Leading up to the beginning of spring training this season, one of the biggest talkers throughout the Minnesota Twins organization is who would win the starting centerfield job from the trio of Aaron Hicks, Joe Benson or Darin Mastroianni. With Hicks off to a great start and Mastrionianni putting up solid numbers as well, Benson has fallen behind the pack during the first few games of spring training. It is too soon to give up on Benson as a viable option in the Twins’ outfield. If Benson were to turn his spring around, is it possible that the Twins could consider playing both Hicks and Benson as starters in their outfield?
Benson—at times—flashes some of the best raw power and tools that the Twins have in their organization, but the problem seems to be consistency with him. He has the ability to be a solid big league contributor with the Twins based off his pure athleticism, but a lack of consistent contact has been the major deterrent in his ability to see consistent playing time. If he cannot seem to figure out his problems with making contact, then the idea of playing two centerfielders at once would boil down to Hicks and Mastrioianni with Benson likely being waived.
Hicks has solidified himself as the best option for the Twins in centerfield this season and in the foreseeable future with his play thus far this spring. He has a .318 batting average in 22 at-bats with one HR and six RBI in six games entering play today. His energy, speed and power at the top of the Twins’ batting order has been a source of optimism for the team heading into the season. Hicks—without a doubt—is the most talented of the trio fighting for the opening day start in center, but one must wonder if the Twins would opt to send him back to the minors to preserve additional years of arbitration eligibility. This would be a boneheaded move in my opinion and it would cost the Twins their most talented outfielder for the early part of the season. The team must show confidence in the youngster and give him the attention and time that is necessary for him to adjust to life in the majors.
Mastrioianni is a solid player to have on a big league roster, but his value is best served as a fourth outfielder on this team. With Benson struggling and Chris Parmelee currently entrenched in rightfield, the possibility of Mastrioianni playing at the same time with Hicks is very small. The only reason I would suggest that Benson and Hicks could play at the same time is because both would provide a better defensive unit than a Hicks/Parmelee combination and Josh Willingham manning the other corner outfield position. Mastrioianni would also provide good defense if paired with Hicks, but he wouldn’t offer the offensive upside that Benson would in terms of power.
There is little doubt that Parmelee deserves to be an everyday player for the Twins and must be in the lineup as much as possible. Under the Benson and Hicks proposed scenario, I figured Parmelee getting time as the designated hitter with the Twins and forcing Ryan Doumit into a reserve role. Parmelee’s strength is in his bat, not his glove at the moment. Keep in mind he is learning a new position in rightfield after spending all his time as a first basemen in the minors.
The proposed plan of Benson and Hicks starting together in the outfield would provide the Twins with youth, speed and defense behind a pitching staff that may give up its fair share of hits. The problem lies with Benson’s inability to figure out how to make consistent contact and earn himself a job as a big league player. Unfortunately for Benson, the clock is about to strike midnight on his career and it is now or never for him to figure it out. It is early in spring training but if a Benson/Hicks outfield is to come to fruition, Benson must start to pull his weight.