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  • Park Set As Twins' Opening Day DH -- Or Is He?


    SD Buhr

    The pitchers and catchers for the Minnesota Twins have finally reported to spring training and position players are already filtering into the Fort Myers camp in advance of their mandatory reporting day later this week. The Twins will open their season in Baltimore on April 4, but from all that’s being written about the Twins, it appears there are only minor questions about the composition of the Opening Day roster and even fewer questions about the Opening Day lineup.

    Image courtesy of William Parmeter

    Manager Paul Molitor has stated that Kurt Suzuki will open the season as his club’s starting catcher.

    Joe Mauer will be the first baseman.

    Brian Dozier will hold down second base.

    Trevor Plouffe will man the hot corner at third base.

    Eduardo Escobar has earned the right to call the shortstop spot his own.

    Eddie Rosario will be the Twins’ left fielder and Miguel Sano will man the opposite corner in right field.

    Centerfield is Byron Buxton’s to lose. Yes, there’s a chance the club will decide Buxton needs a month or so in Rochester to fine tune his approach at the plate, giving an opportunity for Danny Santana, Ryan Sweeney, Darin Mastroianni or Joe Benson to serve as a short-term placeholder for Buxton.

    And then there’s the designated hitter position, which will belong to Byung Ho Park, the Korean slugger who represents the primary (some would say only) significant free agent addition added to the Twins this offseason.

    Most of that makes perfect sense to me. I think Buxton should go north with the club in April as the center fielder, but if he doesn’t, I’ll understand the decision (probably) and I’ve actually been on-board with the decision to give Sano an outfielder’s glove and see what he can do with it. I felt that way even before the Twins got Park’s autograph on a contract.

    But here’s something I don’t quite understand. Why is virtually everyone so certain that Park will immediately adapt to major league pitching well enough to be penciled into the middle of the Twins’ batting order right from the start of the new season?

    Certainly, I'm not alone in feeling that either Oswaldo Arcia or Kennys Vargas is likely to demonstrate in March that he is better prepared to generate runs for the Twins on Opening Day than newcomer Park might be. Why do many prognosticators seem so certain that Park will be an effective big league hitter on Opening Day while being less convinced that Buxton will?

    I want to see Park succeed as much as any Twins fan but maybe I’m suffering from residual Nishioka flashbacks because I’m simply not convinced that a player who struck out a lot against Korean Baseball Organization pitching will have immediate success against major leaguers.

    Does the KBO compare favorably to American AA or AAA levels? Maybe. Let's say, for the sake of argument, that it does. If Park had struck out 303 times at any minor league level over the past two combined seasons, would we be writing his name in ink into the Twins' Opening Day lineup now?

    If you forced me to bet an amount of money that it would genuinely hurt me to lose, I would bet that Park’s first regular season professional baseball uniform will have “Red Wings” (or even “Lookouts”) emblazoned across the front of it - and I would not consider that to necessarily mean his acquisition was a mistake. It shouldn’t be surprising to anyone if it takes Park a few weeks or more to earn a spot in the Twins’ lineup.

    Arcia and Vargas both must be coming to Fort Myers aware that their respective futures with the Twins are hanging in the balance. I expect that one of them is more likely to be found in Molitor’s first lineup card of the season than Park is.

    Finally, what happens if the Sano experiment doesn’t develop the way that the Twins hope it will? That would immediately make Sano the likely Day 1 designated hitter and force the Twins into a Plan B for right field. That would be a Plan B that the front office has not admitted even exists yet.

    In that eventuality, again Arcia becomes a likely candidate for reinsertion into the club’s plans as the right fielder.

    Park has a better than fair chance of finding his way up to Target Field with the Twins at some point during the 2016 season, but I’m not at all convinced he’ll start the season with the big club.

    Here’s my pre-camp projection for the Twins’ Opening Day starting lineup:

    1. Buxton CF

    2. Dozier 2B

    3. Mauer 1B

    4. Sano RF/DH

    5. Arcia DH/RF

    6. Plouffe 3B

    7. Rosario LF

    8. Escobar SS

    9. Suzuki C

    SP Santana

    Typically, we have to be cautious about reading too much into strong spring training offensive performances. There are too many at-bats against less-than-MLB-level pitchers, especially during the first couple of weeks of spring training games, to get a true reading of just how well prepared a hot hitter might be for a major league regular’s role.

