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Article: Trevor Plouffe: Third Base or Utility Role

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#1 stringer bell

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Posted 26 August 2014 - 06:13 AM

Trevor Plouffe has been the Twins third baseman since the middle of 2012. He is the Twins' longest-serving starter at his current position on the team. That is a bit hard to believe, but every position has turned over since the Twins handed Plouffe third base out of desperation. Plouffe responded to his assignment by having a once-in-a-lifetime power surge. Most other parts of his game as a third baseman were substandard.

Now, late in the 2014 season, we see a different player.Plouffe has improved his overall hitting and his defense. He has made far more good plays and botched far fewer routine ones. He has hit better with runners on base, he has hit better against right handers and seems fundamentally sound finally.

For all the years that Plouffe has played third, he has been in the shadow of mega-prospect Miguel Sano. The question has always been "what do you do with Plouffe when Sano is ready". Of course, that is still a question. But I think there is a question to be asked before that--is Plouffe a third baseman or is he a stopgap? Plouffe ranks behind three outstanding third basemen in the American League, but after those guys Plouffe rates with anyone else.

He now looks comfortable at the position, he now seems to show proper instincts and is in the right place. The throws from third were a crapshoot and are now expected to be chest-high and on line and most of all he takes his time when it is a catcher running yet makes the quick transfer and throw when a speedster hits a slow roller. I'm saying he no longer looks like a displaced hitter, he looks like a third baseman. Plouffe learned the position on the job. He had hardly played there in the minors nor until he was given the position.

As a hitter, Plouffe still has some bad at-bats, but grinds through many more than he used to. He seems to have a better plan and the results have been better. He's not a high-percentage hitter, but he's had a bunch of extra-base hits and in terms of production, he is one of the better Twins' hitters.

I don't know if he'll ever get any better, but at 27 he's a pretty good player. For those who use WAR, he is at 3.2 with 20% of the season remaining.

I have long thought that Trevor Plouffe could be a regular at another position and still believe he could be the Twins' next left fielder. However, I am now not certain that what I've speculated about will come to pass. Plouffe may have enough trade value to be shopped as an established third baseman. It might be more prudent for the the Twins to hold on to Plouffe until Sano forces his way to the majors. At that point, they might be able to flip him for much more than I've thought possible. Congratulations to Trevor Plouffe for taking advantage of opportunities and establishing himself as a big league third baseman.

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#2 ericchri

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Posted 26 August 2014 - 06:38 AM

Maybe instead of everyone calling for FA left fielders or moving Mauer out there it's time to consider if that's where Sano belongs?


#3 Kirby_waved_at_me

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Posted 26 August 2014 - 07:03 AM

I think moving a minor league player to LF from the infield is probably better for the short term health of the standings. We've seen this year how bad outfield defense can be when played by players out of position.

 

Will Sano be the guy to move? I don't know. It will be a question about his recovery from Tommy John - can he still make the throw from third? Will he be forced to join the 1B/DH Carousel? 

 

If that's the case, then of course the Twins should keep Plouffe as long as they can.

 

I think in general that's the way to go - Plouffe keeps the job until someone better comes to take 3B. The Twins haven't had a good 3B since Koskie left, so there should be no rush to reposition or trade him yet.

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#4 iTwins

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Posted 26 August 2014 - 08:06 AM

Much like Escobar at shortstop - I think Plouffe sticks at 3B until someone takes it away from him. If Sano is promoted and hits like he's expected to (and can field the position) I think Plouffe is shifted elsewhere. (Corner OF, 3B backup, occassional DH)

 

However, let's not just assume Sano will come up and set the world ablaze as the next great third baseman - if Sano needs to moved to 1B or even the OF, Plouffe would certainly be a nice option at third- he's improved his defense to the point where I think the Twins can be comfortable with him at third and his bat has proven to be a valuable asset as well.

 

In short - I think Plouffe has some role on this team in the coming years. Whether that role is at third or as a corner outfielder / bench bat is largely dependent on Miguel Sano's ability to play third base.

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#5 alskntwnsfn

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Posted 26 August 2014 - 08:07 AM

They probably won't have to worry about this until next June or July. Let's see how the rest of this year goes and where Plouffe and Sano are at come next year. It would be pretty hard for Sano to do better than Plouffe defensively this year, he is one of the best at barehanding bunts. Plus, who knows if Sano's arm will be ready to handle 3B. Lots of unanswered questions. I want to see Sano ASAP too, but unless he has a monster spring it's probably not going to happen until June-ish.

