• Gardenhire announces his outfield plans

    After months of expecting Josh Willingham to move from left field, the outfield position he has played the most in his career, across the turf to right field, Ron Gardenhire has switched courses on that plan.

    Back in February, Gardenhire acknowledged that the experiment of moving Willingham to right field might not work but that they would be ready if he would be unable to adapt to the new position:

    "That's what we are going to do. We're going to try to figure this out in Spring Training. We're going to start out this way and if it looks like it's working OK and he's getting used to that, he'll be out in right field. But if it looks like he's not comfortable in right field, I know the other guys can do it for a fact."

    Prior to Sunday's game, the Twins manager said that Willingham would be his left fielder and not his right fielder has was initially intended.

    "Let's call Josh Willingham my left fielder," Gardenhire said before Sunday afternoon's game with the Cardinals at Roger Dean Stadium.

    Those who have watched him play have rated his arm as being below average. According to Fangraphs.com's Fans Scouting Report his Arm Strength has rated a 45 on a scale of 100 and an even slower release (40). This is not exactly ideal for right field play where those individuals have to make the longer throw to third base in addition to home plate making his transfer back to left field a better idea. Of course, voters think little of his range as well. In those categories - First Step and Speed - Willingham rated 34 and 37 respectively. Meanwhile, the BillJamesOnline.net Plus/Minus system says that he has had troubles over his career in left going back on balls, finishing -21 on deep balls dating back to 2008. Perhaps it was one of both of these factors that played a role in Gardenhire's decision to move Willingham back to his more familiar position.

    So who is going to be the starting right fielder? Gardenhire said the race is between the hot-hitting Chris Parmelee, Trevor Plouffe and Ben Revere (who is likely going to wind up the team's fourth outfielder, according to the team's assistant general manager Rob Antony on 1500ESPN.com).

    Parmelee's clearly earned an opportunity to play for this team with both is previous September performance as well as his torrid spring. However, he is fairly raw when it comes to outfield play. In the past two years in the minors, he's played 57 games in right field. His range factor of 1.86 (RF/G) over his full minor league playing time in right suggests that he isn't a significant liability (by comparison Michael Cuddyer's career range factor in right is 1.87) but he's not going to be a coverage guy in the field either. Likewise Plouffe is also green when it comes to the outfield position, having only played 21 games in the outfield in his professional career.

    Revere, who was the early favorite over the winter, had worked hard during the offseason to get his arm strength up to snuff (whereas Willingham's rated a 45 on Arm Strength, Revere was rated a 4) but the organization seems to have cooled on the idea of him being a starter. While he has been an amazing fly-tracker, reports from Fort Myers is that Revere is struggling when he has to charge balls on the ground.

    Although neither Gardenhire nor Antony mentioned this in their discussion of the outfield alignment, Ryan Doumit's name will very likely be mixed in the lineup in the outfield - particularly if Justin Morneau is a DH and Parmelee is shifted to first base. After dishing out $4 million to him, there is little doubt in my mind that they attempt to get him into the lineup more than two times a week to allow Mauer to rest.

    For the more fly-ball oriented pitchers on this staff, this alignment should raise their anxiety levels just a bit. With Revere and Span, the pitchers had some reassurance that more fly balls would find leather. Now, the gaps are going to get a little bigger. The hope, of course, is that with this alignment, the Twins should have a more potent offense that would off-set the defensive liability.
    This article was originally published in blog: Gardenhire announces his outfield plans started by Parker Hageman
    Comments 31 Comments
    1. Gernzy's Avatar
      Gernzy -
      Quote Originally Posted by Billy Bremner View Post
      A little more realistic discourse here, that recognizes the Twins lowly station would be welcome. News alert - Josh Willingham is lead-footed in the outfield - do you want to admit that now, or do you want to reveal your lack of credibility by missing that crucial point and instead pussyfoot about debating whether he is better in RF or LF? There's a whole league of teams out there who are gearing up and strategizing for the upcoming season, and rest assured that their plans, to a team, include not an iota of concern about your Minnesota Twins.
      White Sox fans are flooding our board...how about we wait until the season starts ok?

