Monday, September 12, 2011

Benson struggles with strikeouts

For Twins fans, most of the excitement involved with the 2011 Minnesota Twins has come and gone. After a 2010 season that was full of fun and excitement, the team had high expectations that could never be reached in 2011. The amount of open seats at Target Field in the last few weeks also verifies the fact that fans have turned their attention to other parts of the sports world.

For the diehard Twins fan, there are always going to be story lines to watch during a season. Fans are getting their first look at players like Liam Hendriks, Joe Benson, and Chris Parmelee. Out of the three players, only Henriks had seen play at the AAA level. This means there are going to be plenty of rough moments for Benson and Parmelee as the Twins try to discover what each player can offer the team for the future.

While Hendriks is the best pitching prospect the Twins have in the upper levels of their farm system, Benson intrigues many with his athletic play and offensive talents. At the end of last season, Benson was named the Twins Minor League Player of the Year for his tremendous 2010 campaign. The Twins and their fans are getting their first look at Benson and there are some flaws that need to be worked on during the last two weeks of the season.

There have been some obvious base running gaffs that have frustrated the Twins manager. In his weekly radio show, Ron Gardenhire made it be known that Benson is struggling with breaking pitches on the outside part of the plate. As a power hitter, Benson has been prone to strikeouts at many levels in the minor leagues. Here is a look at the rate in which Benson strikes out per AB in his minor league years with the Twins:

Year (Level): K/AB
2006 (Rookie-A): 47/215= 0.219
2007 (A): 124/432= 0.287
2008 (A): 73/290= 0.252
2009 (A+): 74/263= 0.281
2010 (A+-AA): 136/459= 0.296
2011 (AA): 109/400= 0.272

Benson managed to cut down at his strikeout level at New Britain this season. The shift to MLB level pitching has been a little rough for the 23-year old. In his first five games with the Twins, he has 18 official ABs and he has struck out in seven of those chances. In limited action, Benson has also struggled to show fans the power potential he put together in the minor leagues. He has done a good job of stretching a couple hits into doubles but his strikeout rate needs to improve down the stretch.

Without spending time at the AAA level, Benson is trying to improve on his plate discipline on the fly at the major league level. Benson has shown a tendency to go after pitches that are out of the zone during his limited action with the Twins:

Plate Discipline w/ Twins
Outside-the-zone swing %: 33.3%
Outside-the-zone contact %: 50.0%
Swinging-strike %: 14.1%

The Twins have some very good outfield prospects that are working their way to the big leagues. Aaron Hicks, Oswaldo Arcia, and Eddie Rosario are all top 10 prospects in the Twins system but Benson is the only player out of that group that projects to make an impact on the 2012 version of the Twins. An outfield that includes Ben Revere, Denard Span, and Joe Benson could be very fun to watch on the defensive side of the ball. The huge catacombs in the outfield of Target Field could be conquered by these outfielders tracking down fly balls in all parts of the field.

But there is clearly a list of things for Benson to work on during his time at AAA to start the 2012 season...

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