Monday, March 26, 2012

Twins Defense

Baseball Outsider is pointing out that the decision to move Jason Willingham to left and, presumably Revere to right field, the bench or AAA, leaves the Twins outfield defense unimproved from last year. The article assumes Ryan Doumit will be out in right field a lot. While I think its more likely that Trevor Plouffe and Chris Parmelee are out there, his basic point is correct. If the Twins pitchers were looking forward to an outfield defense that was going to chase balls down, they aren't going to have it.

This is actually a continuation of the pattern since Tom Kelly left. There are probably only four players on the Twins you would call plus defenders, Mauer, Morneau, Span and Casilla. That list includes what are arguably the threes best offensive players. Carroll, Valencia, Willingham and whoever is in right field are all likely to be at least slightly below average for their position. And, of course, Ryan Doumit is defensively challenged as the backup behind the plate. That's the only reason he was available to the Twins as a free agent.

Aside from Revere, the only players still in camp competing for a job based on their defense are the third catchers and Pedro Florimon as a backup shortstop. Sean Burroughs is probably a plus defender at third base, but if he wins a job it will be as a veteran bat off the bench. Luke Hughes is defensively challenged, no matter where he plays. He will make the roster for his bat. Trevor Plouffe is in the outfield because he can't play shortstop. He may turn into a good defender, but he has almost no experience there right now. Chris Parmelee is not a particularly good defensive first baseman, but he will likely be playing in right field anyway where his defense was marginal even as a minor league player.

There was a point where it looked like the Twins bench might include two defensive specialists, Butera and Florimon along with Hughes and Plouffe as extra bats. With Revere as a regular in left field the Twins had the ability to put a good defensive team on the field. Now, if Parmelee, Hughes and Plouffe are on the roster, there is really only room for one defensive guy. That could be Ben Revere or it could be a third catcher or it could be a defensive infielder. In any case, the need for offense has once again trumped defensive improvements. I am sure we will hear a lot of grumbling from Gardenhire during the season, but the reality is he only values defense in its absence.

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