Wednesday, July 06, 2011

Plouffe, Capps, Slowey and other Issues

Like many AAA players, Trevor Plouffe has nothing left to prove at AAA. The one thing they haven't done is prove they belong in the big leagues. Of course, that requires getting the chance. In Plouffe's case, he got that chance and the big league manager decided he didn't belong. At least not as the starting shortstop. At least, not yet. Of course hot minor league seasons will always lead to calls for a player to be elevated to the big leagues by impatient fans. But AAA success is only one indicator for whether a player will make it in the big leagues. 

I have always been a Plouffe fan. He has been on my top ten Twins prospect list for the last few years and last winter I had him as the Most Underrated Twins Prospect. He is starting to show the power that he was projected to have. His problem is that he lacks a defensive position if he can't play shortstop. Since being sent back to AAA, the Twins have had him playing in the outfield for the first time. Whether his bat plays there or not, the Twins don't have a lot of openings in the outfield. If Nishioka continues to struggle, the Twins may decide to give Plouffe another shot at shortstop. But that seems unlikely. If the Twins thought his defensive flaws were correctable, he would be playing shortstop every day at AAA. Instead they seem to be experimenting with him at other positions.

The other mini-controversy is who should be closing games for the Twins. Capps had been lifted in his last two outings in order to bring in Perkins to face a left hander. That can't continue. You can't hold Perkins in reserve to bail out Capps if he gets in trouble. Its obvious that for now the Twins are going to keep Capps in the closing role. Giving up on him is not really an option. They need for him to be successful if they are going to get back in the race. But, like Rauch last year, if he continues to scuffle they will make a move. The question then will be whether that is Nathan, Perkins or someone outside the organization. That is unlikely to happen until after the allstar break.

Kevin Slowey pitched last night. His next start would be Sunday, just before the allstar break. Sunday is also Scott Baker's next scheduled start if he is healthy. If he isn't the Twins will need to decide whether to go with Swarzak as a replacement or activate Slowey. My guess is that they will go with Swarzak and give Slowey another game at AAA. But the Twins are also going to need a 6th starter for a double header against Cleveland Monday after the Allstar break.  If he pitches well on Sunday, I would expect Slowey to take that start. What happens after that is anyone's guess. As Baker's injury reminds us, having depth in the rotation is always important. But its hard to imagine sending a solid major league starter like Slowey to AAA.

Danny Valencia has suddenly gotten hot. If he can sustain his recent burst of offense it will make a huge difference over the second half of the season. Its another hopeful sign that the Twins are going to make a race of it. 


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