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Top 15 Prospects - #9: Joe Benson | December


9. Joe Benson, OF, 21 years old

2009 stats: .200/.429/.200, 7 PA, 0 HR, 0/2 K/BB at GCL (Rook); .285/.414/.403, 327 PA, 5 HR, 74/46 K/BB at Ft. Myers (A+)
Last year’s rank: 15
Acquired: 2nd round selection of the Minnesota Twins in the 2006 draft

Joe Benson is one of the toughest players to project in this organization. Part of this can be attributed to the fact that he has racked up more than 350 plate appearances just once in his four-year career. Any kind of batting line he puts up, whether good or bad, will immediately be coupled with cries of “Small Sample Size!”

Benson hit .285/.414/.403 this past season with the Miracle, but missed six weeks because of a broken hand. He is an incredibly patient hitter, yet strikes out more than most. His 817 OPS is impressive and well above average, but was also higher than his career average. Whether he can repeat the impressive performance on the field has yet to be seen.

At 21 years of age, Benson wasn’t necessarily young for the level he played at in 2009, but he is still expected to develop power. Benson also has great speed, and could project as a center fielder. The power he is expected to develop, though, should force him to slide over to a corner outfield position.

Benson’s broken hand was suffered at the expense of a clubhouse wall, which could reveal some makeup problems with the young outfielder. Very few have expressed concerns over this outburst, though, so few conclusions should be drawn.

Hitting just five home runs in 2009, Benson’s supposed power has yet to be seen. Should he develop the ability to hit 10 or 15 home runs per season while maintaining his incredible knack at getting on base, Benson could be a perennial All-Star in the near future.

Ideal scenario: Benson should finish the 2010 season with the Rock Cats, and could be a September call-up as soon as 2012.

Path to the majors: Michael Cuddyer will no longer be with Minnesota in 2012, but Benson will lead a very solid class of outfield prospects, including Revere, Morales and Hicks. Little time will be wasted on Benson for “learn-as-you-go” development, and if he doesn’t perform right away the Twins will likely move to another top outfield prospect.