 

You could give him some reps in LF this spring, just in case they're both raking and we need to squeeze them in the lineup. 


#6 tobi0040

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Posted 26 August 2014 - 08:23 AM

I think moving a minor league player to LF from the infield is probably better for the short term health of the standings. We've seen this year how bad outfield defense can be when played by players out of position.

 

Will Sano be the guy to move? I don't know. It will be a question about his recovery from Tommy John - can he still make the throw from third? Will he be forced to join the 1B/DH Carousel? 

 

If that's the case, then of course the Twins should keep Plouffe as long as they can.

 

I think in general that's the way to go - Plouffe keeps the job until someone better comes to take 3B. The Twins haven't had a good 3B since Koskie left, so there should be no rush to reposition or trade him yet.

 

I agree that Plouffe is the 3B until someone can take it from him.  My guess is Sano and I think it is in the best interest of the team if Sano can play 3B.  I don't really worry about him not being able to make the throw to 1B after tommy john.

 

Plouffe gives us options.  As a floor of a bench bat that can mash lefties and play multiple positions, that is a nice floor.  Best case he can hit enough for LF or bring something back via trade.  You could do worse at 3B than a .737 OPS.  I think the Twins would be foolish to trade him until we know Sano can stick at 3B however.

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#7 Boom Boom

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Posted 26 August 2014 - 08:25 AM

I'm betting that the Twins will move Sano to left field to keep Plouffe at third.


#8 Halsey Hall

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Posted 26 August 2014 - 08:31 AM

I'm certainly not a Plouffe fan, but will admit his defense has improved some.  It couldn't have gotten much worse.  I still cringe when he steps into the box, despite his unusual number of doubles.  But someone in the FO likes him a ton more than me, so he'll be manning 3rd base til someone else can, all his brain farts aside.  I wouldn't even consider him for the outfield.  He's to slow and mentally it'd take way to long for him to adjust to the change.  I'd move him as soon as there's a replacement.  We could easily get a better outfield option for him. 

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#9 tobi0040

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Posted 26 August 2014 - 08:50 AM

I'm certainly not a Plouffe fan, but will admit his defense has improved some.  It couldn't have gotten much worse.  I still cringe when he steps into the box, despite his unusual number of doubles.  But someone in the FO likes him a ton more than me, so he'll be manning 3rd base til someone else can, all his brain farts aside.  I wouldn't even consider him for the outfield.  He's to slow and mentally it'd take way to long for him to adjust to the change.  I'd move him as soon as there's a replacement.  We could easily get a better outfield option for him. 

 

I think the issue is scarcity at the position.  If you go to MLB.com, he is 12th in OPS, 1st in 2B, and 19th in HR at the position.  This tends to exclude players that have only played a litte.  But we could do worse than him at 3B.  So I don't think the FO is enamored with him at all, I just think he is the best we have unless Sano knocks him off 3B.  Or they move Mauer there which nobody has really talked about.

 

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#10 GoGonzoJournal

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Posted 26 August 2014 - 08:53 AM

I'd like to see Plouffe stick around until the Twins get anything out of Sano. I agree that he has increased his trade value as a third baseman, and there will be takers. But frankly, I wouldn't put Sano at third either. I'd move Mauer to third and have Sano play first with Pinto in left field. Parmelee or Schafer would serve as fourth outfielder behind Arcia, Hicks, and Pinto. Escobar would be utility man.


#11 DJL44

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Posted 26 August 2014 - 09:01 AM

"It might be more prudent for the the Twins to hold on to Plouffe until Sano forces his way to the majors."

 

Plouffe's trade value can really only go down from here on out. He can get hurt, he can get more expensive through arbitration and he can provide fewer years of team control. I think it's time to move him like they moved Denard Span. Escobar and Nunez can cover 3B for the short term (frees up SS for Santana) with Sano nearly ready. Branch Rickey always said better a year too early than a year too late. Sano is not a lock but he's about as safe of a bet as you will ever see for a prospect. He has the pedigree and has had some success at AA.

 

I hope the Twins are as tired of lousy defense in LF as I am. They need someone with speed who can catch the ball to help the pitching staff. That's not Miguel Sano.


