Jump to content

Providing independent coverage of the Minnesota Twins.
Subscribe to Twins Daily Email

The Forums

Rosario Placed on Outright Waiver

Minnesota Twins Talk Yesterday, 10:22 PM
https://www.mlbtrade...ht-waivers.html So long, at least temporarily, old friend.
Full topic ›

Blake Snell a trade target or not

Minnesota Twins Talk Yesterday, 09:51 PM
I would personally be happy to offer up Kirilloff and a few other prospects for him!!! What do you guys think he would cost and would you...
Full topic ›

Arbitration Updates

Minnesota Twins Talk Yesterday, 11:56 PM
With some news coming in on the Twins' arbitration-eligible players, I think it'd make sense to start a discussion on the incoming moves....
Full topic ›

Wisler, Rosario get non-tendered

Minnesota Twins Talk Yesterday, 08:50 PM
Am I the only one that doesn’t get the Wisler drop at all!?! Had strong strikeout numbers, could pitch multiple innings, and could pitch...
Full topic ›

Is Cruz a MUST signing? And what if he doesn't fit?

Minnesota Twins Talk Yesterday, 09:17 PM
Let me state I love Cruz and want him back if possible. I not only believe he brings class, experience, knowledge and leadership to the t...
Full topic ›

Recent Blogs

Twins 2020 Position Analysis: Third Base

The biggest free agent splash in Twins history is here to power up a reigning division winner, which likely would've been favored to make the playoffs in 2020 even without him.

What is Josh Donaldson's impact at third base, and how big of a difference-maker can he be?
Image courtesy of Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
Projected Starter: Josh Donaldson
Likely Backup: Marwin Gonzalez

Depth: Ehire Adrianza, Willians Astudillo
Prospects: Jose Miranda, Keoni Cavaco

THE GOOD

The Twins paid a pretty penny to acquire Donaldson's services, shattering the franchise record in January by inking him to a four-year deal worth $92 million. But their investment is well warranted, given his ability to enhance the roster in a multitude of ways.

First, there's his leadership and experience. Donaldson has played in more than 1,000 MLB games, accrued more than 40 fWAR, been named to three All-Star teams, and won an MVP award. Already, young Twins hitters have been flocking to him in camp, and just as he hinted upon signing, the veteran slugger has been eager to offer insight and guidance.

But in more tangible respects, Donaldson delivers a clear and decisive upgrade to this Twins club. Offensively, he's another high-octane power hitter joining a lineup full of them; it says a lot that Donaldson's .900 OPS and 37 home runs from 2019 don't especially stand out amongst his new teammates.
But of course, adding another high-end bat is always a good thing, and Donaldson has a lengthier track record of production at this level than anyone, except 39-year-old Nelson Cruz.

Donaldson's Statcast charts are a sight to behold. (Red means elite. There's a lot of red here.)



Attached Image: donaldsonsliders.png

Attached Image: donaldsonstats.png


Over a very large sample, Donaldson has flat-out clobbered baseballs with regularity. His average exit velocity and barrel rate both ranked among the top 8% of all hitters in four of the past five seasons (excepting only an injury-plagued 2018). If healthy, he's going to mash. Period. There's no one else on the roster we can say this about so confidently.

But aside from joining the bomba parade, Donaldson also brings something unique to the Twins lineup: patience. The far-right column in the stat sheet above shows his BB rates, which have ranked in the top 4% of all MLB hitters in each of his last three healthy seasons. Only four qualified American Leaguers – Mike Trout, Alex Bregman, Daniel Vogelbach, Carlos Santana – walked at a higher clip last year than Donaldson, who drew 100 free passes for the Braves.

This skill manifests itself both overtly and more subtly. On 100 occasions, the slugger strolled to first base and set up a teammate (often Freddie Freeman) to do damage. But there's an attrition factor too. Donaldson grinds ABs. He rarely chases out of the zone, and averaged more pitches per plate appearance last year than Cruz or Luis Arraez (who were both above the league average).

When he's in the box, the distinguished veteran places immense pressure on pitchers, luring them into nerve-racking deep counts and frequently capitalizing. From the very start of an AB, his opponent is under the gun. I think this stat kinda says it all:



So clearly, Donaldson is a monumental addition to the lineup. Almost any other year, it'd feel like a transformative one, but given this team's makeup before he joined, Donaldson's biggest impact might actually be felt on defense.

