The Twins have had an issue getting consistent third base play since the days of Corey Koskie. Danny Valencia was called up and had a very strong showing as a rookie, but he then struggled in his second season. That opened the door for Trevor Plouffe who had a huge two-month stretch in 2012, showing tremendous power. He struggled in 2013. What will 2014 bring for Plouffe? With one of baseballís top prospects coming up quickly on the horizon, it will be a big year for the incumbent.
The Big Leaguers
Trevor Plouffe will begin the 2014 season as the Twins starting third baseman. Though it will be the fifth season that he has seen time with the Twins and his 11th in the organization, he will not turn 28 until mid-June. Thereís no question Plouffe has some talent and the ability to hit the ball a long way. His .254 average in 2013 was his career-high. However, despite playing in a career high 129 games, his home run total dropped from 24 in 2012 to 14 in 2013. He did miss time with a concussion and when he was ready to return, he went right back on the DL with a calf injury.
Eduardo Escobar is out of options and will most likely be the teamís primary utility infielder in 2014. There is little offensive upside with Escobar, though he can play the infield positions quite well and can provide depth in the outfield too. He also had caught some bullpens and would be the Twins emergency catcher.
The Non-Roster Invites
Last week, the Twins announced their non-roster spring training invitees. Three of those invites are primarily third basemen.
In 2013, Deibinson Romero was supposed to head to the Twins' big league camp for the first time since he was put on the teamís 40-man roster in 2009. Unfortunately, he had problems getting a visa due to MLBís more stringent age reviewing process. He came to the States after the season began and put together a solid year. In 90 games between AA (where he just played in just a handful of games) and AAA, he hit .275/.374/.448 with 17 doubles and 13 homers. A year earlier, in AA, he had 23 doubles and 19 homers. Hopefully the 27-year-old can have a healthy, productive season.
Brandon Waring (28) came to the Twins early in the offseason as a minor league free agent. After spending more than half the 2012 season with the Orioles AAA team in Norfolk, he spent all but ten days of the 2013 back at AA Bowie. He hit just .213. However, he did post a .102 IsoD with 23 home runs. He primarily played 3B, though he can also play 1B.
The Crown Jewel
The third non-roster invitee at the hot corner is someone who would likely be the #1 prospect in about 28 of baseballís organizations. In the Twins system, Miguel Sano is the #2 prospect behind only Byron Buxton, the top prospect in baseball. After hitting 28 home runs and driving in 100 runs in Beloit in 2012, Sano performed even better as he moved up the ladder in 2013. In Ft. Myers, he hit .330/.424/.655 (1.079) with 15 doubles and 16 home runs. The day after the Miracle clinched the first half title, he was promoted to AA where he played in 67 more games. There, he struggled and hit just .236. However, he got on base 34% of the time and hit 15 doubles and 19 home runs. So, combined, he had 30 doubles, 35 homers and 103 RBI. His defense also greatly improved. He reduced his error total from 42 in 2012 to 23 in 2013.
As exciting as Sanoís power is, he will have to continue to make improvement in his contact rate. When he connects, the ball generally travels. A return to New Britain will be beneficial to his development. However, he could move up quickly as long as his defense remains solid. And, of course, assuming his elbow turns out to be healthy.
Miguel Sano is one of baseballís best prospects, and rightfully so, but he was my choice (and most peopleís) as the Twins #2 prospect.
My #14 Twins prospect, Travis Harrison, put together a solid showing in his first full season. At Cedar Rapids, he hit .253/.366/.416 with 28 doubles and 15 home runs. After committing 24 errors in 59 games in E-Town in 2012, Harrison had 26 errors in 129 games in Cedar Rapids in 2013. The 2011 supplemental first round pick will likely advance to Ft. Myers for the 2014 season.
Amaurys Minier was my choice as the #16 Twins prospect this year. He was the Twins big international signing in 2012 when the then-16-year-old signed with the team for $1.4 million. He was limited to 31 games in his professional debut with the GCL Twins in 2013 due to injury. He hit just .214 and got on base 25% of the time. However, he hit five doubles, two triples and six home runs. When he made contact, good things typically happened. He has work to do on his defense as well, as you would expect.
In each installment, Iíve made my roster projections. Additional signings and injuries would affect all this, and thatís why I sometimes have more than just two or even three at each level. There are also always players put on disabled lists. As a disclaimer, these are my projections and not meant to be used as anything official. This gives an idea of who could be at each affiliate at the start of the season.
- Minnesota: Trevor Plouffe, Eduardo Escobar
- Rochester: Deibinson Romero, Brandon Waring, Nate Hanson
- New Britain: Miguel Sano
- Fort Myers: Travis Harrison, Stephen Wickens
- Cedar Rapids: Javier Pimentel, Chad Christensen
- Extended Spring Training: Amaurys Minier, Roni Tapia, Ruar Verkerk
Feel free to discuss the players and the roster.