#12 dougkoebernick

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Posted 26 August 2014 - 09:05 AM

Hard to believe he is only 27 - seems like he has been around forever


#13 birdwatcher

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Posted 26 August 2014 - 09:11 AM

For the sake of this discussion, I'm making the quantum assumption that Sano works out at 3B and is ready to roll in June. I'm also assuming Polanco and Rosario progress and are at the doorstep by mid 2015, earmarked as utility guys, with Santana edging out Escobar at SS. Again big assumptions. So here's my plan:

Plouffie gets shopped at the trade deadline. I 'll accept nothing less than an overpay. My preference is to package him with other surplus for a 2-3 starter, as I'll simultaneously be shopping a few of my billion-plus 4-5-6-7 starters. but I'll take an overpay in prospects too.


if that fails, he becomes a super utility guy, spelling Sano, but primarily spelling Arcia and Mauer against tough lefties or when General Soreness gets a bilateral weakness of some sort. This might block Rosario during the season, but Plouffie projects as the better right-handed bat off the bench, at least in 2015. Plouffie gets shopped like the dickens over the winter of 2015-6. He ain't comin' back for 2016 to grouse on the bench, and I'll have better options by then because I' m such a brilliant GM.

#14 stringer bell

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Posted 26 August 2014 - 09:11 AM

Hard to believe he is only 27 - seems like he has been around forever

Turned 28 this season.  I believe I missed that.


#15 bholmgren

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Posted 26 August 2014 - 09:34 AM

I sure like the idea of Plouffe roaming the outfield opposed to Parmalee...That being said, I agree with the sentiment that this only needs to happen if and when Sano forces the issue.  An OF/DH/1B mix of Arcia, Plouffe, Mauer, Vargas would be a nice mix-and-match scenario.


#16 tobi0040

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Posted 26 August 2014 - 09:57 AM

For the sake of this discussion, I'm making the quantum assumption that Sano works out at 3B and is ready to roll in June. I'm also assuming Polanco and Rosario progress and are at the doorstep by mid 2015, earmarked as utility guys, with Santana edging out Escobar at SS. Again big assumptions. So here's my plan:

Plouffie gets shopped at the trade deadline. I 'll accept nothing less than an overpay. My preference is to package him with other surplus for a 2-3 starter, as I'll simultaneously be shopping a few of my billion-plus 4-5-6-7 starters. but I'll take an overpay in prospects too.


if that fails, he becomes a super utility guy, spelling Sano, but primarily spelling Arcia and Mauer against tough lefties or when General Soreness gets a bilateral weakness of some sort. This might block Rosario during the season, but Plouffie projects as the better right-handed bat off the bench, at least in 2015. Plouffie gets shopped like the dickens over the winter of 2015-6. He ain't comin' back for 2016 to grouse on the bench, and I'll have better options by then because I' m such a brilliant GM.

 

That sounds like a decent plan if Sano sticks. For those who want to move Plouffe now, I just don't know what the rush is with Plouffe, when the downside risk is we need to go out and find a 3B. 

 

We have none internally.  Most of the good ones in the league are locked up on long term deals.  Teams that have good 3B prospects are not willing to move them.

 

I don't see a huge difference between Plouffe's trade value now and a year from now.  He will have one fewer year of control, but he is not going to command a ton of money when he hits free agency.  We have had a revolving door there since Koskie and I just don't think Eduardo Escobar is a capable fill-in on a team that will win a division.  By all accounts, Plouffe is improving on offense and defense.  Most scouting reports seem really sketchy regarding Sano sticking at 3B, so it seems like a bad risk-reward to me.

Edited by tobi0040, 26 August 2014 - 09:59 AM.

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#17 RealTwinsFan357

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Posted 26 August 2014 - 10:19 AM

I don't think the outfield is the place for Plouffe...if our rotation is ever going to lower its ERA, we're going to need actual defenders in the outfield. In three outfield positions, it's okay to have one weak link (Arcia), but the other two had better be pretty darn good defenders. This means Plouffe, Pinto, and Parmelee aren't really the best options. Maybe Schafer and Hicks are the answer, I'm sure a lot of people would disagree, but every team needs people to hit in the 8 and 9 spots of the lineup, and that would be a way to really help the defense. Hopefully by mid-season whoever is performing worse between the two is swapped out for Buxton. We could also look for a better option through the trade market or free agency, but it would have to be a defense-first player.  Once Sano comes up, if he proves himself to be the true third baseman of the future, Plouffe becomes expendable, and should be traded.

