Minnesota Twins' Most Overhyped Prospects Heading into Spring Training

Chris Schad@@crishadContributor IIIFebruary 1, 2013

Benson has the talent to become a major league staple, but needs to find health and consistency to make that a reality.
Benson has the talent to become a major league staple, but needs to find health and consistency to make that a reality.David Maxwell/Getty Images

The Minnesota Twins established a foundation of success between 2002 and 2010 by building through their elite farm system.

During that time, the Twins had won six division championships and were the envy of every rebuilding team in Major League Baseball.

However, the past two seasons have tarnished that reputation as some of the Twins' prospects were not as solid as the organization originally thought.

As a result, the Twins will have to take out the trash this spring as they look to make progress in getting back on top of the American League Central.

Here's a look at three prospects who have high expectations but will turn out to be overhyped by the end of spring training.

Joe Benson

As a second-round pick in the June 2006 MLB amateur draft, Benson already had giant expectations to begin his career.

At age 24, Benson has already gotten a month's worth of major league experience under his belt. However, injuries and inconsistency have kept him from reaching his full potential.

When Benson is at his best, he's a five-tool prospect that's worth keeping around. At his worst, Benson is a frustrating player that can make Twins fans wonder "what if."

Benson's past two seasons have been a microcosm of his minor league career.

In 2011, Benson hit .285 with 16 home runs and 67 runs batted in for Double-A New Britain.

As a leadoff man, Benson was also able to score 69 runs and steal 13 bases in 22 attempts.

The performance lead to a September call-up where Benson didn't do much, but expectations were high for him to repeat that performance in 2012.

Instead, Benson battled a wrist injury all season long and his performance suffered.

Starting the season at Triple-A Rochester, Benson hit just .179 before being demoted back to New Britain.

Things didn't get better down there as he hit .184 before getting undergoing season-ending surgery on May 25.

Now Benson has competition to become the Twins' center fielder of the future.

Last season, the light bulb may have come on for former first-round pick Aaron Hicks at New Britain.

As a result, Hicks is considered to be the leading candidate to replace Denard Span in center field heading into spring training.

With Darin Mastroianni also considered to have a roster spot locked up, Benson will be the odd man out when the team heads North in April.

Liam Hendriks

Like his Rochester Red Wings teammate Chris Parmelee, Hendriks has been experiencing a phenomenon that can be explained as the Anthony Rizzo complex.

For several seasons, Rizzo was considered to be a top prospect due to his dominant numbers at Triple-A Iowa.

However, when Rizzo got the call to the show with the San Diego Padres in 2011, he struggled mightily.

Hendriks has been having the same problem when he finds himself in a Twins uniform.

In 20 major league starts between 2011 and 2012, Hendriks went 1-10 with a 5.71 earned run average. A 1.53 WHIP and 5.5 strikeout per nine ratio have been glaring problems for the Australian right-hander in those appearances.

When Hendriks struggles, the Twins send him back to Triple-A where he becomes the second coming of Cy Young.

Over the same two seasons, Hendriks has went 13-7 with a 2.59 ERA for the Red Wings.

Those numbers include a fantastic 2012 where Hendriks went 9-3 and a 2.20 ERA in 16 starts while leading Rochester to the International League playoffs.

So who is Liam Hendriks? The answer will come this spring and throughout the 2013 season.

Hendriks has a lot going for him as he turns 24 on February 10. His youth will be complemented with the addition of new bullpen coach Bobby Cuellar, who worked with him in Rochester as the pitching coach.

Hendriks' isn't the most dominant pitcher in the game, but he'll need to validate his 2011 Twins Minor League Player of the Year status if he wants to stick around.

Kyle Gibson

For our final prospect, we'll go out on a limb and take a look at Kyle Gibson.

Do I think that Gibson will be a bust in 2013, leading to a downward spiral giving him a one-way ticket out of the Twins' organization sometime in the next couple of seasons? Not at all.

But that doesn't mean I don't think Gibson will be a bust in 2013.

Gibson has enough to make scouts ooh and ah, but all of that was before the evil known as a torn ulnar collateral ligament invaded his pitching elbow and shelved him for a majority of the 2012 season.

On the bright side, Gibson was able to contribute but was not comfortable going 0-2 with a 9.45 ERA in Triple-A.

Gibson still pitched in the Arizona Fall League and was able to go 3-0 with a 0.69 ERA in his first three starts, yet he struggled down the stretch, losing his last two starts.

That may be how the 2013 season goes for Gibson.

While he will have a successful major league career, he can not be counted on to become the staff savior that Twins fans were hoping for prior to Tommy John surgery.

For this spring, it is best to temper expectations for Gibson and see what he can bring to the table in 2014 after hopefully making his major league debut at some point this summer.


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