Say it is so Joe!
Say Hello to Joe Benson.
Drafted in the second round, 64th overall by the Minnesota Twins in 2006, Benson entered the Twins system out of Joliet Catholic Academy, signing for $575,000 in a decision to forgo playing college baseball (and maybe football as well) at Purdue University.
In 2006, Benson was a Gulf Coast League Twin (Rookie) for 52 games and then a Beloit Snapper (Class A) for eight more after signing to his professional deal on June 10, 2010–just days after the draft. 1914 days later, he made his Major League debut for the Twins against Jake Peavy and the White Sox.
Another 262 days later, Benson was a Ranger and was optioned to Frisco. The next day he hit his first home run as a Texas farmhand, with Frisco in Tulsa. The following day he hit his second. Last night (2179 days after he signed with Minnesota) he made his Dr Pepper Ballpark debut and hit another.
Before we go into the waiver process that brought Benson to Frisco, take another look at that journey around the bags by Benson (it might take few moments to load). ‘Riders manager Steve Buechele said it’s the fastest home run trot he’s ever seen, and it wasn’t a one-time performance. This is what he does.
As Joe himself explained it: “before 2010, I never had more than 5 home runs in a season. I started to hitting some balls to right-center, and right off the bat, I would think three. That’s pretty much been my philosophy. If I backspin a ball, and I think it’s getting over an outfielder’s head, I am thinking a triple. By then, if the ball goes over the fence, and the umpire signals home run, I think it looks obnoxious to break it down into a slow jog, so I just kind of keep the pace, touch home plate, and jog back into the dugout.”
On Saturday, May 25, 2013, the Rangers acquired Benson on waivers from Minnesota. The Twins needed to make room for P.J. Walters, and Benson was the roster casualty. From my best understanding of the rule (thanks to BP, Purple Row, and @NewbergReport), when a player is placed on waivers, every MLB team is notified and has up to 48 hours to place a claim on the player. If no team placed a claim, Benson could have been removed from the Twins 40-man roster and stayed in their system. If multiple claims were placed on the player, the priority would have gone to the team with the worst record (in either league) on the day the waiver window closed, which should have been Saturday, May 23 (he was claimed by Texas).
Going into Saturday, this is how the top of the MLB Standings looked:
1. St. Louis Cardinals 31-16
2. Texas Rangers 31-17
3. Cincinnati Reds 30-18
This means that 28 other teams passed on Benson (maybe St. Louis did as well, seems likely considering the depth at OF in their system). La Velle E. Neal III has a good piece on how the Twins front office viewed the deal and their interaction with Benson over the weekend.
Benson was once regarded very highly in the Twins system before injuries and issues at the Triple-A level dropped his stock a bit. A two sport start in high school, Benson was, and still is, a great athlete with good speed, a good throwing arm, and a projectable bat with power. Benson was ranked the 8th best prospect in Twins organization by Baseball America entering his first full season in 2007. He rose to second in the system in 2008 after he showed good speed (18 SB) and good patience (49 BB) despite contact issues (124 K) and a lack of power (5 HR) in the Midwest League with the Beloit Snappers. The power was very slow to come around, as he posted four home runs in 2008 and just five in 2009. His stock fell in the system, ranked 15th entering 2009 and then 13th to begin 2010.
But then 2010 happened. Benson exploded for 27 homers, the most in the entire Minnesota organization (Thome had 25 in the bigs). His 23 Double-A home runs ranked fourth in Eastern League tied for the most hit by a New Britain hitter since 2004 when now major leaguer Garrett Jones hit 30. He was still striking out quite a bit (136 in 123 games) but the patience was still there and the power was real.
|AA (4 seasons)||AA||253||926||152||238||54||13||45||141||31||21||109||269||.257||.350||.489||.839|
|Rk (4 seasons)||Rk||60||218||34||57||13||5||5||28||12||13||26||45||.261||.343||.436||.779|
|A (3 seasons)||A||199||705||114||178||34||11||9||66||36||27||73||203||.252||.338||.370||.708|
|A+ (3 seasons)||A+||109||381||69||110||24||4||10||50||23||7||59||104||.289||.404||.451||.855|
|AAA (2 seasons)||AAA||70||246||29||46||10||4||3||17||8||2||21||77||.187||.261||.297||.558|
Benson earned the Sherry Robertson Award, given to the Twins Minor League Player of the Year in 2010. Baseball America ranked him as a top 100 prospect before the 2011 season, and again he was in the top five in the Twins system, ranked fourth. In September of the year, Benson leapfrogged Triple-A and went straight to The Show. Things didn’t go great for Joe in the big leagues, however. He hit just .239 in 21 games with the Twinkies and did not homer in 74 plate appearances. The strikeouts were still a problem and he didn’t walk much against Major League pitching.
Benson went back to minors to open 2012 and had issues with Triple-A pitching. He was demoted back to Double-A and battled injuries including a left knee issue and a broken left hamate bone in his wrist. Joe says he feels like he is totally healthy this season and wasn’t quite right at the end of the 2012.
He has showed it in his three games with his new organization. Three games. Three home runs. A triple. Five RBI.
Who knows where Joe Benson goes from here. He is out of options and will be a free agent at the end of the season. For now, it’s nice to see him off to a good beginning in his fresh start, and he sure has been a nice addition to this Frisco lineup.
Below is the interview I conducted with Joe before Tuesday’s home debut for the outfielder.
The RoughRiders host the Springfield Cardinals once again tonight at 7:05 pm at Dr Pepper Ballpark. RHP Tyler Tufts opposes RHP Seth Blair, and you can read all about the ‘Riders in tonight’s edition of the game notes.
Baseball term of the day: Baseball rat – a player devoted to the game