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#18 DJL44

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Posted 26 August 2014 - 10:46 AM

the downside risk is we need to go out and find a 3B. We have none internally.

 

Except the third best 3B prospect in baseball - Miguel Sano - and stopgaps in Nunez and Escobar. Besides those three guys they're pretty bare I guess.


#19 tobi0040

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Posted 26 August 2014 - 10:53 AM

Except the third best 3B prospect in baseball - Miguel Sano - and stopgaps in Nunez and Escobar. Besides those three guys they're pretty bare I guess.

 

My actual quote:

 

"That sounds like a decent plan if Sano sticks. For those who want to move Plouffe now, I just don't know what the rush is with Plouffe, when the downside risk is we need to go out and find a 3B."

 

It was implied the the downside risk if Sano can't stick at 3B.  I have not read a single scouting report that is confident he can play 3B defensively.  I am hoping for a future without stop gaps (Nunez and Escobar)

Edited by tobi0040, 26 August 2014 - 10:57 AM.


#20 adjacent

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Posted 26 August 2014 - 11:00 AM

For the first year in the position, Plouffe defense was really bad, and now he has really improved. Even Mauer, with his natural athletic ability, just now is playing a good 1st base defensively. That tells me that is not that easy to move players around and get them to play the position well. And the Twins have struggle for years finding competent 3rd basemen. So, for next year I would keep Plouffe at 3rd. Sano will have next year in AAA to show which position he can play (3rd base or outfield). And then things will sort out by themselves. Maybe the best option would be to trade Plouffe at that time, but my impression is that right noe is early to tell. What I don't think is a good idea is to jerk Plouffe around the field.

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#21 DJL44

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Posted 26 August 2014 - 11:30 AM

It all comes down the the Twins evaluation of Sano. If they're confident he can play 3B adequately then they should shop Plouffe. If they aren't then Plouffe sticks around another year and Sano fights for playing time with Mauer, Vargas and Arcia. I think they'll have more suitors in the offseason than at next season's trade deadline. Trade deadline deals are typically for impending free agents.

 

I don't think a utility role for Plouffe makes sense for reasons hinted at above. It is harder to learn 4 positions and play them well than to learn one position. Plouffe has shown he can handle 3B and be an adequate starter. Someone will value that higher than a utility guy at the corners. Turning Plouffe into a utility guy damages his value if it hurts his 3B defense.

 

Unlike CF where the Twins had no acceptable backup plan when they dealt Revere and Span they do have decent stopgaps in Escobar and Nunez and an additional backup in Deibinson Romero.


#22 Rosterman

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Posted 26 August 2014 - 11:38 AM

Plouffe would become a very expensive utility player.

 

We have a problem with Plouffe. We know what to expect. He has been pretty consistent with his inconsistencies. He will hit maybe .250. For sure around 15 homes. Bat in the middle of the lineup..As some one said, he is in the middle or slightly above of current third basemen.

 

If he was already a utility guy, we wouldn't have to worry about arbitration rewards. Moving him to leftfield, we have Josh Willighham younger. I doubt that he will become another Michael Cuddyer.

 

We can hang on to see how and when Sano does develop, but with someone replacing him in the wings we will then have the same issues the Twins had with guys like Mientkiewicz and Pierzynski...if teams know the guy is on the outs, he loses value.

 

Plouffe has some trade value this off-season. Otherwise, his value depends on another team's immediate due to injury.

 

He will have a semi-long career in a utility role, but until he hits free agency and his salary holds (i.e. goes down) he won't be worth it to the Twins, who could be paying a ultility infielder/outfielder more than the combined salaries of eight other players on the starting field - combined.

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#23 Cast of Thousands

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Posted 26 August 2014 - 12:05 PM

I'm certainly not a Plouffe fan, but will admit his defense has improved some.  It couldn't have gotten much worse.  I still cringe when he steps into the box, despite his unusual number of doubles.  But someone in the FO likes him a ton more than me, so he'll be manning 3rd base til someone else can, all his brain farts aside.  I wouldn't even consider him for the outfield.  He's to slow and mentally it'd take way to long for him to adjust to the change.  I'd move him as soon as there's a replacement.  We could easily get a better outfield option for him. 

