A few days ago, I examined the potential "dark horses" for the Twins among infield players in their system and suggested that Luke Hughes has the potential to be such a player in 2010. Today, I will try to identify an outfielder in the Twins' system with dark horse potential, and in a later post I will conclude the series with a pitcher.
It is very well known and very frequently discussed, that with the trade of Carlos Gomez to the Milwaukee Brewers for J.J. Hardy and the release of Jason Pridie, despite the fact that the Twins will have 4 outfielders in the major league roster, the only one who can play the center field successfully is Denard Span. Gardenhire has indicated that Cuddyer, Casilla, Punto and Tolbert will play some CF this spring in order to potentially play there if a need arises but not even in Ron Gardenhire's wildest dreams, if there is an injury (or a medical issue like last season) to Denard Span, which will keep him out of action for more than a week or so, any of these options are viable.
The Twins have Ben Revere, a highly rated prospect in the system, and he might get an early call to action; Dustin Martin is ok at CF and Jacque Jones recently returned home, embraced by the organization like the prodigal son. Could any of them be a dark horse? Potentially (also add Rene Tosoni to the equation), but the player who has caught my interest, is another one: Jacque Jones' teammate with the Newark Bears last season, Charlton Jimerson.
Lets examine the facts of his minor league career: Charlton Jimerson is fast, has some power, but strikes out about 5-6 times more than he walks (in a good season). That is the recipe for a failure to make the majors and would point out that the guy is a career minor leaguer at best. To tell the truth, this was my perception at the announcement of his signing but I dug a bit more; and here are the reasons why I think that Charlton Jimerson could be a dark horse for the Twins in 2010:
a. He is a survivor in life. When life threw lemons at Charlton, he did not only make lemonade, he made a top shelf Margarita. You can read more about his childhood here but this is a summary: Middle of 5 kids, dad left the house very early, mom was a crack cocaine addict, older sister was supporting the family as a teenager working 3 jobs and when Charlton was 15 he and his younger brothers were awarded custody to their older brother who just had turned 19. Not many people have dealt with this kind of situations and all Charlton did was to attend the University of Miami with an academic scholarship and made the team (one of the most competitive College baseball teams, btw) as a walk in. This says a lot about, not only his character, but his determination and perseverance. What if he has been a career minor leaguer and played independent league ball last season at age 29? He has been in much worse situations in his life and came out of them shining.
b. He made the best out of the meager opportunities he had in the majors. He was called up as a September call-up in 4 seasons (2 each with Seattle and Houston). He played in 31 games but had only 9 at bats total (he was used as a pinch runner and defensive replacement). But... he is on the rare club of players who hit a home run at the first major league at bat and his total line has been .444/.444/1.111 with 2 HR, 4 SB and 8 runs scored (in only 9 AB).
c. He strikes out a lot, but does make contact, and when he makes contact he hits the ball hard. Also he is fast, a good fielder and a stolen base threat. Here is his career MiLB line: .258/.312/.456; 144 HR, 185 2B, 261 SB, 4303 AB (this projects to 22 HR, 28 2B and 40 SB over 650 AB). One may say that minor league numbers will not translate. Here is a comparable, exactly the same age as Charlton Jimerson: Garrett Jones. Garrett's career MiLB line is .258/.312/.450 (eerily, practically identical to Charlton Jimerson's). All Garrett Jones did was to hit .293/.372/.567 with 21 HRs in 314 AB with the Pirates last season. Another comparable slash line (with a twist) : .254/.304/.444; Joe Crede's career MLB line. And Charlton Jimerson has at least as much power as the other two plus a 40 SB potential plus good OF defense in all 3 places, esp. CF. Furthermore, his line last season with the Newark Bears (competition level probably equivalent to AA or the Mexican league) was: .335/.387/.567 21 HR, 38 SB and a reasonable (career best) 36 BB to 88 K. If a Twins' AA player posted these numbers the organization, the fans and the press would have declared him the next best thing out there...
These are the reasons for which I think that Charlton Jimerson has the potential to be a dark horse for the Twins in 2010, plus he is a great guy to root for...