Anyway, I watched the other three games.
I've stressed patience with Aaron Hicks, but I'm losing patience with Trevor Plouffe. Check out his career lefty/righty splits:
|vs RHP as RHB||215||659||594||129||27||2||23||64||47||147||.217||.281||.386||.667||229||10||.247||86|
|vs LHP as RHB||110||242||217||58||14||1||13||32||20||42||.267||.335||.521||.855||113||7||.274||137|
|vs LH Starter||69||62||268||247||32||59||15||1||14||36||19||52||.239||.296||.478||.774||118||7||.249||113|
|vs RH Starter||171||148||633||564||86||128||26||2||22||60||48||137||.227||.296||.397||.693||224||10||.257||94|
Is it possible that Plouffe is just a good platoon player, and nothing more? I still want to see Plouffe get about 550 at bats this season, but I'm not sure he will earn that chance. Eduardo Escobar is hot right now, and getting him some time against right-handed pitching might not be a bad idea. Plouffe has a full season's worth of plate appearances against right-handed pitching, and the results are not pretty. If you consider that his defense has been shaky and his throws are always adventurous, there are many reasons to be concerned.
I vowed to not write about Hicks until there was something new to discuss, and I finally feel that Hicks is doing things that need to be discussed. He seems to be turning the corner, but I refuse to speculate about his confidence level or concentration level, as I am not inside his head. However, his competence level is up and that is something I can clearly see.
He made a variety of impressive plays this weekend. The four most memorable plays were probably his delayed steal on Friday, his awesome diving catch on Saturday and his 2 RBI double on Saturday. He also showed off his strong, accurate arm in the second inning of Saturday's game, firing a laser to second to get Nelson Cruz trying to stretch a double. However, two other plays caught my eye, each with more subtle impact.
The first play occurred in the second inning of Friday night's game, when Hicks played a ball perfectly off the wall and nailed the cut-off man. Pedro Florimon threw a rocket home to get Geovany Soto at the plate. Hitting the cut-off man is obviously important, but sometimes guys with big arms will try to throw too much, so to speak. Hicks is a flamethrower, but still seems to understand the importance of good, fundamental baseball.
The second play was on Saturday and directly lead to the Twins' first run. Hicks was on first after reaching on an error. Eduardo Escobar hit a rocket to left, and Hicks read the play the whole way. He used his great speed to get to third without a throw. It was an aggressive and correct play and when Brian Dozier hit a long fly to center in the next at-bat, Hicks scored easily. These are two excellent examples of how Hicks' defense, baserunning and arm make him a more valuable player than his offensive stats may ever show.
So far, so good. This applies both to his move to the leadoff spot and his move to second base. He looks fluid at second and provides a decent amount of range. He doesn't seem to have any issues turning double plays. At the plate, Dozier has been great since moving to his new spot in the lineup. The type of hitter we (as fans) have to hope Dozier is (good plate discipline and good contact) is suited for that part of the order. I fully expect Hicks to return to the leadoff spot at some point, but having Dozier there for now makes sense.
Is Escobar the new Alexi Casilla? He's short, small, and plays excellent defense. He can play all infield positions. He's right handed and a switch hitter. He seems gregarious and seems to enjoy playing baseball. He's probably my favorite player and I'm not sure why. It all adds up. Let's just get some space between his front teeth and call it a day. I fully expect Escobar to cool off, but having a new, cheap Alexi Casilla isn't a bad thing. While on this topic, I wrote about Casilla's HOF candidacy on Saturday.
I think we have reached full "get excited" mode with Meyer. Here are his stats so far this season:
Small samples aside, the strikeouts and walks are definitely encouraging. A slightly lower walk rate would be nice, but a K:BB ratio over three is always positive. If Meyer keeps this up, he'll probably be in Rochester at some point. I still think it's a stretch that he gets to Minnesota, but next season seems very likely. Twins' fans have longed for an "ace" since Johan Santana was traded away. Meyer has that potential.
Other MLB Thoughts
Good gravy. I picked Harper as my NL MVP prior to the season. I also predicted a 40-40 season, which is very unlikely because he doesn't need to steal bases anymore. The MVP part seems very reasonable. However, I called the power even earlier. Here is the first sentence that I wrote about Harper when I chose him as last seasons' NL Rookie of the Year:
You can click the quote if you want proof. I wish I hadn't written "I think" because I was sure of it. His power is insane. Just look at his swing:
The controlled violence he creates with that swing is unreal. If he doesn't hit 40 home runs this year, next year, the year after that, and every year going forward, it will be due to injury or a strike or the collapse of baseball as a sport. Otherwise, there's just no way.
While I'm patting myself on the back, I called Matt Moore as an AL breakout player before the season. It was an easy call, as Moore has tons of talent and was considered a prospect on par with Mike Trout and Harper prior to last season. It's coming together for Moore and Tampa Bay this season. Check out these stats from April:
Those stats? They're real, and they're spectacular. They also might be a bit lucky, but that doesn't change them one bit.
St. Louis Cardinals
Oh yeah, the Cardinals are pretty much always good. I thought Cincinnati would easily win that division and I figured San Francisco and Atlanta for the two Wild Cards. However, I failed to remember that St. Louis is always good. Matt Holliday, Carlos Beltran and Yadier Molina are probably all Hall of Famers. Allen Craig, Matt Carpenter and Matt Adams are nice, young players, although Adams is hurt right now.
However, St. Louis' pitching is what I am drawn to. Shelby Miller is having an excellent season, and showing why he was such a coveted prospect. Jamie Garcia and Lance Lynn have been great. Jake Westbrook has been lucky good, but that works for now. Adam Wainwright has a 37:1 K:BB ratio! The bullpen is excellent, lead by Edward Mujica (terribly underrated) and Trevor Rosenthal (terrifying fastball). The Cardinals are always balanced and always good. I always forget that too.
The Nationals went through a bit of a swoon recently, but it is way too early to give up on them. ESPN should especially know better. Check out this screen grab I got on Friday:
I think two Mets teams would be too much for Mets fans to handle. Have a nice week everyone!