That’s Offensive: Did Morrison’s Signing Fix Minnesota’s Biggest Flaw?
Image courtesy of Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY SportsInfield Veterans
Joe Mauer and Brian Dozier have plenty to prove as they both are set to hit free agency at season’s end. Dozier is coming off some of the best seasons of his career and he seems to be hitting free agency at a good point in his career. Mauer has admitted this spring that he would like to finish out his career in a Twins uniform. Both of them still need to help lead the offense in 2018.
Dozier’s strikeout rate stayed steady last season at 20 percent but he improved his walk rate from 8.8 percent in 2016 to 11.1 in 2017. He posted a career-high .271 average that was boosted there because of a .300 BABIP. He’s averaged 38 home runs over the last two seasons and he’s continued to improve his batted-ball profile.
Mauer’s offensive output struggled after suffering multiple concussions. Last season, Mauer started to look more like the pre-concussion Mauer. He hit over .300 for the first time since 2013, the year his concussion occurred. His strikeout rate had been increasing at an alarming rate as he averaged over 100 strikeouts from 2014-2016. Mauer was also one of the best players in the American League at avoiding pitches out of the zone.
Newly signed designated hitter Logan Morrison is coming off a breakout season. His 38 home runs helped him to finish in the top-10. He also changed his swing mechanics as he increased his launch angle from 12.1 degrees in 2016 to 17.4 degrees in 2017. As a lefty, left-handed pitchers held him to a .233 average and only six of his homers came against lefties. Morrison is going to need to prove that 2017 wasn’t a fluke.
Dozier, Morrison and Mauer will need to continue these recent trends to help the Twins offense.
Jorge Polanco showed his inexperience during the first half of last season. He struggled by hitting .224 with a .596 OPS. He was benched near the end of July and this seemed to wake him up. From August 1 to season’s end, he hit .316 with a .931 OPS and 10 home runs. He’s shown the ability to limit strikeouts.
Sano’s power tool has been touted throughout his professional career. Last season, he seemed to put it all together before a shin injury forced him to miss the season’s last two months. He was elected to the All-Star Game in Miami after slugging 21 homers and compiling a .906 OPS in the first half. As a big swinger, he strikes out in over a third of his plate appearances but he has a 12.3 percent walk rate.
There are also reports of Sano showing up to camp out of shape. He’s always been a bigger player but this season is important to show he can be an elite power-hitting threat. So which versions of Polanco and Sano will surface in 2018?
Buxton’s poor start to 2017 was well documented. Through the season’s first month, he was striking out at an alarming rate (37% of his plate appearances). May turned into a transition time for Buxton as he got rid of his leg kick and rebuilt his swing. In the season’s second half, he hit .300 with an .893 OPS and 11 home runs. This was a great finish but Buxton’s pitch recognition needs to improve to cut back on his strikeouts and draw more walks.
In his sophomore season, Max Kepler struggled mightily against lefties with a .453 OPS. Paul Molitor even went so far as to bench Kepler against some left-handed pitchers. He showed the ability to hit off of lefties during his minor league career so he needs to figure it out at the big league level in 2018. He could continue to grow in multiple areas including his power hitting.
Over the last two seasons, Eddie Rosario has cut his strikeout rate from 25.7 to 18 percent. His career-high .289 batting average allowed him to get on base almost 31% of the time. Rosario has a career .325 BABIP but he only posted a .312 BABIP last season. This could be a sign that he was unlucky last year.
This outfield trio might let only raindrops fall on the defensive side of the ball but there are plenty of questions about their contributions on the offensive side of the ball.
Which offensive player has the most to prove in 2018? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion.
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