|Is this a make-or-break year for Aaron Hicks?|
Ben Revere, who will turn 24 in May, is speedy and can track down almost anything hit to center field, but lacks an arm (not physically lacks an arm, but it's almost that bad); he is at best a good contact hitter who can wreak havoc on the basepaths, and at worst a player that will only get on base 30 percent of the time. Importantly, he is still under team control for the near future.
Joe Benson, also 24 this season, has the most potential for power among the centerfield group. He also is reportedly just a shade slower than Revere, which is impressive. He didn't look quite ready for the big leagues in his September call-up last season, with a .239/.270/.352 slash line, but he is still a very good outfield prospect.
Finally, there is Aaron Hicks, age 22, the Twins' first round (14th overall) draft pick from 2008. It's not an understatement to say that Hicks' star has fallen. Baseball America rated him the 19th best prospect pre-2010, the 45th best prospect pre-2011, and the 72nd best prospect pre-2012. That's not the direction Twins fans would like to see Hicks moving on the prospect charts. In 2012, he also vanished from Baseball America's top 10 outfield prospect list, which is not a good sign. All that being said, he is one of the Twins' top prospects, and he is expected to see a promotion to AA New Britain this year (at least according to Bill Smith).
My point in outlining these players is that, even if none ever become stars, the center field position is perhaps the deepest in terms of talent for the Twins. And interestingly, three of the four players listed are within roughly two years of age. Aside from Span, the veteran, we're talking about 22-24 year old prospects. Finally, Hicks is the only one without a day of major league service time, so to an extent (a small extent for Benson), they have been MLB-tested.
It's tough to imagine all four players being in the Twins organization two years from now. By that time, Benson will be 26 and will either be playing centerfield, which would be the best use of his speed and arm, or a corner outfield position. I have no doubt he's next in line for a promotion. Who knows where Revere will be? I still believe he can be a good (but not great) major league outfielder, but he will need to show major plate discipline this season, as well as the ability to bunt successfully. Hicks needs to have a solid and consistent season in order to regain his status as a Twins top prospect. And Span needs to stay healthy.
There are two things that excite me about this group of players. First is the prospect of having Span and Benson in the same outfield. I think it could be great defensively and offensively. The second thing is the prospect of trading one of these guys for something the Twins desperately need, such as pitching. It would be great if the Twins could make a "sell high" trade, if they come the realization that there are not enough outfield positions for the number of established major league outfielders, and legitimate major league outfield prospects, currently in the organization. Of course, we'd have to avoid a Wilson Ramos-type trade, but given these 4 players, the odds of that kind of an error in judgment don't seem quite as high.
I'm curious to hear your thoughts. If Benson is good at AAA Rochester this season, how long can we keep him there -- and whose place does he take in Minnesota? Could we get anything on the trade market for Revere? And if Hicks has a great season between A and AA in 2012, what do we do if he suddenly re-emerges as our #1 outfield prospect?