' 2007 first-round draft pick; Rene Tosoni, MVP of the 2009 Futures Game; Juan Portes, who hit .297 in Double-A last season; Brian Dinkleman, who has spent most of his minor league career playing second base but started seeing time in left field last season; and Chris Parmelee, first round pick in 2006. (Dinkleman and Portes are the two on the left in the above photo, along with Jason Kubel, Denard Span and Delmon Young.)

Parmelee is a slow power hitter, splits his time between first base and an outfield corner, and hasn't cracked Double-A yet. He's not a candidate to play center field.

Dinkleman played in Double A last season, but his limited outfield experience has been in a corner as well. (He appears to hit well enough to be a possible 2B down the road; that the Twins are testing him as an outfielder suggests that they're not thrilled with his defense. That he was left off the 40 this winter and wasn't taken by another organization suggests the same.) Not a candidate.

Portes has bounced from position to position — second base, third base, all three outfield spots — and it's unclear from this distance how adept he is at any of them. As a hitter, he profiles as a reserve outfielder — a singles and doubles hitter, good average but not a lot of power — but whether he's a guy they want to play much in center, I doubt the Twins know. That's probably why he got an invite, so the coaching staff can form a judgment on his suitability. He's got a chance to be an injury callup this year.

Revere gets more pub than the rest of this crew put together, partly because he was a surprise pick in 2007, partly because he threatened to hit .400 in low A ball in 2008 (he ended a .379). He's a shrimp (listed at 5-8, 166) and the consensus is that he's never going to hit for power. He had just 19 extra-base hits last season in high A ball, and while the Fort Myers park saps power, that's not much. Were this a year from now, I'd figure him to be the front-runner for the reserve job. But he hasn't seen Double-A yet, and he's not making the big-league roster this spring — or probably at all this year.

Tosoni looks like a bit of a tweener — maybe not enough power to be a regular in an outfield corner, maybe not fast enough to be a full-time center fielder — certainly not in a system with Denard Span, Revere, Joe Benson and Aaron Hicks. Sounds like a fourth outfielder type to me. Played all season at Double-A, with more playing time than Portes. Turns 24 in July. He's from Canada, and last year was his first season playing anything resembling a full schedule.

If they go with a fourth outfielder from the players now in camp, I rank the likelihood Jones, Tosoni, and nobody. Everybody on that list got something to prove, and spring training may not prove anything.

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