Every position on the field is a battle, and we’ve been doing our best to tell you about all of them. Since there are three positions in the outfield, we have three battles there – basically an entire war.
Who is in Fort Myers?
On the 40 man roster, Joe Benson, Ben Revere, Denard Span, Rene Tosoni, and Josh Willingham are the guys with Major League experience. New addition Darin Mastroianni has MLB experience too: three at bats worth. Oswaldo Arcia is also on the 40 man roster, but he’s not Major League ready. The only non-roster invitees listed as outfielders are Matt Carson and Wilkin Ramirez, but several others including Brian Dinkelman have played outfield before.
Span and Willingham are the veterans of the bunch. When healthy, Span is almost guaranteed a .370 on-base percentage and 30 steals, and his center field defense is well above average. Willingham can also get on base, and he is the team’s last, best hope for right-handed power this year. Revere showed some flashes of brilliance last year, but his general lack of experience showed in his low OBP (.310). Tosoni and Benson were minor league fill-ins in 2011, and both have another step or two to take. Down in the minors, Arcia is the wave of the future. He needs to build on his promising 2010 and put his injury-riddled 2011 in the past.
Is there a battle?
The starters are set, but there are plenty of things that need sorting out. Does Plouffe, who is out of options, deserve a permanent roster slot? If so, is he a candidate to platoon with Revere in left field? Can Revere get on base enough to make his blazing speed an asset? Can Willingham make the transition from left to right? If not, is Revere’s arm too big of a liability to play right? Is Mastroianni the next Lew Ford? Has Span fully recovered from his concussions? Will Benson’s awesome hair ever become as popular as Joe Mauer’s sideburns?
That is an awfully long list of questions to answer in one month, so yes, some battling is bound to break out.
How does this battle compare?
As mentioned above, a single battle probably is not going to capture the entire essence of this competition. Thus, we’ll have to use the entire Spanish-American War as a comparison.
The Spanish-American War answered a plethora of questions of its own, such as: is America strong enough to defeat a European power? Who blew up my battleship? Who gets to own Cuba, the Philippines, and Puerto Rico? And what happens if you give Teddy Roosevelt weapons and turn him loose on a battlefield?
The most important lasting effect of that war is that it marked the transition of the United States from a young nation that could barely solve its own problems to a world power. We can only hope that Revere, Benson, or some other young player will emerge this spring in the same way.
Who will win?
As I mentioned above, the starters are already set, so it’s just a question of which positions they will play. Early indications favor Revere in left, Span in center, and Willingham in right. The Twins seem inclined to hang on to Plouffe, and since he’s out of options that will require them to keep him on the roster as a bench player. Doumit will also see time in the outfield when he isn’t catching or designated hitting. That leaves Mastroianni as the odd man out. With only four bench slots (at least one of which will be filled by the third string catcher), the Twins probably will not have room for another backup outfielder. Thus, Mastroianni might find himself on waivers again.