Thearon W. Henderson
Is it a dilemma? Probably not. But it will prove to be an interesting tell depending on how the role is filled.
With the trades of Denard Span and Ben Revere, the Minnesota Twins traded two-thirds of their starting outfield. The result is that Josh Willingham will remain the starter in left field, and Chris Parmelee has been granted management's blessing for right. Which means, of course, that the only player remaining on the active roster from the end of last season who had played any Major League center field is Darin Mastroianni.
For a good portion of the season, Mastroianni filled in admirably for both Span and Revere when they needed time off. Following his 3-for-5 performance on August 13, he was hitting .296/.361/.444 which, for a guy who was likely never part of the plan for the Major League outfield and for a guy who had just one big league game under his belt prior to 2012, was nothing short of amazing.
That was all fantastic for a fourth outfielder. And that's not a dig at Maestro - Clete Thomas and Erik Komatsu will tell you how difficult it is to be a fourth outfielder. But as it stands the Twins are expecting Mastroianni to be their everyday center fielder, a position that he saw just four times last season. If you add in the games he played in center field in both Double and Triple-A last year, he played center field in six games in all of 2012. Over the last six weeks of the season, Maestro also batted just .164 with a .266 on-base percentage as he failed to collect an extra-base hit.
All of which is a way of suggesting that the Twins would be well served to hedge their center field bets as much as they can. Their options, via the 40-man roster, are Aaron Hicks, Oswaldo Arcia, and Joe Benson.
Arcia has played some center field in his minor league career, but wouldn't seem to be equipped to play the position at a Major League level. He's expected to be a corner outfielder. If the Twins aren't going to sign a free agent outfielder to help swing in center field, then their choices are limited to Benson and Hicks.
Hicks seems like the less likely of the two choices. He hasn't played a game above Double-A, and only if he has an opportunity to play every day will the Twins even consider him for a role.
And then there was one.
Benson, who had himself one hell of a frustrating season after entering the year as the game's 99th best prospect, would seem to be the best choice for the Twins' fourth outfielder. He struggled at both Double and Triple-A last year, and then missed a chunk of time after recovering from hamate bone surgery, but he's the only option who actually has Major League experience. And because of his injury and need to readjust after time off and a rough season, asking him to play center field part time for the Twins is both a promotion for him and a mitigated risk for management.
Regardless of what actually happens, we know that the Twins need another player on their active roster who can step into center field. Who do you see getting the honor?