Minnesota Twins News & Rumors Forum
  • Position Battle: Designated Hitter

    In Josh Willingham, Oswaldo Arcia and Jason Kubel, the Twins have three players who are projected to be on the 25-man roster and are all probably best suited for designated hitter duty.

    Each is likely to see some time in that role, but determining which player should be the true "designated DH" is essentially a matter of judging who provides the least defensive value.

    Of course, the go-to designated hitter also has to hit enough to justify playing a position that puts sole emphasis on offense. That was a problem last year, when Ryan Doumit batted .220/.273/.351 as a DH while leading the club in at-bats there.

    It's no wonder the Twins shook things up during the offseason and shipped Doumit out.

    Kubel, whose signing paved the way for Doumit's exit, will largely serve the same function in the lineup -- a potent bat against righties that can be slotted in the middle of the order if he's going good. But Kubel doesn't strike me as the most logical choice to take over as DH.

    That would be Willingham. He turned 35 a month ago, his last season was ruined by knee problems, and he wasn't particularly good in left field before all that.

    Admittedly, I haven't seen Kubel play a whole lot since he left Minnesota in 2011, but he's three years younger than Willingham and -- despite lacking great mobility -- he struck me as a surprisingly decent outfielder when he was here.

    Arcia was already bulky and cumbersome as a 22-year-old rookie and that's only likely to worsen as he gets older and grows, but hopefully he'll smooth out some of his rough edges with experience.

    Neither Kubel nor Arcia is ideal as a regular outfielder, but I think both make more sense than Willingham, who is likely the worst defensive option of the three even before taking into account the protection of his aging knees.

    On the offensive side, all three are going to strike out a lot. Last year both Kubel and Arcia fanned in more than 30 percent of their plate appearances, placing them among the most K-prone hitters in the majors. Willingham, at 27 percent, was not far behind.

    A high volume of whiffs isn't too unusual for power hitters, but when you strike out in nearly a third of your trips to the plate, production tends to be stifled.

    Then again, while each has his dangers, I see solid offensive upside in all three players being discussed. Willingham has a long track record of success, Arcia possesses the strength to become dominant if his approach improves, and Kubel will be more motivated than ever knowing his career (along with several million bucks) is on the line.

    There's going to be a lot of mixing and matching involved with the designated hitter position this year. Ron Gardenhire will be put to the test strategically by juggling numerous considerations, such as keeping Willingham's legs rested, giving Arcia the occasional mental break, preventing Kubel from matching up against any southpaws, and above all fielding a competent defense.

    In that respect, it's easy to see why the Twins chose to maintain flexibility at DH rather than signing a bopper to plug in there. That doesn't mean they're not expecting plenty of bop from the position.
    This article was originally published in blog: Position Battle: Designated Hitter started by Nick Nelson
    Comments 44 Comments
    1. Beezer's Avatar
      Beezer -
      I still think that Target Field plays better for the home team with an emphasis on speed and defense. Get on base and steal bases. Old School. It is not a hitters park. Trying to go with boomers is like putting square pegs in round holes. You might be able to pound it in a couple times but doesn't fit very well.
    1. TheLeviathan's Avatar
      TheLeviathan -
      Quote Originally Posted by jokin View Post
      I don't think anyone is talking about fooling anyone. If someone really needs a bat, it's a question if they would be willing to put up with his obvious inadequacies. Demonstrating his health at this point is more important than demonstrating his competency (or lack thereof).
      Wouldn't DHing him work against your argument? What better way to keep him healthy then to dramatically reduce the number of opportunities he could get hurt by having him only get off the pine 3-4 times to hit?

      This is especially odd to me since you and a few others in the thread are campaigning for "win now!" as much as possible and then want to trot out a god-awful fielder in the name of a risky gamble for future trade value.
    1. DocBauer's Avatar
      DocBauer -
      Quote Originally Posted by jimbo92107 View Post
      I don't agree with plugging Willingham in at LF until the deadline. Teams already know that he's slow, got an iron glove, but otherwise has an accurate, average velocity throw to second, cutoff and third. That impression won't change at the trade deadline. In fact, potential trade partners might prefer if the Twins don't wear out Hammer's somewhat vulnerable knees by mid-season.

      The best technical outfielder of the three is Kubel, by a good margin. He positions himself well, anticipates well, takes good lines, and his arm is very accurate, tho nothing intimidating to a guy rounding first base. Arcia looks to have good potential, but needs a ton of repetitions and needs to work on his footwork throwing. Otherwise he's got very good velocity, and reasonable accuracy, but not as consistently accurate as the other two.

      I'd go about half and half with Hammer and Kubel at DH, and play Arcia in RF as much as possible. Should be really interesting how things shake out in spring training. If Buxton looks as good then as he did in the minors, why send him down? And if Hicks also has a good spring, then what does that do to the outfield? It would be nice to have two or three legit outfielders for a change. Buxton, Hicks and Arcia. I'd buy a ticket to see that right now.
      This actually steals some of my thunder and I agree completely.

      Any trade partner out there knows Willingham's abilities in the OF. We don't need to showcase that. We need to show his healthy and productive with the bat, and probably rotate him to LF just enough to show he is about what he has always been, and not crippled at this point.

      I have to ask, marginal a best in the OF and 35, what do people really expect the Twins to receive back in any possible trade? A top 10 prospect for an expiring contract? A top 20 player? I think expectations should be tempered a bit here.

      Further, the Twins are a better defensive club, and thus a better pitching club, without Willingham in the OF every day. Willingham's time at DH is quite limited. Am I the only one who feels Molitor is perfect to help Willingham along with the transition?

      And Arcia absolutely has to be in the OF every day. He has some athletic ability and a strong arm. He's WAY too young to be restricted, labeled orpigeon holed at this point.
    1. Reginald Maudling's Shin's Avatar
      Reginald Maudling's Shin -
      If Willingham can improve enough to be a decent hitter again then I wouldn't be upset if they kept him instead of trading him, so long as he's not paid over market value. They aren't going to get much in trade value anyway.
©2014 TwinsCentric, LLC. All Rights Reserved.
Interested in advertising with Twins Daily? Click here.