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Monday, April 20, 2009

CF Ben Revere Highlights Twins-Marlins FSL

Anup Sinha        

FORT MYERS, FL- If Joe Morgan would have played center field instead of second base, he would have looked like Ben Revere.

That was what I walked away with last night upon leaving Hammond Stadium.  The 5-8, 170 Minnesota Twins prospect had just hit a bases loaded walk-off triple to put his Fort Myers Miracles over the Jupiter Hammerheads (Florida Marlins affiliate) 4-3.

Now if you look at the box score for the April 16th Florida State League matchup or read the recap, it’ll say that Revere hit a double.  That’s because he never touched third base.  After burning around second, he watched as the third run crossed the plate well ahead of the relay from right field.  Revere was so excited that he jumped over third base and then bolted to home plate to celebrate with his teammates.

It was only fitting that he’d come to the plate with the game on the line.  The Miracles were two runs down, one out, in the bottom of the ninth with the bases loaded.  The lefthanded hitting Revere had productive at-bats in his first four plate appearances, but only one infield hit to show for it.  He was 1-2 with two walks until that point.  After taking two balls, Revere jumped on the next get-over fastball and rifled it down the right field line.  The merry-go-round got going and everybody came home.

Throughout the entire game, Revere showed great patience and the eye of a leadoff man though he was a #3 hitter when I saw him just two years prior at Lexington Catholic High School (Ky.).  He is an gamebreaking (80 on 20-80 scale) runner with a quick first step to boot.  In his second at-bat, Revere stumbled and fell down out of the box on a ground-out to first.  He still ran a MLB-average 4.22 seconds down the line.  In his third at-bat, he hit a routine grounder to first base where he easily beat the pitcher who trying to cover.  Again, Revere stumbled out of the box (but didn’t fall) and ran an above-average 4.08 seconds.  His game-winning “double” had a turn time of 4.36 seconds.

On three separate occasions, Revere had second base stolen but was interrupted by a flyout, a lineout (that turned into a double play), and a foul ball.  So none of those would show up in the box score, either.

Revere’s lefthanded swing is short and somewhat choppy to the naked eye.  He cuts to the ball and makes hard contact.  At 5-8, 170, he’s solid in his torso and in his forearms, but not overly thick in his lower half.  Like hall-of-famer Joe Morgan, he hits the ball hard enough that he’ll lift a few out as he gets older but he’s mostly a gap hitter.  Revere’s bat-speed is already major league average and his approach and discipline above-average.  He won’t swing at a bad pitch and he won’t wave on off-speed.

His numbers last year for low Single-A Beloit were astounding: .379-1-43 with 44 SB and 27 BB in 340 at-bats.

For me, he’s a prototype leadoff hitter with a chance to hit .300+, draw walks, and steal 60 bases if he’s with a team that allows him to run. 

Revere has a chance to become a gold glove centerfielder as well, which is shocking for me because his routes in high school were poor.  I remember him playing on a field where the fence went back only 350 feet.  Revere was so fast, he could go in completely the wrong direction and still catch up to a ball hit over his head.  But I was concerned about his lack of instincts and wondered if he’d get eaten alive in ballparks with pro dimensions. 

I was scouting for the Cardinals at the time and I remember asking numerous coaches and scouts if they thought someone who was so crude as an outfielder could ever become average.  My fear was that he would be like Lonnie Smith or, less dramatically, Dave Roberts.  Both were 70-80 runners in their prime but never got good breaks or took direct paths to the ball.  “Skates” Smith was a poor leftfielder whom neither the Phillies, Cardinals, nor Royals ever dreamed of putting in center even though he ranked among the game’s best basestealers at that time.  Roberts is adequate in left, but would play only a little in center as a big leaguer despite his plus-plus speed.

Just about every coach and scout I talked to said “no”.  If Revere had just started playing baseball, maybe he just didn’t know the game and could pick it up.  But since he’d played extensively his whole life against good competition, it was doubtful he’d suddenly have an instinct for chasing fly balls.  (Revere was also a fine football player for Lexington Catholic, but the diamond was his priority and he played more baseball than most prospects north of Georgia.)

There was only one scout I spoke to, later in the fall, who wasn’t concerned and his name is Joe McIlvaine.  That is the same Joe McIlvaine whose 1981-1985 New York Mets drafts (as scouting director) formed the nucleus of their fine clubs and who would later become a GM for both the Mets and the Padres.  Now a Special Assistant to Twins general manager Billy Smith, McIlvaine only watched Revere play one time in high school at the of the season.  He was one of 10 or 11 Twins scouts who got a look.  Still, he had a strong opinion on this issue.

“I’m not worried about it,” he said.  I was stunned. 

“You’re not?”

“No, he can figure it out.  He’s a bright kid and very competitive.  I’ve seen outfielders improve a lot with the right teaching.  Our coaches can work with him.”

The centerfielder I watched last night was completely different, true to McIlvaine’s words.  Revere didn’t have any difficult range plays, so to speak, but he had three fly balls hit slightly over his head that he took direct routes to.  They were similar to the balls he took roundabout routes to two years before when I watched him up in Lexington, Kentucky.  Through a combination of his own hard work and professional coaching, Revere has made great strides as an outfielder.