A variety of metrics – from Statcast's Outs Above Average (94th percentile) to Fangraphs' Defensive Runs Saved (second among MLB third basemen at plus-15) – ranked him last year among the league's finest at his position. He's replacing a player in Miguel Sano who was in the 8th percentile for OAA, and who cost his team an additional 20 runs defensively compared to Donaldson, according to his negative-5 DRS.

THE BAD

There's pretty much zero not to like about Donaldson, but when you look past him on the depth chart, and in the pipeline, things get bleak in a hurry. Sizing up the long-term picture at third base, it suddenly becomes much easier to see why the Twins were willing to go four years with the 34-year-old, and why they'll need to hope he can hang at the hot corner for some time.

Our recently released Top 20 prospects list featured one part-time third baseman – Jose Miranda, at No. 20. Even the honorable mentions were devoid of players at this position. I listed 2019 first-round draft pick and current shortstop Keoni Cavaco as a future option here, merely because he played third base in high school and there's some thought he will end up there in the long run. But he's 18.

The short-term depth also isn't great. Marwin Gonzalez and Ehire Adrianza are fine fill-ins, but either one would probably be stretched as starter over a prolonged period.

It would actually be interesting to see what would happen if Donaldson were to go down for a while. Would the Twins move Sano back across the diamond? Would they slide over Arraez, who started 15 games at third as a rookie, and tap into their superior depth at second base? Or would they leave the right side of their infield alone and just let the utilitymen hold it down?

Hopefully we won't need to find out. Donaldson played in all but seven games for Atlanta last year, and has generally been an iron man with the exception of 2017 and 2018, when he missed a full season's worth of games due to recurring calf issues. His 2019 was very reassuring, but at 34, nothing can be taken for granted.

THE BOTTOM LINE

It's Donaldson, then a massive dropoff. Examining the organizational depth at third base behind Minnesota's new corner-infield cornerstone really brings into focus the magnitude of his addition. The Twins will get by without him if need be – they were planning around that possibility, as negotiations dragged throughout the winter and at one point looked bleak – but he lifts both their offense and defense by a full notch.

