Twins 40-Man Roster Analysis: Infield
by, 12-26-2013 at 06:05 AM (922 Views)
Originally posted at Kevin Slowey was Framed!
Over the last week or so, I've been investigating the Twins' 40-man roster to try to determine who will contribute to the next good Twins team. I've reached the end of this short journey and will cover the infielders today. However, I did complete this activity in four parts, so if you missed the first three, you can find them here:
Now that we have hyperlinks out of the way, we can look at the Twins' infielders, ordered from least likely to contribute to most likely to contribute in 2015 (that magical season I am forecasting).
Infield is not the strength of the Twins' 40-man roster. Vargas is known for his strength. Paradox? Nope, just something I thought sounded cool. Vargas was added to the roster to protect him from the Rule 5 draft. Vargas spent his 2013 season with High-A Fort Myers and he showed off his massive power, hitting 19 home runs and slugging .468. Unless Vargas absolutely crushes AA in 2014, I don't see how he plays for the Twins in 2015. Perhaps 2016?
Compared to Vargas, Polanco is ever so slightly more likely to be playing for the Twins in 2015, mostly because he could man a middle infield position and possibly fill a utility role. I don't think that scenario plays out though. Polanco could be the Twins' second baseman of the future, but I'd say that future is more than two years away and his career won't be starting in 2015 at the age of 21 or 22.
Well, the Twins tried to sell him to Korea, so that's probably not a great sign for his long-term future with the organization. Colabello was a really nice story in 2013, going from Independent Ball to AAA legend to the Majors. He struggled mightily against MLB pitching, striking out in nearly a third of his plate appearances and posting a shoddy .194/.287/.344 line. Colabello has massive right-handed power, which should play well at Target Field. However, he doesn't have pull power and the home runs don't really fly out of the park to center and right unless they're hit by Jim Thome. Plus, Joe Mauer now occupies the only position Colabello can effectively play. Unless Colabello adjusts to his field and to MLB pitching, he won't be much more than a bench bat and I'm not sure it will be the Twins' bench by 2015.
Santana could be on the active roster in 2015. He'll be 24 and will have had AA and probably AAA experience. He might even get a 2014 September call-up if all goes well. Santana had a quietly effective offensive season with New Britain in 2013. He hit .297/.333/.386 with 22 doubles, 10 triples and 30 stolen bases. He also made 32 errors at short, and I can't remember a time when the Twins have consistently used a shortstop who was that error-prone. That said, Santana reportedly has the skills for short and could provide better offense than Pedro Florimon or Eduardo Escobar by 2015. I think he'll be on the team, but I'm not sure he'll be starting just yet.
The Twins have given Florimon 596 plate appearances over the past two seasons, about 595 more than I figured he would receive. That said, Florimon has been a good defender at short and provided some speed when he actually hit the ball. He wasn't a complete disaster, posting a 70 OPS+. By WAR, he was one of the Twins' three best players in the first half. He was pretty brutal in the second half and he might not be better than other options on the roster (see below). He's 27 now and approaching arbitration. I imagine he'll be with the team in 2015, but I would wager that he'll be a utility player by then.
The Twins seem to value Plouffe's versatility. He's a third baseman, but he can play a corner outfield spot as well. I like versatility too, but I also like performance. If you take Plouffe's crazy June/July of 2012 out of the equation, he's a roughly 90 OPS+ third baseman with a nice (but somewhat inaccurate) arm and little range. He also cannot hit right-handed pitching, hitting .227/.284/.382 in his career. His best offensive tool (power) doesn't even apply against the much more common arm-side pitching. With his shaky defense, I don't think the Twins can properly exploit his potential defensive versatility. In fact, I'd prefer to see more of another young player at third in 2014...
Escobar might be that better option than Florimon and/or a decent platoon-mate for Plouffe. I look at his numbers next to Florimon's numbers and I see very similar players. Low contact, a few walks, good speed, but not on-base enough to utilize it, good glove and the ability to play a couple positions. Escobar is two years younger and might be a better defender. Even if he can't unseat Florimon for the shortstop job, he should provide enough value as a guy who can play all infield position to keep his job while cheap. If Plouffe doesn't improve offensively, I'd give Escobar some starts at third as well. At least Escobar will play great defense. Escobar will be cheap in 2015, even though he'll be arbitration-eligible. I hope he gets a longer look; I like him.
Dozier is probably one of three sure bets for 2015, with Oswaldo Arcia and the new first baseman. In 2013, Dozier reclaimed his lost plate discipline, but also traded a few strikeouts for more power. He hit more fly balls and finished 2013 with 18 home runs. His defense was much better at second and he finished the season with 2.8 fWAR, good for 8th among all qualifying MLB second basemen. However, Dozier was very up and down in 2013, and this chart proves it:
OPS+ K% BB% BB/K BABIP LD% GB% FB% HR HR/FB April 71 17.7 7.6 0.43 0.280 22.8 36.8 40.4 0 0 May 42 23.6 3.4 0.14 0.276 14.5 51.6 33.9 2 9.5 June 152 15.4 16.5 1.07 0.364 20.0 36.7 43.3 5 19.2 July 101 17.1 5.7 0.33 0.252 25.0 32.9 42.1 2 6.3 August 139 19.9 7.8 0.39 0.347 24.8 30.7 44.6 6 13.3 Sept/Oct 93 21.2 8.5 0.40 0.255 15.9 42.7 41.5 3 8.8
Dozier's best month appears to be June, when he started his breakout. He did some things really well in June, including striking out at the lowest rate he posted in any month and nearly doubling his season walk rate. He also had a really high .364 BABIP and an equally high 19.2 home run to fly ball ratio. I actually like what I see in August a little more. He had less luck with fly balls going over the fence and a slightly lower BABIP. He also walked at a rate more in line with his season average, which seems a lot more sustainable than a giant one-month spike.
The plate discipline he showed in every month other than May should keep his performance at the level we grew accustomed to from June on. His home run total might have been a bit of a fluke though. I'd guess he'd settle more in the 10-15 range going forward, which is still very valuable at second base. Even in his best months, he never hit above .260. However, if he can walk about 8-10% of the time and provide a little pop, he could settle in around .250/.320/.430, which would be great and pretty similar to his overall numbers in the second half of 2013. He won't be arbitration eligible until 2016, so he'll definitely be around in 2015.
Monthly samples are pretty small, so this is all pretty futile. I'm just going to predict 45 home runs and be done with it.
I could be all sensational, say that Mauer is cooked and that he won't provide any value as a first baseman, but I wouldn't believe it. Mauer is an excellent hitter and that won't change at a different position. Mauer may not be a traditional number 3 hitter, but batting order is largely overrated anyway. Mauer makes outs at one of the lowest rates in the Majors today. Avoiding outs helps the team win and there's absolutely no reason to think that Mauer will lose that skill anytime soon. He's a lock.
There we have it, an entire tour of the Twins' 40-man roster. The Twins have some really great pieces already on the roster. They will add a few next off-season and add a few from their own farm system. Also, some will come out of nowhere, surprising everyone with their contributions. I fully expect the 2015 Twins to be good. How good depends a lot on the 40 men who occupy the Twins' roster. Thanks for reading, everyone!