Billy Corrigan was a first-year full-time area scout for the Twins who lived in Lexington, Kentucky at the time in 2007.  He latched on early and attended at least fifteen of Revere’s games.  Crosschecker Tim O’Neil, who also lived in Lexington, went to a good number of Revere games himself.  They both recognized that Revere’s off-the-bat outfield radar needed work and that he had a below-average 35 arm, but his makeup, competitiveness, and athletic ability were off the charts.

Corrigan and O’Neil observed Revere’s ability to come through under pressure in both baseball and football.  But there was one play in particular that stuck out in Tim O’Neil’s mind, in a situation that was anything but pressure-filled.  In fact, Lexington Catholic was winning 13-1.

It was a spring break game in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, and Lexington Catholic was about to mercy-rule their opponent.  Someone hit a deep fly ball to center and Revere went back on the ball like a bat out of hell.  He ended up jumping into the wall and splattering his face on the chain-link fence.  Revere made the catch like his life depended on it.  It didn’t matter that they were up 13-1.

Billy Corrigan, the scout who is credited with signing Revere in the 2007 1st-round, recalls a similar catch for the rookie-level GCL Twins on August 4th of that year.  Revere literally dove into the wall and Corrigan just about convulsed, thinking his prized 1st-rounder was going to end his season in traction.  But Revere got up and hustled to the bench with a smile on his face.  It was the second game of a doubleheader.

At the time, the Twins took flack for selecting Revere 28th overall.  It was the first televised draft and ESPN didn’t even have a picture of Revere to show the viewing audience.  But then-scouting director Mike Radcliff was convinced not only by what he saw, but by the reports of Billy Corrigan, Tim O’Neill, special assignment scout Ken Compton, and the others on his staff who believed Revere was one of the draft’s best pure hitters, fastest runners, and most voracious competitors.  While most teams had Revere in the 3rd-5th rounds, the Twins caught wind that there was another club who’d likely draft him before their second-round pick at #92.   When Revere indicated he’d sign for a below-slot $750,000, it sealed the deal for Radcliff.  This was a player they had to have and if it saves money on top, all the better.

For the flack they took in June of 2007, it’s looking like a great pick today.  There’s still a ways to go and Revere is not a big league all-star yet, but there’s a lot of promise for the future and in the present he has considerable value on the open market.  If the Twins, for some reason, wanted to trade him for the pennant run, I’m sure they could get a good major leaguer right now.

In the mean-time, they have to be day-dreaming about Revere roaming the outfield next to fellow speedsters Carlos Gomez and Denard Span in the Metrodome.  It’s not out of the question Revere is there in 2010, but my guess is that the Twins are thinking 2011.


OTHER MARLINS-TWINS NOTES: Believe it or not, Revere wasn’t the only player who participated in this Florida State League matchup.  He wasn’t even the only 1st-rounder.  Marlins third baseman Matt Dominguez (1st round, 2007) is a fine all-around player with the upside of a strong big league starter.  He’s a smooth fielder with a quick first step and I project him above-average at the hot corner.  Dominguez generates solid-average MLB bat-speed already and takes an aggressive hack.  He’s actually a low-ball hitter, which is rare for righties.  He ended the day 1-3 with a walk and a single off of a change-up.  At a slope-shouldered 6-1, 200, Dominguez looks the part.  He’s not on the fast track yet, there’s a lot to learn about discipline, but the Marlins can look to him a few years down the road…. Twins rightfielder Chris Parmelee was one of the best high school hitters to come out of the 2006 draft.  The 6-0, 220 lefthanded hitter has been slower to develop but still has a shot.  His bat hasn’t picked up any bat-speed from what I saw in high school and his approach is about the same.  Parmelee hit .239-14-49 in 226 AB for low Single-A Beloit in 2008.  His defense in right field hasn’t progressed much, either.  Some guys just take a little longer and I’m sure the Twins will be patient for his bat to come around the way they envisioned in 2006.  I thought he could be a fast-track guy out of high school, but it hasn’t happened that way….  Marlins rightfielder Mike Stanton had an absolutely monster season for low Single-A Greensboro, hitting .293-39-97 and slugging .611 in 468 at-bats.  He’s a 6-5, 240 lb physical specimen whom the Fish landed in the second round out of a southern California high school in 2007.  Along with plus-plus raw power, Stanton is a plus (60) runner with an idea on reading fly balls.  He also showed an average arm.  The big question is whether he’ll make enough contact to become a good big league hitter.  Stanton doesn’t pick up the curveball well and he was carved up a couple times, going 0-4 on Thursday night.  Stanton struck out a whopping 153 times in the Midwest League last year, and Florida State League pitchers will have better command of their breaking balls.  I don’t see him as a fast-track guy, but there’s all kinds of upside.  I’d give him another 3-4 years and be happy if he was ready for the big leagues then.  To his credit, he’s made unbelievable strides since I watched him as a rising high school senior in the summer of 2006.  Quitting both football and basketball had to expedite his baseball development after signing.

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