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  • The Rundown: Welcome to the Fuld

    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.

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

    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
    Comments 7 Comments
    1. Don't Feed the Greed Guy's Avatar
      Don't Feed the Greed Guy -
      Derek Wetmore did a nice job of sifting through some of Ron Gardenhire's comments regarding Fuld--especially any sense that Fuld might answer the Twins leadoff question. Here's a brief snippet of Wetmore's article on the 1500 ESPN website. (BTW: I'm very impressed with Wetmore's "Five Thoughts" post-game columns.) The full article is located here: http://www.1500espn.com/sportswire/W...f_hitter042114

      "He can play anywhere in the outfield, he's a leadoff-type guy, ..."
      Fuld can play anywhere in the outfielder, that much is true. He had a strong defensive season in left field in 2011 for the Rays. In just more than 1,000 innings for his career in left field, Fuld has racked up 16 Defensive Runs Saved, according to FanGraphs. In roughly 500 innings in center, he has a -6 DRS, and in right he's a -6 DRS in just about 300 defensive innings. That makes him a passable defensive outfielder, but outside that 2011 season (+11 DRS), he's never done anything extraordinary.
      He certainly is not a "leadoff-type" guy, however.
      Fuld is a career .233/.312/.334 hitter, including .199/.270/.267 in 200 plate appearances last season. He has more career plate appearances batting leadoff than any other spot in the order, but outside of 115 plate appearances in 2009, he's never gotten on base at a respectable clip, which is a requirement of a leadoff hitter. Not that this matters, but his OBP from the leadoff spot in 297 plate appearances is .307.
      Let's move on to the next part of the quote.
      "...he can fly, he can steal bases," Gardenhire said.
      Fuld might be fast, but he's swiped just 38 bags in his career, and that includes 20 in 2011, by far his best season in the Majors. Those 38 steals have come in 51 attempts, which is a decent success rate but doesn't constitute all that many tries.
      Moving on.
      "He's one of those little guys who's a tough out and plays hard."
      As noted, his career OBP of .312 (and .270 OBP last season) makes him anything but a "tough out." Outfielders collectively got on base at a .323 clip last season, so he's actually a considerably easy out compared to his peers.
    1. Shane Wahl's Avatar
      Shane Wahl -
      Don't Feed the Facts Guy!
    1. Kirby_Waved_At_Me's Avatar
      Kirby_Waved_At_Me -
      Is that 36/51 steals/attempts or steals/caught stealing?

      If it is 51 times caught, maybe he shouldn't be running.
    1. Mr. Brooks's Avatar
      Mr. Brooks -
      When Gardy says "leadoff type guy" he means he's fast.

      After listening to Gardy and guys like Dan Gladden and Roy Smalley, I've decided to just accept the fact that these old school guys dont appreciate OBP and never will.
    1. Thrylos's Avatar
      Thrylos -
      Quote Originally Posted by Mr. Brooks View Post
      After listening to Gardy and guys like Dan Gladden and Roy Smalley, I've decided to just accept the fact that these old school guys dont appreciate OBP and never will.
      Dan Gladden's career OBP with the Twins (as a lead-off hitter nevertheless) : .318
    1. PopRiveter's Avatar
      PopRiveter -
      I don't care what anyone says. This team's CF problem is MUCH worse than its SS problem. Fuld is a downgrade from Mastroianni and either has a fair shot to outproduce Hicks this year.
      Please rise quickly, Byron.
    1. Paul Pleiss's Avatar
      Paul Pleiss -
      Quote Originally Posted by PopRiveter View Post
      I don't care what anyone says. This team's CF problem is MUCH worse than its SS problem. Fuld is a downgrade from Mastroianni and either has a fair shot to outproduce Hicks this year.
      Please rise quickly, Byron.
      I agree there is a problem with the CF depth in the organization, but I'd argue that the SS problem is worse. A Fuld/Hicks platoon isn't something to get excited about, but finding a scrap heap CF for an organization is an easier move than finding a competent SS. Florimon/Escobar/Nunez and on and on, they're all the same, and none of them worth an everyday lineup spot and there's no hope in the high minors. Danny Santana, you say? Maybe for 2015, but his defense needs to be more consistent, and he has to keep hitting. I think help at SS is more likely coming from lower in the system and more years away, Goodrum, Polanco.
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