A Solution for the Twins Outfield
Image courtesy of © Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY SportsFirst and foremost, the Buxton injury is unfortunate. Back when he first returned from the DL, I was on record as being fine with the decision to skip a rehab stint. Knowing full well that would negatively impact his hitting, the reality was that the outfield was a mess the more often they played without his defense. With the Twins having had the accurate information on the fracture far longer than the public , it’s irresponsible that Buxton was allowed to play despite not being able to swing comfortably. It’s one thing to play through pain, but Minnesota allowing Buxton to jeopardize himself further i\\was silly.
What’s done is done at this point however, and Paul Molitor needs to move on with his lineup. The pitching has been there for this club most of the season, and it’s been the lineup that has simply fallen flat. What’s worse is that there aren’t going to be any promotions that immediately spark some sort of a turnaround. Sure, Nick Gordon could’ve (and should’ve) been promoted while Miguel Sano was on the DL. Outside of that though, the Minnesota doesn’t have any offensive impact prospects that present a groundbreaking opportunity.
In the wake of Buxton’s injury, there is an opportunity to capitalize on a spark and provide potential future benefits however. Both Zack Granite and LaMonte Wade exist for Derek Falvey and Thad Levine.
Following a similar thought process as to why Buxton was activated without a rehab stint, defense is obviously of integral importance for the Twins. Understandably, neither Wade nor Granite will be on par with the best defensive outfielder in the world, but they are also (specifically Granite) capable of playing at a high level on their own.
The reality is that the Twins current roster construction forces journeyman Ryan LaMarre to either start in center on a regular basis, or pushes one of the corner guys over to accommodate Robbie Grossman playing in LF. The former option isn’t an awful one defensively, but there’s no upside. After a hot start, LaMarre has hit .111/.126/.111 in his last 31 plate appearances. On top of that, he’s 29 and not part of future plans. Looking at the latter option, there’s not much convincing that needs to take place to argue that Grossman doesn’t belong anywhere with a glove on.
Both Granite and Wade have recently returned from time on the disabled list this season, and Zack is hardly producing at the level he displayed during 2017 at Triple A. With just a .206/.292/.224 slash line for Rochester, there’s a lot left to be desired from what Granite is currently doing. That said, it’s his approach that gives him a chance (9/13 K/BB), and he displayed an ability to at least handle big league pitching a season ago (40 G .237/.321/.290). Wade’s numbers are much more respectable (.295/.393/.439) but come at the Double-A level. The jump for a mid-tier prospect is a big one, and won’t come without hurdles.
Regardless of what stock is put in either of Granite or Wade’s current numbers, future considerations make a move for one of them look so sensible. Either could slot in as a regular contributor on the 25-man roster in the next few years, and allowing them to get regular playing time while Byron is shelved seems like a no- brainer. Molitor’s current options leave a gaping hole in playing time, so neither prospect would be coming up simply to sit.
It’d be somewhat foolish to expect Wade with his good numbers or Granite with his poor ones, to provide some sort of fix-it type spark to the Twins. Going forward though, there’s a significant benefit to getting them the reps currently doled out to LaMarre (or Grossman when he’s in RF) and watching them settle in against the best competition. Both players are on-base threats, and if they can push the envelope while Buxton is out, then you’ve got a decision to make on LaMarre or Grossman when Byron returns.
At the end of the day, the Twins are doing themselves no favor by hoping Ryan LaMarre changes course on his career, while instead turning away from opportunities to challenge players with a potential future.
- DocBauer, nmcowboy, nclahammer and 1 other like this