    But there are a number of position players who can’t afford to give poor showings during the first few weeks of spring training games and Park, Arcia and Vargas would be among those whose chances could be damaged by early struggles at the plate.

    Sweeney, Mastroianni and Benson similarly need good starts if they want to be viewed as contenders for the stop-gap center fielder should the Twins decide Buxton needs some early seasoning in Rochester.

    Park, if he doesn’t make the Opening Day lineup, could see an early promotion, as could Max Kepler and Jorge Polanco, depending on their performances and those of the players that they might be looking to replace.

    The Twins’ lineup is perhaps more settled going into spring training than it has been in most years, but there is some amount of intrigue that will make it worthwhile to pay attention to the box scores coming out of Fort Myers in March.

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    Nicely stated.  I hope Arcia and Vargas show up with their hair on fire, but it doesn't hurt to add some gasoline in the form of writing in Park and/or Sano as locks.  Same goes with Murphy, although I doubt there is anything that he can do to get in that opening day lineup.  He can affect how often he'll play, though.

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    Is virtually everyone so certain that Park will instantly succeed and take over DH?  I've heard a lot of people say low risk/high reward, particularly if he succeeds over the length of the deal. He is one of the more intriguing players on team with a lot of intrigue.  I think everyone is anxious to see what a line up that included Buxton, Sano, Kepler, and Park would look like if they all turn out.  Everyone wants to see Park face major league pitching to see if he can make a quick adjustment and hit 25+ dingers.  But I haven't seen one person argue that he will be able to step right in and have immediate success.  My guess is that our opening day DH will be the DH we ended with last season.  Rosario Buxton Arcia.

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    While you make a very sound arguement, and the KBO is clearly not MLB, the Twins have been scouting Park for some time. They seem pretty convinced. Further, reports I've read, and a couple videos I've seen, seem to show a pretty decent swing. I've read that KBO batters are encouraged to swing. I hope this is true, and a habit than ParK can break, rather than just having poor contact skills.

     

    It's going to be fun. It's going to be interesting. But I think Park will win the job.

     

    That being said, I believe if he gets regular playing time, not just a couple AB a week, that Arcia will surprise and contribute.

     

    I also believe Vargas is in for a big year at Rochester, and will have all of us wondering how to fit him in to the lineup at some point.

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    While you make a very sound arguement, and the KBO is clearly not MLB, the Twins have been scouting Park for some time. They seem pretty convinced. Further, reports I've read, and a couple videos I've seen, seem to show a pretty decent swing. I've read that KBO batters are encouraged to swing. I hope this is true, and a habit than ParK can break, rather than just having poor contact skills.

    It's going to be fun. It's going to be interesting. But I think Park will win the job.

    That being said, I believe if he gets regular playing time, not just a couple AB a week, that Arcia will surprise and contribute.

    I also believe Vargas is in for a big year at Rochester, and will have all of us wondering how to fit him in to the lineup at some point.

    I will not give up on Vargas... As long as the ball leaves his bat at 339 MPH... I will not give up on Vargas.

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    1. Buxton CF
    2. Dozier 2B
    3. Mauer 1B
    4. Sano RF/DH
    5. Arcia DH/RF
    6. Plouffe 3B
    7. Rosario LF
    8. Escobar SS
    9. Suzuki C
    SP Santana

     

    That looks good SDB, I'd love to see Mauer and Dozier flip flop in the lineup there, and push Arcia behind Rosario, but no matter how you look at it, I like it. And if Park can be in the lineup and Arcia can be a bench bat/platoon player, well, that's even better. Now is the time for unbridled optomism!

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    I don't think the Twins are convinced that Park will be the starting DH.  The signing of Quentin, plus having Vargas and Arcia available, makes it clear to me that Park could easily spend time in Rochester to make the transition.  

     

    To me the real wild card is Arcia.  He could easily find himself in an everyday role splitting time in right field and DH with Sano.  Something tells me Arcia is going to not only make the club, but make a run at a starting job.  

     

    I think Park is actually at a considerable disadvantage in this equation having no major league experience whatsoever.

     

    Should be a great spring training. 

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    That looks good SDB, I'd love to see Mauer and Dozier flip flop in the lineup there, and push Arcia behind Rosario, but no matter how you look at it, I like it. And if Park can be in the lineup and Arcia can be a bench bat/platoon player, well, that's even better. Now is the time for unbridled optomism!