"The Minnesota Twins will never be the same. This is a transformational signing," Matthew Trueblood wrote here the night it went down. As the season approaches, that now feels clearer than ever.

~~~


Twins 2020 Position Analysis: Catcher
Twins 2020 Position Analysis: First Base
Twins 2020 Position Analysis: Second Base

MORE FROM TWINS DAILY
— Latest Twins coverage from our writers
— Recent Twins discussion in our forums
— Follow Twins Daily via Twitter, Facebook or email

  • mikelink45, tarheeltwinsfan and LilMauer like this

  • Share:
  • submit to reddit
Subscribe to Twins Daily Email

Subscribe to Twins Daily Email

18 Comments

Didn't Blankenhorn play a lot of 3B coming through the system? He seems like a more realistic short-run possibility than Cavaco and Miranda.

    • SQUIRREL, Danchat, mikelink45 and 7 others like this
I think you'd have a very hard time finding any team that has a very good/stud 3B and a plug and play backup option. So I think the Twins depth is fine with Marwin and Adrianza, plus Astudillo plus Sano, though I don't like the idea of playing musical positions with him.

Lewis and Blenkenhorn should absolutely be included in the prospect section. Lewis should be considered not because he can't play SS, but rather because he has all the tools to be successful at 3B as well. The Twins, as they should, are open to him playing other positions just like any other prospect. In fact, they seemed almost pleased that he got to move around so much in the AFL so they could see how he would do. There is a very likely scenario where his first ML action will come as result of injury. His talent and flexibility should/Could allow him to help out in a variety of spots.

If the Twins are giving up on Blenkenhorn playing 3B, I think they are making a big mistake. He was drafted as a 3B. I've never heard his arm is weak. We keep hearing he's a good athlete, especially for a larger guy. Unless he is an absolute butcher at the hit corner, you keep playing him there. And then you play him some more. All he needs to be is passable there to be a greater asset. Hopefully, he should be able to play all 4 corner spots as well as 2B. He could be an excellent super utility player in a season or two.
    • SQUIRREL, mikelink45, tarheeltwinsfan and 7 others like this
Photo
Doctor Gast
Mar 05 2020 06:04 AM

I`m so thankful that we have the DH rule that enabled us to take that extra risk of going that high of offer for Donaldson. When I saw him in a hitting video after we signed him, I was so excited what he could bring to the Twins as a mentor especially for Lewis (although it seems like Lewis still needs to work it out but he will & he could be great). Then I saw him in ST, his moves @ 3B were fluid & automation it was a joy to see. Last but not least is his hitting, he compliment the line up very nicely. Wish him a healthy & prosperous career @ MN.

    • woolywoolhouse, DocBauer and MN_ExPat like this

The baseball HOF has 17 3B elected - the least of any position except DH which says a lot about how difficult that position is.Is recent years we have started to add more 3B than in any other two decades of the hall with Molitor listed at 3B, Brett, Schmidt, Boggs, Jones, Santo and Deacon White (who?) "White is the oldest player elected to the Hall of Fame – having a birthday (Dec. 2, 1847) that predates any other player enshrined in Cooperstown."And he actually was better known as a catcher. 

 

So the fact we do not have a line of prospects ready to challenge for playing time is no surprise.Right now with Rendon, Arenado, Bryant we have an unusual high standard for the base and we probably could not afford anyone else.We were lucky and I am glad.Keep him healthy and the team will be healthy. 

    • MN_ExPat likes this

Agree with those above who include Lewis as a potential future third baseman.Can see his joining the Twins in 2021, playing most games in various positions...kind of like Gonzalez.Could then settle into the starting third base job when Donaldson is done or moves to first base or DH.Expect he could become an all-star third baseman, although it wouldn't be the best use of his speed.

    • DocBauer, MN_ExPat and wabene like this
Photo
jorgenswest
Mar 05 2020 08:42 AM
Things are not bleak In the minors. Players who end up at 3B don’t often start as 3Bs in the minors or even play there as their primary position throughout the minors. Donaldson was a catcher through AAA. If Donaldson hadn’t been signed it is a spot that Lewis could have taken.
    • wabene likes this
Photo
Nick Nelson
Mar 05 2020 09:17 AM

 

Didn't Blankenhorn play a lot of 3B coming through the system? He seems like a more realistic short-run possibility than Cavaco and Miranda.

I can't claim to know the details behind it, but Blankenhorn made a total of 2 starts at 3B last year, including zero at Pensacola, where there wasn't really much high-level competition for reps (Caleb Hamilton and Joe Cronin led the team in 3B starts). On this basis, I have a hard time believing he'd be any kind of short-term option there in the majors.

Then again, Jorge Polanco had pretty much fully moved off short in the minors before returning there full-time in MLB. So who knows.

    • birdwatcher and MN_ExPat like this

I think short-term back-up options of Sano, Gonzalez, Adrianza, and Arraez in MLB already is pretty good, actually.

3B is a mystery to me.It seems that it should be an easy position to fill with quality players.Qick hands and feet, but necessarily fast feet.A strong arm is a necessity, but accuratacy is just about as imortant.Poiwer hitting is is kind of expected, but Wade Boggs made a decent name for himself there without tons of power.

 

In other word, 3B requires your basic defensive skills.Seemingly these skills should be processed by nearly all professional (not just MLB) ball players - no one is asking them to block J.J. Watt, shoot free throws or put backspin on a soccer ball. 

But the list of high quality 3B is (and has been) rather short. 14 in the HOF (about one per decade of ML Baseball) and for most of my life the depth has been poor.No one would take the 5th best 3B over Manny Machado or Nolan Arenado.At nearly every other position, you can make the case for the (consensus) #5 at any position over the #1 (consensus) be it because of his glove, power, speed or whatever your team may need.3B seems to (and has for years) stratify the players much more distinctly than other positions.

 

