DOB: March 5, 1988
Joe Benson was one of the crown jewels of the Twins 2006 draft class, and had a stellar inaugural season of professional baseball. This terrific athlete made it all the way to the Beloit Snappers by the end of the 2006 season, appearing in eight games for the Beloit Snappers as an 18-year old. Since then, injuries have plagued the young outfielder, who might finally make his way to Fort Myers in 2009.
The Twins made Benson their second round selection in the 2006 draft, taking the young outfielder out of Joliet (Ill.) High School. Benson was a star baseball and football player for Joliet in High School, and took his athleticism to the Twins in 2006. Blessed with the ability to be a five-tool player, Benson would be a top-10 talent if he could stay healthy.
Benson started his professional career as a member of the Gulf Coast League Twins, showing a rare blend of speed and power. Named the 20th best prospect in the GCL by Baseball America, Benson blasted five home runs in his 52 GCL games, while swiping nine bases. Though he batted only .260, 21 of his 51 hits in the GCL were for extra-bases, and he drove in over a run per two games.
The Twins saw enough in Benson to promote him to the Beloit Snappers, as he joined fellow 2006 draft crown jewel Chris Parmelee in the Snappers outfield. In eight Midwest League games, Benson batted .263, swiped a bag, and scored twice.
In 2007, Benson made his way back to the Midwest League, and hit very well for a 19-year old in full-season baseball. He displayed his great athleticism, smacking eight triples to go along with 18 doubles, and showed a rocket for a right arm. However, he did strike out 124 times, and the Twins sent him back to Beloit in 2008 for more seasoning.
The 2008 season was a struggle for Benson, who looked very good early on. However, a back injury sustained in a car accident in the offseason, forced him to shut it down half way through the season. At the time he was shut down, Benson already had 16 doubles in only 69 games, and had an amazing 14 assists.
Benson could be back in Beloit for a fourth time in 2009, though he is likely to open the season with Fort Myers.
Batting and Power: Benson has the potential to be a duel-threat at the plate, meaning he has the ability to hit for both power, and average. Throughout his short career, Benson has shown the ability to hit for extra-bases on a consistent basis, and does have the potential to be a 15-20 home run guy. His batting eye needs some work, as he has struck out a lot during his 251 minor league games, but it is coming along.
Base running and Speed. As stated earlier, Benson is a rare blend of power and speed. He could have played collegiate football as a running back, and has the uncanny ability to blaze down to first base. He swiped ten bases in 60 professional games in 2006, and the Twins are going to want to use his speed to its maximum potential. He could develop into the type of player who hits at the top of the order, and who steals over 30 bases a season.
Defense. There is no question that Benson is going to become a great defender, judging by the way he glides to the ball in the outfield. One scout told TwinCitiesDugout.com that Benson has a very high ceiling, and could develop into a plus-defensive outfielder. He has a decent arm, but it would not be ranked as a rocket-type cannon. He'll make all the plays in the outfield, and projects as a corner outfielder in the future.
ETA. 2012. Benson has a very high ceiling, and the Twins are likely to move him slowly through the organization. A former high school catcher, Benson has made a smooth transition to the outfield, and is listed as one of the organizations top athletes. If he begins the 2009 season in Beloit, I expect him to make it to Fort Myers at some point. He is a very raw, toolsy player, and just the type of kid that the Twins love to develop. If healthy, Benson could be a breakout player candidate in 2009.