I love following the players in spring training that sign on with the Twins as minor league free agents. These are the guys that used to be big names or high draft choices, and either got injured or haven’t fulfilled their promise yet. Think guys like J.R. Towles and Sean Burroughs.
But for every Joel Zumaya who comes and goes without getting back to The Show with the Twins, there’s a Jared Burton who breaks camp with the big league club and reinvents himself as a quality contributor. Actually, it’s probably more like one Burton for every five Zumayas.
The Twins have invited 26 non-roster players to spring training at this point, but that number could change in the next week or so if Terry Ryan picks up some scraps between now and the start of camp. Seven of those players signed on as minor league free agents from other organizations and will be spending their first spring in a Twins uniform.
In theory, at least, these guys will have a chance to compete for a spot on the big-league club. The Twins, however, tend to prefer to promote players from within the organization. These guys will, with a couple of possible exceptions, be facing an upward battle in Fort Meyers over the coming weeks.
Over the next few weeks, we’ll take a look at some of these minor league free agents. Today, we’ll kick off the series by taking a look at outfielder Brandon Boggs.
Rich Harden is the guy that everyone’s talking about when it comes to minor league signings this year, but don’t be surprised if Brandon Boggs has a bigger impact on the 2013 Twins season. He’s a 30-year-old switch hitter who can play all three outfield positions with proficiency, carries a career OBP over 100 points higher than his batting average, knows how to bat leadoff, and has about a full season’s worth of MLB experience. Sounds like a pretty solid fourth outfielder to me.
Most of Boggs’s major league experience came in 2008 with Texas, where he hit poorly as a rookie but made up for it by getting on base a third of the times he stepped into the batters box. He’s got enough pop to keep pitchers honest, too.
Boggs, a fourth round pick of the Rangers out of Georgia Tech in 2004, played a handful of games with Texas and Milwaukee each year over the few seasons, but spent the majority of his time in AAA over that span. Last year, he played the entire season in Indianapolis, Pittsburgh’s top minor league affiliate, along with fellow Twins minor league free agent signings Tim Wood and Eric Fryer.
Boggs pitched an inning last year in the minors: three up, three down, no hits, Ks or walks. You know who else pitched a couple of innings? Wade Boggs. The last time he did so was in his final season at age 41. And no, they’re not related.
Chances of making the Twins out of spring training:
I actually think they’re pretty good. I like Joe Benson, but my gut says he falters in the spring, and I expect the Twins to have Aaron Hicks start the season in AAA for a few weeks to extend team control an extra year. That means Darin Mastroianni starts the season in center field until Hicks gets called up, with Boggs the best candidate to serve as fourth outfielder. Once the Twins are ready to call up Hicks, we might not see Boggs again in a Twins uniform.