Anyway, the Twins now have one of the better ones.And have gotten him for a reasonable price (by modern MLB standards).

    • FritzDahmus likes this

 

3B is a mystery to me.It seems that it should be an easy position to fill with quality players.Qick hands and feet, but necessarily fast feet.A strong arm is a necessity, but accuratacy is just about as imortant.Poiwer hitting is is kind of expected, but Wade Boggs made a decent name for himself there without tons of power.

 

In other word, 3B requires your basic defensive skills.Seemingly these skills should be processed by nearly all professional (not just MLB) ball players - no one is asking them to block J.J. Watt, shoot free throws or put backspin on a soccer ball. 

But the list of high quality 3B is (and has been) rather short. 14 in the HOF (about one per decade of ML Baseball) and for most of my life the depth has been poor.No one would take the 5th best 3B over Manny Machado or Nolan Arenado.At nearly every other position, you can make the case for the (consensus) #5 at any position over the #1 (consensus) be it because of his glove, power, speed or whatever your team may need.3B seems to (and has for years) stratify the players much more distinctly than other positions.

 

Anyway, the Twins now have one of the better ones.And have gotten him for a reasonable price (by modern MLB standards).

My guess is that you have not stood at 3B when a wicked pulled ball comes soaring down the line - scares me.

Photo
FritzDahmus
Mar 05 2020 05:08 PM

 

3B is a mystery to me.It seems that it should be an easy position to fill with quality players.Qick hands and feet, but necessarily fast feet.A strong arm is a necessity, but accuratacy is just about as imortant.Poiwer hitting is is kind of expected, but Wade Boggs made a decent name for himself there without tons of power.

 

In other word, 3B requires your basic defensive skills.Seemingly these skills should be processed by nearly all professional (not just MLB) ball players - no one is asking them to block J.J. Watt, shoot free throws or put backspin on a soccer ball. 

But the list of high quality 3B is (and has been) rather short. 14 in the HOF (about one per decade of ML Baseball) and for most of my life the depth has been poor.No one would take the 5th best 3B over Manny Machado or Nolan Arenado.At nearly every other position, you can make the case for the (consensus) #5 at any position over the #1 (consensus) be it because of his glove, power, speed or whatever your team may need.3B seems to (and has for years) stratify the players much more distinctly than other positions.

 

Anyway, the Twins now have one of the better ones.And have gotten him for a reasonable price (by modern MLB standards).

 

 

BodieInSD -

 

I agree, I was a terrible infielder but had soft hands. At 3B I didn't have time for the grounder to "play" me.....I simply reacted quickly to the ball with soft hands and I got decent at 3B. You don't need any range and the arm does not have to be like a SS arm. No turning a double play.

 

I always thought it was the second easiest infield position to play. 

 

 

My guess is that you have not stood at 3B when a wicked pulled ball comes soaring down the line - scares me.

My guess is that you are not collecting a baseball paycheck...

I'm not saying that you can pull a guy out of the stands to play 3B, but that a professional should be able to capably man the position.

 

My guess is that you are not collecting a baseball paycheck...

I'm not saying that you can pull a guy out of the stands to play 3B, but that a professional should be able to capably man the position.

To me the quick response to bullets down the 3B line is one of the most difficult and challenging fielding reflexes in the game.

My guess is that you are not collecting a baseball paycheck...
I'm not saying that you can pull a guy out of the stands to play 3B, but that a professional should be able to capably man the position.

mod note quit the bickering

To me the quick response to bullets down the 3B line is one of the most difficult and challenging fielding reflexes in the game.

mod note, you too - quit the bickering

 

To me the quick response to bullets down the 3B line is one of the most difficult and challenging fielding reflexes in the game.

I agree.To me it is right below protecting yourself behind the plate from foul tips.

 

But these guys are professional athletes.Their reflexes are extraordinary compared to the general population. 

 

I simply find it strange that 3B is (and has had) a position that lacks depth at the top tiers.The pool of candidates is by no means small (5 minor league levels plus Rookie leagues - and those are only hte ML affiliated pros- and the physical skills are not particularly demanding (i.e. speed/range).A good first step (meaning quick and in the right direction) and the ability to keep the ball in front of you are really the the only skills a player needs.Repletion in the minors should hone those skills and sharpen the reflexes.

I hate to say it but i was not for signing Donaldson and still am not sold that this was the right thing to do. I would have rather them spend the money on 1 or 2 top pitchers. That being said, I would not worry about him getting hurt but would immediately move Sano over if he had to miss several games. 

I hate to say it but i was not for signing Donaldson and still am not sold that this was the right thing to do. I would have rather them spend the money on 1 or 2 top pitchers. That being said, I would not worry about him getting hurt but would immediately move Sano over if he had to miss several games.

“1 or 2” top pitchers? How about part of a top pitcher?

This has been beaten to death already, but top pitchers don’t just grow on trees. It’s easier said than done, to sign one of these unicorns. I think the FO would rather have signed a top pitcher too.

Similar Articles


by Cody Christie , 28 Oct 2020
Photo


by Nick Nelson , 25 Oct 2020
Photo


by Cody Christie , 11 Oct 2020
Photo


by Cody Christie , 05 Oct 2020
Photo


by Cody Christie , 28 Sep 2020
Photo