      As for the outfield move I think its a good idea. I like having Revere as a late inning replacement.
    1. steve v's Avatar
      steve v -
      Quote Originally Posted by John Bonnes View Post
      Wow. I gotta say, this is a death knell for Revere's future as a starting outfielder, at least this year. I've been checked out of spring training games for the last week or so. Has he been struggling? In need of an attitude adjustment? I'll also say that Willingham, IMHO, has not looked bad in right field on those few appearances I've seen of him out there.

      I'm a little stunned about this, to be honest with you. It's a plot twist to be sure.

      But it does make all the puzzle pieces fit together. It protects Morneau. Doumit doesn't have to play first base, which he's said he isn't comfortable with. It rewards Parmelee's torrid spring, and a platoon of Parmelee and Plouffe (or Doumit and plouffe) make nice platoons.
      I just returned from watching five spring training games. Revere is lacking basic outfield skills (arm strength, cutting in front of the centerfielder when runner was tagging, missing ground balls) which had everyone talking. It looked like he was trying too hard and it became obvious he doesn't have major league skills. I really enjoyed watching Benson play. The sound of the ball jumping off his bat makes you feel that he is going to be a super star. Leaving Florida he left the best impression of all at the major league field.
      It was fun watching TK working with Sano and the A players. That was the best part of the trip.
    1. USAFChief's Avatar
      USAFChief -
      Quote Originally Posted by nicksaviking View Post
      That crash we just heard is Ben Revere's trade value jumping out the window. If the team only views him as a fourth outfielder (5th? 6th?) why weren't they shopping him all preseason and trying to sell another club on his youth, years of team control, minor league track record and unmatched range?

      They can't believably claim they want him around to be a defensive replacement or pinch runner, they can call on Mastroianni to do that at any point. What a waisted opportunity to score a decent pitching prospect from another team. Telling the rest of the league how little you value the guy takes away any leverage. Same old MO, see Slowey, Young, Hardy and Lohse.
      What trade value do you think other teams place on outfielders who can't hit?

      Take of the rose colored glasses when looking at Ben Revere. He's nothing special. "Runs fast" is not a qualification to be an outfielder on a winning MLB baseball team. Even his defensive value (which isn't nearly as important for an outfielder as for infielders) is vastly overrated by many.
    1. nicksaviking's Avatar
      nicksaviking -
      Quote Originally Posted by USAFChief View Post
      What trade value do you think other teams place on outfielders who can't hit?

      Take of the rose colored glasses when looking at Ben Revere. He's nothing special. "Runs fast" is not a qualification to be an outfielder on a winning MLB baseball team. Even his defensive value (which isn't nearly as important for an outfielder as for infielders) is vastly overrated by many.
      He can't? Because of a streaky rookie year? He could certainly hit at every other level. No one's claiming he would net any teams top young player, but he was on the organization's top ten prospect list for years. He should have been able to fetch a player of similar stature. No longer, after Gardy so flippantly disregarded him to the other 29 teams. Even getting another clubs number ten prospect would have been more useful then keeping him around as w bench player.
    1. USAFChief's Avatar
      USAFChief -
      Quote Originally Posted by nicksaviking View Post
      He can't? Because of a streaky rookie year? He could certainly hit at every other level. No one's claiming he would net any teams top young player, but he was on the organization's top ten prospect list for years. He should have been able to fetch a player of similar stature. No longer, after Gardy so flippantly disregarded him to the other 29 teams. Even getting another clubs number ten prospect would have been more useful then keeping him around as w bench player.
      Wait...other GMs, with dozens of scouts and reams of data at their disposal, changed their opinions of Ben Revere in the last couple days based on What Gardy said? They hadn't noticed his limited upside on their own?

