The question came up In Roger's July 11 Minor League Report thread: Who is more valuable, Joe Benson or Ben Revere? This blog ranked Revere the number 2 prospect in the system prior to the season, whereas Benson was rated number 26. But Benson has turned a corner of sorts and is finally showing fans why he was a highly touted prospect when he was drafted in the second round in 2006. And Revere is starting to show folks why he was not as highly touted despite his draft position. So the question is now legitimate.
The answer to the question might surprise you. Revere is a very good contact hitter who can run, but his power is lacking. And, though fast, his stolen base percentage is alarmingly low. If he makes it to the majors, with his lack of power, he'll have a center fielder's bat in the mold of Juan Pierre. And his arm is not great for a center fielder by any stretch. By contrast, Benson has some power and a strong arm to go along with his speed. While not quite as fast as Revere, he's plenty fast enough to play center. Yet, he has enough power to play on the corners as well.
The other thing that might surprise you is their relative ages. Though Benson was drafted a year prior to Revere, they're both 21 years old. Neither is young for the Florida State League. On the surface, it's really close. It seems we need a deeper analysis of their relative merits to come up with a sound projection, which we will get to after the break.
Benson's rate stats (.298/.429/.443) are better this year than Revere's (.308/.372/.377). I have to wonder what they would look like had Benson not punched the wall in the clubhouse, causing him to miss six weeks of the season. That leaves Benson with only 168 plate appearances to Revere's 374. On that basis, numbers alone are a poor judge of this. But it's worth looking at the numbers just to form a picture of how these very different players approach the game. That might help us make a more accurate projection.
The first thing to note is their walk rates. Revere (7.5%) is more of a hacker than Benson (14.6%), thus Revere's OBP is not stellar despite a good batting average. But Revere (7.3%) does not strike out as often as Benson (23.6%). The picture that emerges from those two sets of numbers is a radically different approach. Revere swings a lot and makes good contact when he does. He probably doesn't let the count get to two strikes very often. Benson is more patient, but he is often caught looking or swinging and missing with two strikes. Of the two approaches, Benson's projects better as competition improves.
The other thing to note is their BABIPs. Revere's has been abnormally high throughout his minor league career, averaging about 30 points better than his BA (2007--.363/2008--.414/2009--.331). If his LD% were higher, I would feel more comfortable with the numbers. But it's just average (around 15%). So he's getting a lot of ground ball hits (on 60% ground balls) that will be harder to come by as fielders improve with the competition. Benson, also has a high BABIP (2007--.347/2008--.331/2009--400). But his LD% is above average (19% this year) and so his his GB% (under 50% the last two years). It's pretty close, and sample sizes are a big caveat, but Benson projects better as competition improves.
The other thing I look at is isolated power, and here, Benson is the clear favorite. This is the first year it has shown up in his SLG because of his low batting average in past years. Revere gave us hope after last year (.496 SLG) that he would outslug his draft projection. And Benson's SLG was nothing special prior to this year (.380 in 2008). But Benon's ISO is consistently in the .130 range, and this year it has jumped to .150. By contrast, Revere's is quite low this year (.069) and has fallen every year since his debut as a 19 year old in an 18 year old's league. That ISO number is a red flag for Revere.
Finally, there's the speed question. And here, Revere is the favorite. This year, Revere's right on pace to steal more than 40 bases. But he's also on pace to get caught more than 20 times. Benson hasn't run much (7 steals in 10 attempts), but some of that is just opportunity. When you're out half the season, you won't have as many opportunities. Looking beyond this year, Benson has not had as much success as Revere. Last year in Beloit, Benson stole 17 bases in 28 tries. Revere stole 44 bases in 57 tries. SB% is one area where I expect both players to improve as they learn to read pitchers and their coaches pay more attention to how fast a pitcher is to home plate.
The numbers don't tell the whole story, of course. Revere's having his worst season as a professional and Benson is having his best. So you would expect some movement to the mean for both players. Just how their careers go in the future is dependant on their mix of tools. The five tools I will rate them on (based on scouting reports I have read), are speed, power, contact, batting eye and arm.
Speed: As I have said, Revere has plus plus speed and Benson has plus speed. Both have major league speed as a tool in their arsenal.
- Power: I would not rate Benson's power as a plus. But I would list it among his tools. Power is not one of Revere's tools.
- Batting eye: Benson strikes out too much to list this as a tool for him, though I do like his patience. Revere seems to have a good eye based on his K/BB rate (slightly under water). But he's not a patient hitter, I would still say this is a tool for him. This is not a plus tool for either player.
- Contact: Revere has plus contact skills. He can put the ball in play and advance runners, and he uses the whole field. Benson is not a good contact guy, so I would not list this among his tools.
- Arm: Revere projects to have a left fielder's arm (think Shannon Stewart). Benson's arm is a plus tool for him.
Overall, both players have three tools. But I would say Benson has a more balanced set of tools.
Neither player projects as a star, though I would not be surprised to see both starting somewhere in the majors in four years. Revere has the better chance at stardom based on how casual fans evaluate players. Pierre (.318/.377/.404 with 23 SBs in 31 attempts), for example, is more celebrated than Matt Kemp (.315/.378/.486 with 19 SBs in 24 attempts) in LA. The Twins would be thrilled if either player put up a line like those in four years. A more conservative line would be something like Revere's (.315/.360/.380 with 20 steals in 30 attempts) or Benson's (.260/.360/.440 with 12 steals in 20 attempts). Of the two, Benson projects as a better overall player with more defensive versatility. So he should be rated slightly higher than Revere.