Burroughs' Fairy Tale Ending
Burroughs is a good story - a Little League hero who rose to prize prospect, flamed out in 2007, fell into a life of substance abuse and returned to the majors as a bench bat last year. For now, it's a happy ending. For Twins fans, it has a chance to be happier still, because Burroughs has positioned himself to be in the right place at the right time.
[PRBREAK][/PRBREAK]I was asked today how the Twins were the lucky team to sign someone with Burroughs’ upside to a minor league contract. The answer is a bittersweet one to Twins fans. Burroughs likely signed with the Twins because a lot could go wrong at the hot corner this year.
Last year, a heap of unwanted attention was piled on Danny Valencia's defense, and when one plays for a manager like Ron Gardenhire, that's no small problem. But there was also the fact that the right-handed batting Valencia has simply not hit right-handed pitching, posting .242 batting average and just a 654 OPS in 660 plate appearances. For comparison, Nick Punto’s career OPS is 652. Considering right-handed pitchers account for 2/3 of the at-bats an everyday starter faces and suddenly Valencia’s future as a full-time player is in doubt.
Enter Burroughs. Burroughs bats left-handed. Coincidentally, when speaking of Burroughs, Gardenhire specifically praised two areas in which Valencia has struggled: defense and clubhouse impact. ESPN 1500’s Phil Mackey asked Gardenhire about Burroughs and passed along the following quotes:
"He can pick it over (at third base)," manager Ron Gardenhire said. "Very intelligent. As I said, very intelligent on the defensive side of the ball. Knows the game out there, positions himself well. Always did. And handles himself very well. (Rochester manager) Gene Glynn had him down in winter ball this year. He had him down in winter ball in Venezuela. He had great reports on him....
"Everything I've heard about him from winter ball, they told me he was one of those guys that everyone couldn't wait until he entered the clubhouse; he brightened up the clubhouse.”
It's unlikely last year’s third base responsibilities would change by Opening Day. But it's not totally crazy to think that Burroughs could find his way onto the 25-man roster. Two bench spots might be in play. Luke Hughes' status is up in the air given his shoulder problems. Burroughs could replace him, especially if he shows he can fill-in at second base in a pinch. And the Twins have enough redundancy at catcher, shortstop and center field that Gardenhire could use that last roster spot for a bench bat instead of a bench glove.
But whether he makes it right now or not, this story isn't over. We don't know the plot twists that will take place yet this spring or summer, but there is plenty of opportunity for all involved to live happily ever after.