      Quick, let's get Gardy to say Nick Blackburn is going to win the next three Cy Youngs and dump him on some rube GM for the best five prospects in their system before they figure out who Blackburn is!
    1. WJ's Avatar
      WJ -
      The Twins have Span here and Benson coming up. That determines Revere's value to the Twins. The trick is to find a team that doesn't have a Span or a Benson. A team without other options will overlook some of Revere's flaws.
    1. nicksaviking's Avatar
      nicksaviking -
      Quote Originally Posted by USAFChief View Post
      Wait...other GMs, with dozens of scouts and reams of data at their disposal, changed their opinions of Ben Revere in the last couple days based on What Gardy said? They hadn't noticed his limited upside on their own?

      Quick, let's get Gardy to say Nick Blackburn is going to win the next three Cy Youngs and dump him on some rube GM for the best five prospects in their system before they figure out who Blackburn is!
      No one would have changed their minds about what ever skill they determined Revere has. What I clearly said was, now that they know the Twins see little value in him, the Twins have no leverage if they had intended on moving him. No team will need to offer his equivalent value ** no matter what value anyone actually places on him** when they can easily point out to the Twins, "Hey, you don't want him, why should we give you anything for him?"
    1. Shane Wahl's Avatar
      Shane Wahl -
      The Twins are starting to shock me with some of these smart decisions. That said, a few things:

      1. That Josh Willingham can't make the move to the other corner is a bit pathetic, isn't it? Maybe when sees how significantly easier RF is at TF, he may change his mind. He's going to be sub-par at either position.

      2. There is a legitimate question as to whether or not Revere should start at Rochester to play every day to improve in areas he needs to improve (getting on base and better routes in the OF).

      3. I worry about Parmelee beyond 57 at bats in the majors right now.
    1. Shane Wahl's Avatar
      Shane Wahl -
      Quote Originally Posted by nicksaviking View Post
      No one would have changed their minds about what ever skill they determined Revere has. What I clearly said was, now that they know the Twins see little value in him, the Twins have no leverage if they had intended on moving him. No team will need to offer his equivalent value ** no matter what value anyone actually places on him** when they can easily point out to the Twins, "Hey, you don't want him, why should we give you anything for him?"
      Yeah, it was clear to me that he was going to be the one traded eventually, so I hope he demonstrates some level of competence.
    1. nicksaviking's Avatar
      nicksaviking -
      Quote Originally Posted by shanewahl View Post
      The Twins are starting to shock me with some of these smart decisions. That said, a few things:

      1. That Josh Willingham can't make the move to the other corner is a bit pathetic, isn't it? Maybe when sees how significantly easier RF is at TF, he may change his mind. He's going to be sub-par at either position.

      2. There is a legitimate question as to whether or not Revere should start at Rochester to play every day to improve in areas he needs to improve (getting on base and better routes in the OF).

      3. I worry about Parmelee beyond 57 at bats in the majors right now.
      I hope he can figure it out. Once the team is ready for Benson, Willingham would be a logical everyday DH choice. Unfortunately that position is likely needed for the more fragile players, Mauer, Morneau and Doumit. Three years with poor defense is a long time when you consider there are younger players looking for playing time in the outfield too.
    1. Shane Wahl's Avatar
      Shane Wahl -
      Quote Originally Posted by nicksaviking View Post
      I hope he can figure it out. Once the team is ready for Benson, Willingham would be a logical everyday DH choice. Unfortunately that position is likely needed for the more fragile players, Mauer, Morneau and Doumit. Three years with poor defense is a long time when you consider there are younger players looking for playing time in the outfield too.
      It's one thing to be sub-par at one OF position, but to force a situation where 2/3 of the OF is below average is problematic. I am not sure about Parmelee's RF defense, but hopefully Plouffe gets it together. I marvel at the fact that Twins never moved Delmon to RF where he belonged and now Willingham is unable to move to where he belongs. Given his inability to make this simple transition, there is no better choice than the one the Twins are making--they cannot have Revere play RF (Willingham's arm belongs there).
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