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Who's on First (and Third)?

Posted by tnato , 08 February 2017 · 835 views

This post will be my first. It will not be based on any stats, and it will not have much to back it up.

The Byung-Ho Park move could mean a lot of things. But I think there is one crazy speculation that has not been made yet. The move could mean Miguel Sano plays more first base this year.

This theory really only works if you buy the idea that Sano's future is not at third base. The Twins won't move him just because they want to. I think Sano and the season could give them a reason to.

First, they don't really have many long term options at either position.

First base has a few more options than third base. Obviously Mauer is the stop gap here. He is signed for 2 more years, and while not the same player as before, the best established first baseman on the team. The concern here is Mauer's health.

Here is a breakdown of Mauer's games played the last 3 years
(Source: Baseball Reference Standard Batting table)
2016: 134
2015: 158
2014: 120
Here is a breakdown of Mauer's games played by position the last 3 years
(Source: Baseball Reference Standard Fielding table)
2016
1B - 95
DH - 34
2015
1B - 137
DH - 20
2014
1B - 100
DH - 19

Mauer might stay relatively healthy, but we could see that DH stay at 34, or even go up. Which means Vargas will see more playing time at first. Vargas best skill is his bat, but its still up in the air if that will keep him in the majors. It's no guarantee Vargas sticks and Park is not only playing catchup with his career, but it appears catchup with the front office.

Without Plouffe - the Twins only have one third baseman, Miguel Sano. And Miguel Sano is it. CBS Baseball currently lists Escobar and Polanco as his backups. Sano is the guy for at least the first half of the season. But there are plenty of questions about his ability to play third base long term. I think it is reasonable to think he struggles at third this year. Or, maybe he even gets hurt and can't play third.

So, here is the scenario I see playing out -
1. Defensively, Sano doesn't look like the the third baseman of the future. But his bat needs to stay in the lineup.
2. Mauer plays more DH, and eventually misses an extended amount of time.
3. Vargas gets more playing time, but becomes a defensive liability.
4. Sano starts seeing more time at first base.

Who plays third base? I don't have an answer for that. Maybe the Twins tread water with whatever they have at AAA. There is one chip the Twins could play - trading Dozier. Everyone is focused on getting a starting pitcher. Maybe the Twins get a third baseman instead.

Tough to say exactly how the front office addresses a season where Sano struggles defensively at third, and they don't have great option at first. But if they can find someone to play third base, Sano could easily find himself at first. I may have started down this path with the finish line, and trying to find a path to it. I think Sano could end up at first long term, and I found a way for the season to play out that way.

This being my first post, I'm half expecting someone to point out something obvious that blows this theory apart. Either way, I'm excited to start interacting with the community instead of just sitting on the sidelines. I hope everyone enjoys this!

  • ChiTownTwinsFan and DocBauer like this



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Hosken Bombo Disco
Feb 09 2017 09:28 AM
It was good, nothing blows your theory apart. :)

The closest thing would be the Twins announcement that they believe in Sano at third. For the record I do, too. Sano could just as likely get better as get worse. Plouffe was terrible his first season there. First base for Sano would be learning a new position again, and it took Mauer more than a full season to play it adequately. Mauer is very good there at first now.

But do the Twins have a plan B at third? Not that I can see. This particular season I think there are more important issues to address than having a plan B at third when they can just plug Polanco or Escobar there.
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Lee-The-Twins-Fan
Feb 09 2017 03:02 PM

OK, this scenario basically suggests Sano will not be adequate at 3B, and will therefore be moved to 1B. I don't buy that; I think he will get better; he showed up at the TwinsFest in very good shape, if you saw any pics online. He's almost always played 3B, except for the failed tryout in RF last year. He'll be acceptable at 3B.

 

But if not, you have a point. Short-term, the Twins would probably use Escobar there. Some suggest Polanco, but some suggest he can't play SS; if his arm is not suitable for SS, it won't be for 3B, IMO. 

 

I'd be looking at Ehire Adrianza for either SS or 3B, if Sano goes down. he would be a poor man's (low hit) 3B, but it could work. I think he's better suited for SS. 

 

Oddly enough, I think the solution – if you need to move Sano to 1B – would be to move either Dozier or Mauer to 3B. Dozier would make some sense, as he was brought in at SS and moved to 2B. Then Polanco could move to 2B, leaving Ehire Adrianza at SS.

 

If Vargas fails at DH - which I view more likely than Sano failing at 3B – Park could be brought up to play 1B and DH.It could be:

 

1B - Mauer/Sano

2B - Polanco

3B - Dozier

SS - Adrianza

DH - Park/Sano/Mauer

 

 

While Park is in AAA, I think he should play some games at 3B. I don't expect he will be great at it, but it might help alleviate the traffic jam at 1B/DH, and be a Plan B if Sano has injury issues as he has had the past two years.