Not to pick on your post specifically but I had to chuckle at the "too slow" comment.

 

I think you're probably right, he's likely too slow, and yet there are some posters here that are so in love with whatever it is that Pinto has done up to this point that they would put HIM in the outfield.  At first glance, I couldn't FATHOM a situation where Pinto could beat Plouffe in a foot race.  I would have to think Plouffe would be a substandard outfielder, and yet light years better than Pinto.

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#24 diehardtwinsfan

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Posted 26 August 2014 - 12:14 PM

Couple things I'd note is that Plouffe right now is in the 5-10 range for 3B.  To me, that says he has value.  The question at hand is whether or not that value is realized in MN or on another team.  At 28, the other question is whether the Twins go year to year or get a cheaper extension buying out a year of FA.  That might make him more palatable in a trade, assuming he continues to imrpove.  I think there's value in that. 

 

Even as a utility guy, Plouffe could play a corner OF position, 3B, and 1B reasonably well.  Heck, he could play up the middle (not terribly well) in a pinch. They could get a full season in for him in that type of role as a 10th man and justify the cost. 

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#25 tobi0040

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Posted 26 August 2014 - 12:25 PM

Couple things I'd note is that Plouffe right now is in the 5-10 range for 3B.  To me, that says he has value.  The question at hand is whether or not that value is realized in MN or on another team.  At 28, the other question is whether the Twins go year to year or get a cheaper extension buying out a year of FA.  That might make him more palatable in a trade, assuming he continues to imrpove.  I think there's value in that. 

 

Even as a utility guy, Plouffe could play a corner OF position, 3B, and 1B reasonably well.  Heck, he could play up the middle (not terribly well) in a pinch. They could get a full season in for him in that type of role as a 10th man and justify the cost. 

 

I agree completely.  Maybe he is closer to the 8-13 range....but he has a ton of value and we could justify the $3-4M.  We definitely should have that laying around.

 

I would argue the Red Sox had guys like that on their bench/platooning last year.  Nava had a .831 OPS but didn't get a majority of reps on the OF.  Mike Carp was a utility guy and ended with an .885 OPS.

 

The Rays have done this for a few years.  They had five guys on their bench last year with over a .700 OPS.  Plouffe's .740 could turn to .790 by sitting him against righties here and there.


#26 stringer bell

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Posted 26 August 2014 - 01:48 PM

Plouffe has closed his splits considerably this year.  His OPS vs RH pitching is .730, vs. LH pitching .751.  One might be able to cherry-pick a couple dozen starts where he would be likely to struggle, but every right hander is not kryptonite.


#27 James Richter

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Posted 26 August 2014 - 02:11 PM

There's way too much uncertainty surrounding Sano's development and final position right now to say conclusively that he'll be manning the hot corner at any point in 2015. Meanwhile, we already have a cost-controlled, average or better performer at the position. Now, if somebody approaches the FO and offers an overpay for Plouffe, make the deal. But they shouldn't be shopping him until Sano proves he's ready to stick at 3B in the Majors.

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#28 mike wants wins

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Posted 26 August 2014 - 03:12 PM

I don't think Sano is here next year. Keep Plouffe. Quit trading away the present for a future that may never come. if they get a bottleneck, then figure it out.

What I just typed is probably an opinion, not a fact. I mean, I'm usually right, so you should maybe assume it is or will be a fact soon, but that's up to you. :)


#29 DJL44

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Posted 26 August 2014 - 03:20 PM

There's way too much uncertainty surrounding Sano's development and final position right now to say conclusively that he'll be manning the hot corner at any point in 2015.

 

I am pretty much counting the Twins out in 2015. If they get to .500 that will be a huge improvement and that's still a long way from contention. Their next shot at contention is when Sano and Buxton are in the big leagues.

 

Put it another way, I'm pretty sure trading Trevor Plouffe isn't going to be the only reason they don't win the division next season.


#30 Dantes929

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Posted 26 August 2014 - 04:51 PM

I used to really dislike Plouffe but he has grown on me His hitting approach has been better and his defense has been better but honestly, I don't know how. I was at a game recently and watched him as the pitch was thrown. He was basically standing upright with just a little step forward. I could not believe his posture. I looked at the other infielders and saw what I expected, a crouch with glove held fairly low. Maybe this is how third basemen are taught now but I don't recall Robinson, Nettles or Castino standing upright as the ball was pitched.



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