The 2012 Minnesota Twins really only had one position of depth. That position was center field, whom they boasted of Denard Span, Ben Revere, and a pretty solid third option in Darin Mastroianni. By the time the winter meetings were over, one of Twins’ fans biggest question quickly became “Who is going to play center field?” Overall, the position still has good depth, with Mastroianni, Aaron Hicks, Joe Benson, and young Byron Buxton still in the organization. Out of those five guys, however, a major league-ready center fielder seems to be missing.
With the exception of a five year span between 1994-1998, the position has been held by some of the best center fielders in the game since 1984 when Kirby Puckett took over. Torii Hunter took over in 1999, and more recently Carlos Gomez, Denard Span, and Ben Revere held down the fort until 2013. Gold Gloves and all-star type production offensively have become the expectation out of that position, and it has really become somewhat of a legacy of center fielders within the organization. Puckett won 6 Gold Gloves; Hunter won 7 in his time with the Twins; and Gomez, Span, and Revere certainly didn’t disappoint us in the 5 years since #48. Offensively, Puckett hit .318 in his career with the Twins, Hunter hit .271, Span .284, and Revere .278.
Needless to say, 2013 is setting up to be somewhat of a let-down for Twins fans who are used to the CF position being one of absolute strength on this roster. Although most of us are at least somewhat excited for the future arrival of Aaron Hicks, it doesn’t seem he will be quite ready for Opening Day when the defending AL Champion Detroit Tigers visit Target Field. Hicks struggled mightily in 2011 at High A Fort Myers, hitting .242/.354/.368. As you can see below, the young center fielder really struggled to put the ball in play consistently, striking out 338 times in the last 3 years. Only a 23 year old, Hicks made significant strides last season at AA New Britain, increasing his hitting, power, and baserunning numbers. The future is bright for Aaron Hicks, but again, that future with the Twins wouldn’t seem like it will start Opening Day 2013.
Opening Day 2013 will most likely feature 27 year old Darin Mastroianni roaming the gaps of Target Field. Before last season, Mastroianni had made only one appearance in the majors with Toronto, making 3 plate appearances. In 77 games with the Twins last season, after starting in AA New Britain and working his way up to the bigs, he proved to be a solid fill-in to give Span and Revere a break.