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Article: Center Of Attention

Minnesota Twins Talk Today, 10:03 PM
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The Rundown: Welcome to the Fuld

Attached Image: sam.jpg On Sunday, the Twins claimed 32-year-old OF Sam Fuld off waivers from the Oakland A’s, designating OF Darin Mastroianni for assignment (again) to clear a spot on the team’s 40-man roster. Fuld can play all three outfield positions, with his light offensive game built on above-average speed and making contact. Aside from an extended stint with the Tampa Bay Rays in 2011, Fuld is a career backup who at this point is a fourth outfielder on a quality major league roster.

The acquisition of Fuld was precipitated by the abrupt retirement of Jason Bartlett this past weekend. The decision to open the season with Bartlett as a backup outfielder was questionable at the outset, and his seven innings of action in left field proved as much. Bartlett’s retirement, along with the release of Alex Presley late in camp, left Mastroianni as the organization’s only true backup option in center field, and Mastroianni’s performance over the past week (0-for-12 with five strikeouts) was enough to convince the front office to pick up Fuld’s contract.

Adding Fuld less than one month after Presley’s surprising release initially makes that move look even more curious, but in looking at their respective numbers it is clear the Twins simply valued Fuld’s skillset over Presley’s. Fuld is the superior defensive player, draws more walks and is a more accomplished baserunner, which apparently were enough to offset his lack of pop compared to Presley. That the Twins preferred the former should come as no surprise to anyone familiar with the organization’s core philosophies.

[TABLE="width: 327"]
[TR]
[TD][/TD]
[TD]G[/TD]
[TD]AVG[/TD]
[TD]OBP[/TD]
[TD]SLG[/TD]
[TD]BB%[/TD]
[TD]K%[/TD]
[TD]wRC+[/TD]
[TD]SB/CS[/TD]
[TD]UZR/150[/TD]
[/TR]
[TR]
[TD]Sam Fuld[/TD]
[TD]373[/TD]
[TD].233[/TD]
[TD].312[/TD]
[TD].334[/TD]
[TD]9.9%[/TD]
[TD]13.7%[/TD]
[TD]82[/TD]
[TD]38/51[/TD]
[TD]10.8[/TD]
[/TR]
[TR]
[TD]Alex Presley[/TD]
[TD]243[/TD]
[TD].258[/TD]
[TD].297[/TD]
[TD].405[/TD]
[TD]4.9%[/TD]
[TD]19.6%[/TD]
[TD]93[/TD]
[TD]20/35[/TD]
[TD]-3.7[/TD]
[/TR]
[/TABLE]

Of much more importance than Fuld versus Presley is the impact of Fuld’s addition on starting CF Aaron Hicks. Based on comments from Twins Assistant GM Rob Antony, the early struggles of Hicks apparently played a role in claiming Fuld. “I don’t think he’s inked in as our starting center fielder over the rest of the season,” Antony said of Hicks, noting that he needs to show continued improvement and become more consistent. Antony’s remarks notwithstanding, any notion of Fuld as a starting CF seems misguided at best, as evidenced by his .233/.312/.334 career line. Antony’s suggestion of a possible Hicks/Fuld platoon (with Fuld getting the majority of at-bats against right-handers) also makes little sense, as Fuld’s splits against RHP are actually worse over his career.

Numbers aside, any decision to give Fuld considerable playing time over Hicks would demonstrate a serious lack of understanding on the part of the organization of where this team is and what its goals should be in 2014. Sitting at .500 through 18 games, the Twins are off to as good a start as anyone realistically could have hoped and few could argue that the on-field product hasn’t looked markedly improved over last year’s squad. However, thoughts of this team contending over 162 games are unrealistic, and the focus of this year must remain the continued development of players like Hicks. It is incumbent on the coaches and front office to determine which players on the current roster are going to be a part of the next contender, and with a certain center field prospect waiting in the wings this is probably more true of Hicks than anyone. Prior to last year, Hicks had shown the ability to adapt and succeed at every level of competition, and the Twins owe him every opportunity to do so at the major league level this season.

Fuld can be a quality contributor on this Twins roster, and his addition fills an important hole left by the release of Presley. However, any true timeshare with Hicks in center flies in the face of baseball logic. Hopefully a decent start does not distract the organization from what is truly important this season – building towards the future. Originally published at pitching2contact


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