Signing Aaron Whitefield Was No Softball Question
Aaron Whitefield (Photo by Cliff Welch)
MINNEAPOLIS—Aaron Whitefield was probably the best defensive infielder in his league, was an unusually smart baserunner and displayed a remarkable ability to hit to all fields, frequently with impressive power. Yet because of one minor detail, the Twins had virtually no competition when they decided to sign him in 2015.
Oh, yeah: He was a softball player.
"Hey, what’s so unusual about that?” vice president for player personnel Mike Radcliff joked. Whitefield’s parents are from New Zealand, Radcliff noted, "and (softball is) what they play there, so that’s what he learned. And obviously, if you’re really good at it, the skills can translate.”
They have for Whitefield, who grew up in Australia and represented his country in international softball tournaments as a teenager.
He’s 20 now, has played one full season in the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League and already has erased any doubts about his ability to transition to baseball.
"He’s really unusual, because he has the instincts of an advanced player already,” Radcliff said. "The next year or two will be fun to watch. You don’t have many guys in your organization (about) who you can say, ‘He’s a five-tool player,’ but this guy might be.”
Where Whitefield might deploy those tools remains a mystery. He played some shortstop last winter in the Australian Baseball League, but the Twins tried him at third base, first base and all three outfield positions. Center field remains a possibility, Radcliff said, "but I’ll be interested to see where he settles in.”
Whitefield batted .298/.370/.366 in 51 games and led the GCL in both stolen bases (31) and caught stealing (nine). The Twins encouraged him to run, Radcliff said, and not worry about his stolen-base percentage.
• Five former Twins—second baseman James Beresford, lefthanders Pat Dean and Logan Darnell and righthanders Neil Ramirez and Alex Wimmers—were among 18 minor leaguers in the organization who qualified for minor league free agency in November. The Twins selected Wimmers (first round), Dean (third) and Darnell (sixth) in the 2010 draft.
• The contract of Jay Weitzel, the Twins’ area scout in Ohio and Pennsylvania for 14 seasons, was not renewed. He signed a pair of first-round picks for the Twins: Wimmers in 2010 and Pittsburgh prep outfielder Alex Kirilloff in 2016.