The Miami Marlins have agreed to a minor league contract with outfielder Joe Benson, according to a source familiar with the negotiations. The deal includes an invitation to major league spring training.
Benson could compete for a spot as a backup outfielder for the Marlins, who are expected to start Christian Yelich, Marcell Ozuna and Giancarlo Stanton. Jake Marisnick and newcomer Brian Bogusevic are expected to be in the mix for the backup outfield spots, but injuries and a strong spring training performance could open the door for Benson to make an impact at the major league level.
Benson, who turns 26 in March, was originally drafted in the 2nd round (64th overall) by the Twins in 2006, and was ranked as one of the organization's top prospect for the last few years. According to Baseball America, Benson was the Twins' second best prospect after the 2007 and 2011 seasons, and was ranked within the team's top fifteen prospects from every season from 2006 to 2011. Baseball America also ranked him as the 100th best prospect in baseball after the 2010 season, and the 99th a year later.
Benson made his major league debut in 2011, hitting .239 with 2 RBI in 21 games. He struggled in the minors with the Twins in 2012, and was claimed off waivers by the Rangers last season. In 86 minor league games in the Twins and Rangers systems last season, he hit .215 with 7 HR and 30 RBI. Texas had interest in bringing him back to the organization before he signed with the Marlins, according to a source.
In 732 career minor league games over eight seasons, Benson is a lifetime .253 hitter with 75 HR, 318 RBI and 115 stolen bases. At 25, he is viewed as a five-tool player who has potential to be a major league contributor in the future.