If you read Twins Fan From Afar, even from time to time, it's probably no secret to you that I like Ben Revere. I've written about him a few times. Back in September, I wrote some "final thoughts" on Revere. Among other things, I opined that, the weak arm notwithstanding, I thought Revere had a better ceiling than being a fourth outfielder. I promised in that post to leave Revere alone for a few months. Now that it's 2012, I think it's appropriate to talk a little bit more about this speedy, but flawed player. From the way the Twins roster is shaping up, and unless there is a further trade, it appears that Revere will be starting in left field for the Twins in 2012. So it looks like he'll get that chance in 2012 to prove whether he can be a viable, longterm starting MLB outfielder.
A week ago, John Bonnes at Twins Geek had a fantastic write-up comparing the Twins' 2011 left fielder, Delmon Young, to Ben Revere, both offensively and defensively. If you by chance haven't read it, I highly recommend it. Advanced stats are a wonderful thing, and they enable us to compare Revere and Young, two players that couldn't be more dissimilar. Young has (or should have) power, and seemed awful patrolling left field; Revere, conversely, has speed and great range, but of course lacks a major league arm, and has not yet showed the plate discipline that he demostrated at the minor league levels. The short version of Bonnes' post is that, using the basic Sabermetric stats Runs Created, which estimates the number of runs a player contributes to his team offensively, and Ultimate Zone Rating, a defensive stat that measures runs in comparison to an average defender, Revere is "worth" 70 total runs, and Young is worth 65 for their 2011 seasons. In other words, Revere slightly out-edged Young. Not surprisingly, what Revere lacked in offense, he made up for on defense.
For 2012, I expect Revere's defense to be stellar in left field. Especially with a healthy Denard Span, it's tough to imagine many balls falling in front of, or behind, our left side of the outfield. Of course, Revere's speed may be more of an asset in center field, but I suspect that, over the course of 160 games, the weak arm might also be more of a liability in center field.
Still, though, I can see it now: There will be a game, maybe even 2 or 3, where the opposing team wins on a sacrifice fly to medium-deep left field -- a ball the depth of which many major league outfielders could comfortably throw home and, at the very least, make the play close. Revere, with the weak arm, will be unable to get the ball in, and the Twins will lose. It's bound to happen. The fan reaction, I imagine, will be decidedly against Revere. Star Tribune readers will suggest that they, themselves, could have made the throw. And maybe a couple would be correct. But that's the thing with Revere -- you take the good with the bad. Over the course of the season, will he make enough great catches and reach enough gap shots to cover for the disappointing arm? I'm willing to bet yes.
Revere's other great asset is speed on the basepaths. Batting in the #9 position, if Revere can bat around .275, which seems like a reasonable projection, and can walk at a greater rate than he did in 2011, he will be one of the best #9 hitters in the game. Revere stole 34 bases, and was caught 9 times, in 117 games last year, and was quoted as saying that he wants to steal 80 or 90 bases this upcoming season. It's a lofty goal, but, had he played the full season as a starter with the Twins last year, there's little doubt he would have stolen around 50 bases. For what he lacks in power, he can make up for with speed. It's worth noting, though, that Revere did have knee surgery at the end of September. Hopefully there was plenty of time for rehab, and there will be no lasting effects with respect to his great speed. For my money, there's little difference between a player -- especially a #9 hitter -- getting a walk or single, and then stealing second, than there is if that same player simply hit a double. Sure, it's different because stealing is no guarantee, and having a runner in motion affects the next batter, but the principle is the same: a runner in scoring position.
I'm guessing that Revere will likely continue to be a divisive player. No one will complain about the range and amazing catches, but it's fair to question the arm and (to date) the relative lack of plate discipline. But let's also not forget that Revere is just 23 years old. He's only faced some pitchers once or twice, and we all know that there's a big learning curve at the major league level. If, at the end of 2012, Revere's batting stats haven't improved at all, I'm willing to concede that he's not the prospect I think he is. For now, though, I'm willing to bet that, over the course of the season, we will begin to see a stat line that more closely resembles his batting stats from the minors. At the very least, I'm willing to give him a chance to prove the naysayers wrong.