Profile: OF - 6'1" - 210lbs -BT:R - TH:R - 2011 Age: 23
• Hit: 35-45
• Power: 50-65
• Eye: 45-60
• Range: 55-65
• Hands: 55-60
• Arm: 60-65
• Run: 55-65
A football star in high school, the Twins took Benson in the 2nd round of the 2006 draft, and signed him away from a football scholarship to Purdue with a $575,000 bonus. While Benson had played plenty of baseball, he was very raw coming out of high school and the Twins understood they were drafting a project who had tons of tools and few developed skills.
His swing was long and ugly coming out of high school with hips that seemed to be perpetually out in front of his hands and shoulders, a propensity to hit off his front foot or collapse his back side... the list goes on. As a result he struck out a ton barrel the ball. Still, his hands were very fast and his body, built more like that of a college safety than a speedy center fielder, was thick and powerful and when he did square a ball up, it jumped.
Over the years, he's made steady refinements to his swing and in 2008, he started to make far more solid contact, spraying line drives at a significantly higher rate instead of hitting weak ground balls and pop ups. His swing is still far from ideal, and he still strikes out far too much to ever hit for average, but unlike so many young hitters who struggle with strikeouts, his other skills - the power and eye - can bail him out. This is particularly true if he's playing center field where the league average OPS seems almost easily attainable for him.
For all of the strides Benson has made at the plate, it's on defense where Benson's phenomenal athletic skills really make themselves apparent. Benson is a legitimate plus runner, and probably behind only fellow top-prospect Ben Revere in terms of pure speed within the Twins system. Unlike Revere, Benson actually takes pretty solid routes to the ball and has a plus arm - he's actually a better defender in my eyes, and Revere is n defensive slouch himself.
Benson hasn't yet translated his plus speed into a significant impact on the bases, but in 2010 he stole 20 bases between three levels for his first 20 steal season, and with work projects to around that many at the Major League level.
We kept hearing that there was power in his swing, but every year we didn't really see it. In 2010 however, it blossomed. Big time. All of a sudden 20 home run power looks easily attainable, and 30 homer power upside definitely exists. He also has a chance to draw 10% walks per year. So even though his contact skills are lacking, he has the ancillary skills to remain an above average hitter in center and perhaps in a corner as well.
I used to think he didn't have a chance. Then I thought he was a tweener. Now, well now I don't want to think, because every time I see him he looks a little bit better. He's never going to make good enough contact to hit for a great average, but the power is real and he draws walks. Defensively he has the range to play center or the arm to play right. Suddenly, even though he likely wont fulfill all of it, he looks like he has Chris Young upside. Am I crazy?
Corey Ettinger is a Senior Writer for Baseball Digest as well as a proud contributor to both 612Sports.net, 312Sports.com, and 313sports.com. He also provides extensive analysis of the American League Central Division at his own blog, AL Central In Focus. Be sure to follow me on Twitter @Coreyettinger for the latest updates, random thoughts and general tomfoolery.