The Twins have invited an entire team’s worth of non-roster players to Spring Training – 25 of them. You may have heard of some, while others are complete mysteries. Puckett’s Pond is going to help you wade through them and figure out who is who.
First on the list in alphabetical order: first baseman Aaron Bates, who will wear jersey number 70 this spring.
Bates was acquired as a minor league free agent last year after several years in the Red Sox system. He was originally a third round pick in the 2006 draft – the same one that produced Chris Parmelee and Joe Benson. Unlike Benson and Parmelee, Bates was a college player (at North Carolina State and San Jose State). That means he’ll be 28 years old before the start of the 2012 season. His age is probably a strike against him at this point. But he’s the right size for a power-hitting first baseman: 6’4″ and 230 pounds.
Bates has shown that he can hit in the minors. Last year at Rochester he put up a .312/.408/.439 line. And before that, he demonstrated some power. In 2007 between A and AA, he mashed 28 homers. The power dropped off in 2008 and 2009, but he stayed in double digit homers until last year, when he hit seven. His strikeout rates have been somewhat high, though; he has had triple digit strikeout rates in four separate minor league seasons. Bates earned his cup of coffee with the Red Sox, and he hit well, albeit in a tiny sample. In 2009 he appeared in five games for the Sox, and he hit .364 with a pair of doubles. But the Sox let him walk away after a disappointing 2010, when he hit just .240/.338/.368 in his first full AAA season.
According to a scouting report I found for Bates, he altered his approach at the plate a couple years ago. That might explain the power drop. The same scouting report says that he’s a solid fielder. Thus, there’s some potential that he could see some time in the Majors if a sting of injuries occurs. For example, if Justin Morneau cannot play first base and Chris Parmelee and/or Ryan Doumit don’t pan out, Bates might get in a few games. But if that scenario happens, the Twins are probably in trouble.
Judging by the lack of personal information on the internet, Bates is either a very quiet person or else he entered the Witness Protection Program at some point. I was hoping for some interesting anecdotes about him, but I came up short. Anyone who has a Bates-related story, feel free to share it below!
Check back with Puckett’s Pond in the coming days, as I’ll have a profile of each of the 25 non-roster invitees. Next up is pitcher Jason Bulger.