Watching the top of the 9th inning of the Twins-Yankees game yesterday afternoon, I saw the crowd of over 40,000 rise to their feet and cheer. Say what you will about Yankees' fans, but they do know their baseball history and they have a respect for the game. I assumed that some sort of graphic had flashed on the scoreboard noting that Ben Revere had passed Luis Rivas for the most stolen bases by a Twins rookie, and that the crowd just had responded accordingly. I was wrong. It turned out that some Rivera fellow had something else going on yesterday, and the fans were applauding that.
Seriously, however, it was impressive that Revere passed the formerly-speedy Luis Rivas for this title. As NoDak Twins Fan noted today, Rivas played in 153 games and stole 31 bases, while Revere equalled -- then immediately surpassed -- that number in only 107 games. So where exactly do we go with Revere for next year? Should he get half a season in AAA to work on hitting, drawing walks and his throwing arm (assuming Span and others are healthy)? Should he be a 4th outfielder? Just a pinch runner and defensive replacement?
If you read this blog with any degree of regularity, then it's of no surprise to you that I think Ben Revere eventually will be better than just a 4th outfielder. Sure, his .257/.306/.292 line is not where it needs to be for him to hit leadoff, or even for him to be a productive offensive player on a team that should be competing for the playoffs every year. But it is a start, and there is room for improvement. I have not been overly impressed with Revere's bunting ability. He could easily add 10 or 15 points to his batting average, and to his on-base percentage, by becoming a more proficient bunter. Even when unsuccessful in their attempt for a clean base hit, good bunters also force errors by forcing infielders to make uncomfortable plays and quick throws. Could Revere, only 23, be taught to hit the ball a little harder to the gaps and down the line? I'm sure. Could he pick up something by playing alongside a healthy Denard Span, who has learned to become a good leadoff hitter by taking long at-bats and walking at a decent rate? I'm sure.
We know Revere's other weakness is his throwing arm. I have no idea whether that can be improved upon, or whether it will always be that bad. If his offensive skills can increase, however, the arm becomes comparatively less of a liability, especially if Revere plays left field, assuming, again, that Span is healthy in 2012. In any event, Revere right now is a better option for the Twins than Jason Repko. Repko's 2011 line is .226/.270/.286. Even though Repko has 2 home runs, his slugging percentage is still lower than Revere's. And Repko, though not slow, does not possess Revere's great speed. If the choice next year is between Repko and Revere for the 4th outfielder position, hands down it must go to Revere. He is still a prospect with the tools, and time, to become a better player. What we've seen from Repko is what we will get for the rest of his career: there are no other tools to teach Jason Repko. Why spend more money for Repko when you get a better player (minus the arm) in Revere?
I'd like to see the Twins spend some money in the free agent market this winter. Middle infield (surprise!), the starting rotation, and the bullpen all need to be addressed. A 2012 outfield with Revere playing left field and Span in center will not be the most offensively productive outfield in MLB, but it will track down baseballs at an alarming rate. Having Revere for just over $400,000 will free up other money that could keep one of either Cuddyer or Kubel, or that could be used to replace one of those players. Revere is an option as a starting outfielder in 2012, and at the very least, is a must as a 4th outfielder next year. It will be interesting to see the direction in which the front office goes this winter.