Twins 2018 Position Analysis: Designated Hitter
Image courtesy of Butch Dill, USA Today (Logan Morrison)Projected Starter: Logan Morrison
Likely Backup: Robbie Grossman
Depth: Miguel Sano, Joe Mauer, Eduardo Escobar
Prospects: Lewin Diaz, Brent Rooker, Zander Wiel
In 2010, Jim Thome started 78 games for the Twins at DH, and as we all know, it went really well. Since then, the position has been a blur of changing faces and failed experiments.
From 2012 through 2017, no single player made even 70 starts in a season at DH for the Twins. The position mostly functioned as a revolving door, with folks like Ryan Doumit, Kendrys Morales, ByungHo Park and Robbie Grossman passing through. No one made much of an impression, except for Miguel Sano who soon moved to third (after a – *shudder* – detour in right).
Can Logan Morrison end the cycle? Minnesota's front office is sure hoping so. They pounced on the slugging lefty in late February at a bargain too good to pass up. So instead of the usual endless carousel, the Twins figure to have a steady fixture at the spot for the first time in eight years.
If he can approximate last season's production, Morrison will be an impact addition to the middle of the lineup, and his presence could greatly ease the loss of Jorge Polanco to suspension (LoMo's .868 OPS in 2017 was almost identical to Polanco's .870 mark in the second half when he took off).
If Morrison regresses to his career norm – .245/.330/.433 – he'll be less of an asset, but it'd still be more production than Minnesota got from the DH cohort led by Grossman in 2017 (.237/.328/.383).
Should Morrison go down for any reason the Twins would simply revert to their original plan at DH, which might've looked awfully similar to last year's distribution – minus the 30 starts for Kennys Vargas.
In terms of pipeline, Lewin Diaz profiles as the heir apparent right now. If his bat takes a step forward, he could be in the DH picture as soon as next year. But as is the nature of this position, any number of good hitters who can't cut it defensively may end up in the mix.
Last week the Twins designated Vargas for assignment, and on Thursday he officially departed the organization when Cincinnati claimed him off waivers. It's an odd fit given that the Reds can't use him at DH and already have a superstar first baseman entrenched in Joey Votto.
Alas, Minnesota lost a piece of its depth with the move. It would've been nice if Vargas had slipped through waivers to remain on hand in Triple-A.
But, all things considered, the Twins should be feeling pretty good at designated hitter. There is no shortage of bats in the picture for this club, so theoretically, the position shouldn't be an issue any time soon. We'll see.
THE BOTTOM LINE
As currently constructed, the Twins have quite a few hitters, so finding one to designate on any given night shouldn't be an issue. The same is true going forward until further notice. It's hard to imagine this team lacking for players who can step up and swing the lumber at any time in the near future.
The biggest question is if and when they'll need to set aside this spot for Sano. Hopefully not for a while, because they really need him to hold down third.
~~~Catch up on the rest of the series:
Twins Daily Position Analysis: Catcher
Twins Daily Position Analysis: First Base
Twins Daily Position Analysis: Second Base
Twins Daily Position Analysis: Third Base
Twins Daily Position Analysis: Shortstop
Twins Daily Position Analysis: Left Field
Twins Daily Position Analysis: Center Field
Twins Daily Position Analysis: Right Field
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