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Twins Outfield: Depth Chart Discussions


Last year, the Twins tied for 17th last year in wOBA from their outfield. Over the winter, they said goodbye to 1,211 plate appearances of Denard Span & Ben Revere — traded to the Nationals & Phillies, respectively — and imported no one to replace them. So as you can imagine, there’s a lot of work to be done here.Let’s start with the one constant from the group, Josh Willingham. The former Marlin, National, & Athletic had a career year in his Minnesota debut, setting career highs in homers (35), RBI (110), and wOBA (.380). Despite the fact that he’s headed into his age-34 season, Willingham is a decent bet to put up another solid year, because it’s not like he had some wildly unsustainable rates holding up his 2012; he’s actually been one of the more consistent players around dating back to 2006. His BABIP of .287 was actually identical to what it was with Oakland in 2011, and his batted ball rates were all largely around his career norms. The one big change is that his HR/FB rate shot to 21.2% when it had never been above 17.5%, but that can be pretty easily attributed to playing in Target Field; he’s a dead-pull power hitter, and his home park is pretty friendly to righty power. I would never suggest that you can “count on” a guy like Willingham repeating a year like that at his age, but there’s not much here to suggest that it was a completely fluke season, and so he’s worth owning.

Now that Span & Revere have moved on, center field is a giant question mark. Aaron Hicks is next in line, and he’s having a huge spring so far. The organization would love for the 2008 first rounder to claim the job, though it’s been a long, slow ride through the minors for him — he’s yet to play above Double-A, which he only reached for the first time last season. Hicks, Marc Hulet’s #3 Twins prospect, is loaded with tools, but has had difficulty turning that into actual on-field production. He has plus speed — some think he could swipe 30 bags a year in the bigs — and he hit double digits in both triples and homers for the first time in Double-A. While it seems more likely than not that he’ll win the center field job, it’s not yet guaranteed, and that makes his value potentially on the date of your draft, because his status remains uncertain. He might very well begin the season in Triple-A, and even if he doesn’t, initial difficulty acclimating to the bigs isn’t unexpected. While Hicks has good plate discipline, his main fantasy value would be with his legs, so if he’s not getting on base, he’s not helping. Watch this spring battle closely, but he might be best used as a waiver wire pickup if he’s in the bigs and showing life, for those in keeper leagues.

If Hicks doesn’t win the job, Darin Mastroianni & Joe Benson are the other horses in the mix. Mastroianni was a February waiver claim by Minnesota from Toronto last spring, and was surprisingly valuable — stealing 22 bases despite getting to the plate only 186 times. He’d stolen at least 30 bases in each of his previous four minor league seasons, with a high of 70 in 2009, so it’s easy to see where his value comes from. He’s almost entirely a one-category player — maybe, perhaps, helping out in runs if he gets to bat ahead of Joe Mauer, Justin Morneau, & Willingham — but for a player with little name value even for those who can spell it, he’s potentially a cheap source of steals in AL-only leagues. If Hicks doesn’t win the job, then perhaps, he’s even more useful than that.

As for Benson, it wasn’t all that long ago that he was considered a pretty good prospect, especially when he was hitting .259/.343/.538 with 27 homers and 19 steals in 2010, mostly in Double-A. That helped him get his first taste of the bigs in 2011, but after a 2012 marred by wrist surgery and a .202/.288/.336 line across four minor-league levels, Benson’s star has dimmed considerably. If given a full season of play, ZiPS thinks he could get to double figures in steals and homers (albeit with a .287 OBP), but considering the time invested in Hicks and the nice debut of Mastroianni, it’s difficult to see Benson winning the job or being fantasy relevant even if he does.

Finishing off the outfield, Chris Parmelee was the first Minnesota pick way back in 2006 and has had an even more glacial ascent than Hicks, not spending his first full season above A-ball until 2011. If you know him at all — a leap of faith, to be sure — it’s due to his red-hot 2011 debut, in which he hit .355/.443/.592 in 88 late season plate appearances at first base while Morneau was sidelined. That earned him a nearly full-time role to start 2012, but he flopped badly, hitting only .179 when he was demoted in mid-May and doing little in two subsequent promotions. Parmelee at least tore up Triple-A when he was there — .338.457/.645 with 17 homers in 282 plate appearances, and he’s now expected to be the everyday right fielder. He sure looks like he can crush the ball, and at 25 there’s still hope, but considering he never even got to 20 homers in a season in the minors — and, as discussed above, considering he’s a lefty hitter in Target Field — it’s difficult to see him being a fantasy starter outside of AL-only leagues. If he fails, either Benson or Mastroianni could see time here as well, at least until Oswaldo Arcia is potentially ready in 2014.