Monday, November 30, 2015

The Twins Sign a Centerfielder

After the Twins traded Aaron Hicks to the New York Yankees for JR Murphy, there was an assumption that Byron Buxton was de facto handed the Centerfield job to start the season.  For the ones who have seen Buxton's close personal battles with breaking balls, this was not a welcome sign.   Additionally, Eddie Rosario, has played Centerfield for most of his career, and there was some talk that Danny Santana, who has no business playing the OF, might be tested as a potential backup, or even starter, in case Byron Buxton is still swatting at curveballs in the dirt as if the were the State Bird of Minnesota.

Today, thankfully, the Twins took one step in amending those crazy thoughts, by signing Joe Benson to minor league deal.  Yes, that Joe Benson, the Twins' second round draft pick in 2006, who put up a .259/.343/.538 slash line with 27 HRs and 19 SBs in 2010 between New Britain and Fort Myers and exclamated it with great body defying defense in the Centerfield.  In 2011 he was hitting .285/.388/.495  in June in New Britain with 16 HRs and 13 SBs, when he had a left knee surgery (meniscus) and was not the same, even though he was awarded with a September callup to the Twins.  In 2012 he broke his hamate (wrist) in May, which he surgically repaired and had an additional surgery in August, to clean up debris from his previous surgery.   After that he went downhill with the bat.   I saw him in 2013 play for Rochester and he was not the same guy.  You can read that here, along with a very characteristic picture of him.  That season he fought additional soreness to that left wrist and was sidelined for a month and a half with a pulled groin.

Benson was signed with Miami before the 2014 season where he put a respectable .264/.364/.410, 10 HRs and 15 SB in 124 games, and more importantly finished his season healthy.   In 2015 he signed with the Braves were he was released after 41 games in AAA Gwinnett where he hit .246/.346/.331.  After 5 games in the Independent  Leagues, he was picked up by the Mets who had him be Binghamton's (AA) starting Centerfielder.  He hit .250/.355/.380 in 54 games and made plays like this:


Benson is a no-risk/high reward signing and a potential great story to watch while he will be fighting for a job with the Twins in Spring Training of 2016.   He needs to relax and have fun out there again, like he did in 2010 and 2011, instead of pressing himself to perform at his high level of expectations and get disappointed.  That catch up there made a couple of months ago, makes me think that he can do it and finally the Twins' fans will see what made him twice a top 100 baseball prospect.


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