Likely Starter: Ben Revere
2011 Stats: .267/.310/.309, 0 HR, 30 RBI, 56 R, 34/43 SB
Potential Backups: Trevor Plouffe, Darin Mastroianni, Brian Dinkelman
Last year the Twins were the least effective team
in all of baseball at converting batted balls into outs. With a pitching staff that allows a ton of contact, that's an enormously troubling statistic.
Lining up Ben Revere as the regular left fielder should certainly benefit the Twins on the defensive front. He and Denard Span can team up to track down almost everything hit in the air to the left side of Target Field's spacious outfield. But how much are the Twins giving up offensively by going with Revere as their starter in left? And if he doesn't start reaching base with greater frequency, how long will his leash be?
I've seen plenty of skepticism regarding Revere's long-term outlook, and it's not hard to see why. Lacking power, patience and arm strength, his skill set is clearly limiting – particularly for a corner outfielder, which is what he'll be as long as Span is holding down center.
Yet, I'm pretty bullish on Revere, for a number of reasons. While his weaknesses are well established, he also has some promising strengths. He's a contact hitter who gets out of the box and down the line with extreme quickness, and he is blazing fast. He set a Twins rookie record with 34 stolen bases last year, and his range in the outfield is truly spectacular. At 23, I think he still has room to grow.
Even if he's one of the best defensive left fielders in the league, the .619 OPS that Revere posted in 2011 simply won't cut it. He needs to elevate that number, and since he's not likely to start drawing walks or racking up extra-base hits, he'll need to do it by significantly improving his batting average. He can help himself in that area by lifting the ball more (his 68.5 percent ground ball rate led the Twins last year) and bunting for hits (he's only attempted 16 career bunts
The alternative to Revere in left, when the Twins face a tough lefty or when Ron Gardenhire wants more offense, will be Trevor Plouffe. A first-round draft pick back in 2004, Plouffe had a breakout season in the minors last year, posting a 1.019 OPS in Rochester, and he showed decent pop during his time in the majors with 27 extra-base hits in 320 plate appearances.
Defensively Plouffe is a major question mark, given that he'd never played in the outfield prior to 2011, and his bat is hardly a proven commodity. He does offer some interesting offensive upside, though, and at the very least he's a nice guy to have around as a pseudo-platoon partner for Revere.
I'm probably higher than most on both Plouffe and Revere, but there's no denying the fact that one is a converted shortstop who never hit much prior to last year and one profiles as a prototypical fourth outfielder. It's difficult to envision left field as a major strength between these two, but both are young players who offer very different benefits and I'm fairly intrigued to see how this little experiment will turn out.
Predicted 2012 Hitting Line for Revere: .280/.330/.340, 1 HR, 30 RBI