Friday, July 5, 2013

Holiday Mailbag! - Minnesota Twins

Holiday Mailbag?  Holiday Mailbag. 

I hope everyone had a fun and leisurely 4th.  I kept it cool, just hanging out in my house and laying low.  I watched the Twins game yesterday and I was saddened by Kyle Gibson's performance.  I think he'll bounce back, but seeing him struggle was a good reminder that he is a rookie and there will be growing pains.  Enough analysis, I'm here to answer questions from myself.

Carlos Gomez is currently among the league leaders in WAR.  The Twins had Carlos Gomez in their clutches.  Did the Twins give up on Carlos Gomez too soon?

Brad S., St. Paul, MN

In a word - no.  The Twins gave Gomez nearly 1000 at bats in 2008 and 2009 and he posted an OPS+ of 73.  He was a great defender, but the Twins also had Denard Span, who could capably play center and produced as an offensive player.  It's true that Gomez was only 23 when he was traded away, but the Twins did land J.J. Hardy for him, and Hardy has been a good shortstop for the past few seasons. 

Of course, the Twins did give up on Hardy too soon, but that is a completely separate issue.  Gomez looked like a bust, couldn't hit a breaking ball to save his life, and seemed like a bit of doorknob as well.  He's flourishing right now, but were the Twins really supposed to wait five season for that to happen?  I think that's quite unfair.

This was a make-or-break season for Trevor Plouffe.  Would he show off the massive power that he demonstrated last June?  Would his arm be accurate enough to play third?  Could he post a decent OBP to go with all that SLG?  To me, he looks much improved.  He has hit well enough to boost his OBP and while he isn't hitting a home run every other day, he is providing above average power.  His defense is still a bit shaky at third, but he isn't sailing quite as many throws as he had last season.  Overall, I think that if he can stay healthy, he can be a positive contributor for the next few seasons. 

What are your thoughts on Trevor Plouffe?  Thanks!

Brad S., St. Paul, MN

Trevor Plouffe loves America.

Nick Blackburn started his second game of the season for the Gulf Coast Twins on Wednesday.  Do you see Blackburn making another start in a Twins uniform? 

Brad S., St. Paul, MN

It wouldn't surprise me, simply because he makes more money than anyone else in the current rotation and the current rotation has been a series of train wrecks occurring during earthquakes.  However, he seems to be the same hittable Nick Blackburn in the Gulf Coast League.  Through eight innings, Blackburn has given up nine hits to mostly children.  If Blackburn can't dominate in the GCL, he has no business near the MLB. 

However, the Twins like Blackburn and they always have.  If he puts together a good stretch in AAA (I assume he gets sent to AAA after he finishes his rehab), he might get a start or two with the big club.  I don't think he would truly deserve them, but it would be a good story and a lot of fans would enjoy seeing him pitch.  I wouldn't, but a lot of others would. 

What the H is wrong with the bullpen lately?

Brad S., St. Paul, MN

Brian Duensing isn't dominating lefties, so he pretty much has no value.  Jared Burton is walking almost twice as many batters as he did last season.  Josh Roenicke has a 3.25 ERA somehow, but he is walking nearly as many batters as he strikes out.  Ryan Pressly isn't quite as good as his ERA, but he's been solid. 

On the plus side, Glen Perkins is outstanding and Casey Fien looks like a keeper.  Caleb Thielbar will never allow a run.  Mark that down, I am predicting that Thielbar will finish his career with an ERA of zero. 

If Burton can get back on track, the bullpen will be solid once more.  If not, well that would be sad. 

Aaron Hicks is a much better hitter from the right side.  Should the Twins make Hicks abandon switch hitting and focus on just batting right handed? 

Brad S., St. Paul, MN

It's not that simple.  Let's look at the issue:
  • Issue - Aaron Hicks struggles as a left-handed batter
  • Solution - Aaron Hicks should only bat right-handed. 
Perhaps, but he hasn't hit right-handed against right-handed pitching since... well, middle school maybe?  Now, we are asking Hicks to hit same-handed pitching for the first time in years, and to do it against MLB pitching?  It's just not as easy as some are making it out to be. 

If you think that Hicks should learn to hit right-handed pitching from the right side, you are assuming that he is more likely to learn how to hit same-handed pitching after not doing so for years than he is to learn how to hit right-handed pitching as a lefty, which he has at least practiced for many years. 

Here's a really great article from Beyond the Box Score that shows just how rare a successful conversion for Hicks would be:  BTB on Switch Hitting?  Basically, it's not as simple as some seem to think it is and successful examples are few and far between. 

I say let him at least try to hit righties as a lefty for a couple seasons.  If the evidence continues to mount, then it might be time to try something new. 

Are you warming on Sam Deduno and Clete Thomas?  You have been a noted "hater" when it comes to these players. 

Brad S., St. Paul, MN

Deduno, yes; Thomas, no.  I don't think either guy is anything special, but Deduno doesn't stand to take playing time from anyone more deserving or young, while Thomas started in place of Chris Parmelee on Wednesday, which made my blood boil.  Parmelee may be nothing special, but he at least has a chance to be something useful in the future.  If this happens regularly, or if Thomas takes at bats from Aaron Hicks or Oswaldo Arcia, then I will lose my S altogether. 

There is simply no point in playing Clete Thomas unless you have to.  He isn't good enough to change a game and he isn't young enough or promising enough to think that he can be anything more than a fourth outfielder.  What happens with Darin Mastroianni comes back?  I think Mastroianni is a better player and he is (slightly) younger.  If Thomas is just a bench guy, then that works for me.  If he is a consistent starter, then I just don't get it. 

Kyle Gibson made his MLB debut last weekend.  Who will be the next impact prospect to debut for the Twins?

Brad S., St. Paul, MN

Does Josmil Pinto count?  I could see Pinto getting a September call-up because he is on the 40-man roster and he's mashing at AA.  He isn't a top 10 prospect, but he certainly looks interesting and he would be fun to watch. 

It could be Miguel Sano, but I think the Twins will use any opportunity to keep him in the Minors for just a bit longer.  Alex Meyer is hurt and Trevor May has been inconsistent.  Short of those guys, it almost would have to be Pinto. 

So, that is my answer, but if you think he is not an impact prospect, then I think Sano will be next, but in 2014. 

Thanks for all the questions, me.  Have a nice weekend, everyone!

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