Rene Tosoni once seemed to be exactly what the Twins needed. Their outfield was talented but outside of Denard Span wasn't particularly nimble with guys like Delmon Young, Michael Cuddyer, and Jason Kubel rumbling around in the corners. Tosoni spent most of his time in center and right field, but had spent time at all three outfield spots in the minors.
Offensively he wasn't anything special, but he held his own. For a team that wasn't turning out position player prospects this meant that perhaps he was given more credence than he might have in a deeper system, but the point remained that while he didn't do anything exceptionally well he didn't seem to have any huge gaping holes in his game. He wasn't fast but he was quick and could get a good read; his arm wasn't like Torii Hunter's but was certainly better than Ben Revere's; at the plate he wasn't the best contact hitter or the best at hitting for power, but in his two years at Double-A preceeding his MLB debut in 2011 he batted .270 with a 10% walk rate and slugging .444. His OPS was a shade over .800.
So in spite of coming up through a weak system and perhaps being valued more highly than he would have been in other systems, expectations for Tosoni still weren't unreachably high.
When he was with the Twins in 2011 he didn't do too much to change those expectations. He displayed better range in the outfield than his colleagues not named Denard, but he frequently looked overmatched at the plate. Forced into everyday action in August and September due to injuries and trades, he was exposed even further until finishing the season with a nine-game hitting streak that saw him record 11 hits (including two homers and five doubles) while also cutting down his strikeouts. It was almost as if, with the pressure off, he was able to relax and have better at-bats.
Fast forward to 2012, where in January I still believed he'd be the 13th man. He didn't make the Opening Day roster though, getting options to Triple-A in the second round of spring cuts. His own health didn't do him any favors, but he was still demoted to Double-A to take Joe Benson's place when Benson went down with an injury. Tosoni missed some time but still earned his demotion after hitting .167/.267/.197 in Rochester to start the year.
What happened to Tosoni this year? His injuries weren't debilitating. It's certainly possible that the option to Triple-A in March was a shot to his confidence, which he struggled to regain. It's also possible that he's just having a difficult time adjusting to the better competition at Triple-A; while we might be able to overlook his performance as a hitter with the Twins last season as a rookie, his .626 OPS in Rochester in 2011 might point us towards our answer.
Unfortunately, this kind of thing happens to fringe prospects all the time. Players appear and disappear just as quickly, breaching the surface due as much to timing and circumstances as their own performance, and when that window closes their presence goes as well. Tosoni certainly didn't do himself any favors with his production, but perhaps this shouldn't have been so surprising.
Bonne chance, French Resistance Fighter Rene Tosoni. We will be watching.