Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Can we Answer any Twins' Questions yet?

Before the baseball season started this year I said the Twins' weren't going to be very good.  Bold prediction, I know, but I also said that would be ok because it would give us a chance to answer some questions about some of the Twins' "fringey" guys and figure out who would be a future building block for the team and who wouldn't - or at least shouldn't.  I think we are far enough into the season at this point to at least start looking at the answer to that question on some of these dudes.

Chris Parmelee - Parmelee has always hit well in the minors, including crushing AAA pitching last year to the tune of .338/.457/.645 with 17 homers in 64 games and as he's just 25 years old there's still hope, but it is fading and fading quickly.  He's hitting just .223/.302/.346 so far this year, and believe it or not that's only a slight regression from where he was in last season's late audition when he was terrible.

To put it in perspective, that OPS he's sporting is about what you'd expect from a typical Alexi Casilla season, and considering Parmelee is a poor fielder and not a good baserunner he's clearly been one of the least valuable players on the team this year (and his -0.4 WAR backs me up).  Since his only possible positions are ones of premium offensive importance (1B/RF) and he offers little besides his bat, things don't look good.  He's not showing the power he displayed at AAA and complimenting that by walking less and striking out more.  Other than all that things are going great.

Brian Dozier - Might as well follow up one big disappointment with another, because Dozier flat stinks, hitting just .230/.284/.340 and basically performing like a slightly non-broke man's Drew Butera without the premium defense and a tough position.  Actually although he's a pretty horrendous shortstop he's been decent second basemen, but decent fielding can't offset that piss poor hitting or whatever it is he's doing up there.

The saddest part of all of this is that thanks to his solid fielding and good base-running (fangraphs has him as the #2 base-runner on the team which includes things like going from 1st to 3rd on a single and what-not) Dozier actually ranks as the 4th best Twin position player this year by WAR (behind Mauer, Florimon - more on him later, and Morneau).  That's not a positive regarding Dozier, more of an indictment of how awful the Twins have been seeing as how he ranks 62nd out of the 86 players in the majors who qualify for the batting title in WAR.  I've pretty much given up on this guy.

Trevor Plouffe - Plouffe hasn't been able to follow up on his torrid streak last year where he hit 13 homers in 22 games, making Danny Valencia expendable (well, more expendable) and finishing with 24 homers on the year (the most for a Twin 3B since Corey Koskie's 25 in 2004) but he does seem to be settling in to the kind of player we could expect year after year.  It's pretty good, and would be very good if he was a better fielder.

Plouffe's value almost solely comes from his bat, and his year he's hitting .264/.344/.457 and should end up in the vicinity of 20 homers again assuming no more injuries.  Plouffe's OPS of .801 ranks 6th in the AL among third basemen, which is great but is offset by his fielding.  Plouffe's cut down on his errors, which is encouraging, but his range is the fourth worst in the AL among 3Bs (as imprecise as this is).  I don't know if you can teach range, so at this point he probably is what he is:  a guy with stone feet who will hit around .260 each year with about 20 dingers and walk a little.  Good enough for you?  Good enough for me, provided he continues to clean up his fielding. 

Pedro Florimon - He isn't a guy who I even dreamed about thinking about the possibility of him being in the Twins' future when contention time rolls around again (please roll around again) but it's not out of the realm of possibility.  Granted he's a pretty terrible hitter (slightly better than Dozier this year, though) but his fielding and base running (7 steals in 7 attempts helps here quite a bit) have turned him into the second most valuable Twin so far this year with a 1.4 WAR.  Yes, once again this mostly just means the Twins are really horrible, but comparing him league wide yields some eye opening results.

Among all shortstops in the major leagues, Florimon ranks 1st in range, and ranks 3rd in overall fielding value since he makes too many errors right now.  Add in some excellent base running (tops on the team, fourth among all big league shortstops, and despite floundering around at the plate Florimon is the 8th most valuable shortstop in the majors, all things considered.  It seems a bit bizarre I'll grant you, and fielding and base running metrics aren't an exact science, but he does pass the eye test there as well so it's close enough for me.  He has increased his power and his walk rate this year compared to last, and although at 27 we're probably past time for a big breakout if it was coming (and his minor league numbers suggest that it certainly wasn't) Florimon should end up sticking around for a while as either your slick fielding number 9 hitter or defensive whiz substitution guy, both of which are far from where I had originally though he'd be which is the California Penal League where they don't wear caps or sleeves.

Glen Perkins - I was of the opinion that Perkins was a half-way decent set-up guy of the dime a dozen type who would probably manage to get a few saves and hopefully the Twins would trade him because saves are so overvalued.  I still think they should probably trade him, but now, with him proving to be nearly unhittable (WHIP 0.82/OAV .165 - both 4th best in the AL) and striking out 12.62 per 9 innings (7th best), and being under team control until 2016 if they decide to roll with him as their future closer, I can deal.  

That being said, they would be foolish not to at least listen to offers come trade deadline time.  Perkins has been great, but closers are notoriously volatile and the Twins likely won't really even need a closer until 2015 at the earliest, so a contender with closer issues like Detroit (yes, even though GASP they're in the same division) or Arizona or Boston or somebody might be willing to drastically overpay from a prospect perspective.  If somebody is willing to give you a legit prospect or even a young established player at a greater position of need (would Detroit give up Rick Porcello, for example?) wouldn't you have to do it?  I guess this all depends on how you value closers.  If you're like me and think most closers are interchangeable with their set-up men then yes.  If you're wrong, then no.

That's about it outside of the starting staff (who I will look at in an upcoming post because geez what a mess that is).  I could go through a couple of other guys with questions like "Can Eduardo Escobar help justify the Francisco Liriano trade by becoming the next Denny Hocking/Jeff Reboulet type?" (No, not white gritty enough) or "Can Wilkin Ramirez stick around?" (Honestly I don't even know if he's still on the team) but that doesn't really seem like something I'm going to do. 

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