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Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Ben Revere: Placeholder?

If Ben Revere's legacy with the Twins is as a speedy outfielder who
was a placeholder until better players developed, that's just fine
If you read this blog with any regularity, it's no secret that I'm a Ben Revere supporter. Despite his shortcomings (bad arm and no power to speak of), I still, and probably always will, maintain that Revere can be a useful and productive player for the Twins. It's important to recognize that, since returning to the Twins after a stint at AAA Rochester, Revere has been pretty darn good. As of today, here's his slash line: .328/.353/.397. He has 5 doubles, 2 triples and 9 RBIs in 131 at-bats; he has stolen 11 bases and has been caught only twice. Last year, in 450 at-bats, he had 9 doubles -- so we are seeing slightly more power (also evidenced by the .309 slugging percentage in 2011 compared with the .397 slugging percentage thus far in 2012). Incidentally, if you really want to rag on him for his lack of power, please note that his OPS in 2012 is 5th best on the team (just behind Justin Morneau, and just ahead of Denard Span). As others have mentioned, though, there still is not much power to speak of, and Revere has only drawn 4 walks -- so his on-base percentage is largely dependent on his batting average, which right now is very good. I'll also add to the equation that he has made probably a half-dozen highlight reel catches in this time frame, and that he just turned 24, which means that he will be entering what should be his athletic prime over the next 2-4 seasons.

Today, though, I'm thinking about Revere's role in the future of this team. Many people list Revere's shortcomings, especially the facts that his arm is below-average and that he will never hit for power, and suggest that he probably cannot be a long-term starter for a major league team. I admit that there's merit to that. But I pose a different, and more relevant question: can he be a relatively low-cost starter for this team for the next few years? And I think the answer to that question is a resounding "yes." I'm firmly of the belief that the Twins will not be a playoff-caliber team until 2014 at the very, very earliest. Yes, 2012 will probably be better than 2011; and I expect 2013 to be better than 2012. But there is still a long road to travel. If the Twins can trade Denard Span this summer -- which they should if they can get a good package -- the door is open for Revere to establish himself as the Twins' center fielder.

Maybe the Twins will get lucky -- perhaps Joe Benson or Aaron Hicks will prove themselves ready for Target Field and will play Revere out of his starting job -- but that's certainly speculative. Hicks, in my opinion, is at least another season out; and who knows how Benson will perform once he overcomes the wrist injury that is currently sidelining him. For now, and perhaps for the foreseeable future, Revere might be the Twins' best option.

Very rarely does a player come along with the complete package. And no one would suggest that Revere is such a player. But, if you agree with me that the Twins are traversing down a road to recovery that could take 3-4 years, what difference does it make if Revere is lacking in a few tools? The real focus should be on the Twins improving each year as prospects mature, and if Ben Revere is nothing more than a placeholder for 2 years -- at a total cost of under $2 million -- until Hicks or Benson plays him out of a job, I'd be fine with that, especially if the Twins can get a good return for Span in order to facilitate this move. I'm not really treading any new ground today, except for noting -- primarily for the benefit of the Revere detractors -- that it really doesn't matter if Revere is an All-Star caliber outfielder in 2012 or 2013. He's by no means a bad player, and for the Twins right now -- and in the short-term future -- that just might be good enough.

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