     

    Unbridled optimism? Aren't you a Twins fan? Mildly hoping for a pleasant summer is more our style.

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    After signing the highest profile player in South Korea, the Twins send him and the South Korean press to Rochester?  I thought this move was to increase the Twins brand in South Korea, not destroy it.

     

    This and any move is to win baseball games at the major league level. Not to appease South Korea. 

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    I'm not sleeping on Arcia or Vargas blazing past Park on the DH depth chart this spring.

     

    Everything I've been reading on Arcia says his hair is on fire to be in the OF on opening day, but pretty sure he's not going to win that battle, so he gets in on the DH fun.

     

    Then you have Vargas, who had one of the best Winter's of any Twins player in recent history, both on the field (Puerto Rico MVP) and off (Lost a bunch of weight).

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    I'm not sleeping on Arcia or Vargas blazing past Park on the DH depth chart this spring.

     

    Everything I've been reading on Arcia says his hair is on fire to be in the OF on opening day, but pretty sure he's not going to win that battle, so he gets in on the DH fun.

     

    Then you have Vargas, who had one of the best Winter's of any Twins player in recent history, both on the field (Puerto Rico MVP) and off (Lost a bunch of weight).

     

    Count me in the camp that has completely written off Vargas.  So many holes in that swing, reminds me of pitching to a toddler in the backyard, you have to try and throw it at their bat in order for them to make contact.  

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    My guess is, barring an injury, Park is the DH for April and most of May, no matter what.

    The Twins didn't win the bid and sign him to a deal to send him to Rochester. The job is his for at least six weeks, and will have to be lost, not won.

     

    Correct... unless he has just a brutal spring training and looks completely lost, he'll be the DH. He may split time with Arcia early, and we'll see what happens there, but no question Park will be the guy...

     

    ... Unless he's not. 

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    But here’s something I don’t quite understand. Why is virtually everyone so certain that Park will immediately adapt to major league pitching well enough to be penciled into the middle of the Twins’ batting order right from the start of the new season?

    I don't think everyone is certain Park will immediately adapt to MLB pitching -- rather, everyone is certain he should get an immediate opportunity to adapt to MLB pitching.

     

    Park is a talented veteran ballplayer, almost 30 years old, who needs to adapt to MLB pitching.  A month or two in Rochester, after a month of MLB spring training, doesn't really help him toward that goal, it just delays it.  He's not a young still-developing prospect or rusty after a long layoff like a lot of recent Cuban signings.

     

    And if he struggles at first in MLB, that's to be expected, he can work to improve, and no one but Strib commenters will be very critical.  But can you imagine if we sent him to Rochester and he struggled there?  It wouldn't even have to be due to a lack of skill, maybe a physical injury or the mental disappointment of getting sent down could impact his performance.  And that kind of failure might set him back further or permanently hurt his chances of success in the U.S.

     

    Unless he looks absolutely terrible in spring training and you really think we might just need to cut our losses and not let him hurt the MLB team, I think you have to give him his chance to adapt to MLB starting on opening day.

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    Agree or disagree.....this post sort of cracked me up!

     

    I concur.

     

    Also, I suspect Arcia will be a major part of the Twins no matter how things play out. The Twins are going to give Mauer more day games off and, they're going to rest Park and Poluffe and Rosario and Buxton and Sano on the regs. In all of those situations, Arcia is the guy who subs in for them in the lineup as either OF or DH (maybe Danny Santana for Buxton sometimes). Basically, Arcia gets in the lineup any time anyone who isn't a SS, 2B or C needs a day or hits the DL. Not crazy to think he'll be playing at least three to four days a week with a pinch hitting experience or two as well. He'll stay busy.

     

    So I guess I think it's kind of irrelevant how it plays out. Park will be on this team regardless and Arcia will likely beat out Vargas for options reasons. Both Park and Arcia are going to get plenty of playing time and Vargas will be waiting in AAA with Kepler. The Twins depth is very exciting this year.

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    Arcia will be on the team somewhere.  He's better than Sano in the outfiield, and better than Park hitting thus far.  I'll say though, park looked terrible at first but is looking much better recently.  But I see no way Arcia is not on the team.  It isn't doing Vargas any good not being here.

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    May the best hitter and pitcher win the job--and not be handed it if he can not produce. I predict Arcia lives up to his potential big time this year. The Twins bench players will be so much better than in past years--actually deserving of a MLB roster. 

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