Thursday, December 26, 2013

Minnesota Twins 40 Man Roster Analysis: Catcher and Outfield

Last week, I took a look at the Twins' 40-man roster to try to determine which pitchers would be a part of the next contending Twins team, which I believe will exist in 2015.  While all of these players will be around for 2014, some will be gone before the Twins truly contend.  If you missed them, here are the relievers and the starters.  Today, I'll investigate the outfielders and catchers on the 40-man roster.  How many of these players will be on the roster in 2015 and how many will be contributing positively?  Let's find out.

There's no point in putting Kepler's name anywhere near the Twins' 2015 roster.  He won't be ready.  He's a nice prospect and I'm glad the Twins didn't take any chances with his Rule 5 status, but there is about a zero
percent chance that he's even in AAA in 2015.

Suzuki's 2015 status depends a lot on how Josmil Pinto develops in 2014.  If Pinto continues to hit as he has in 2012 and 2013, the Twins will need a true backup catcher going forward.  Chris Herrmann could play that role nicely, with the versatility to play outfield when needed.  The Twins also have Eric Fryer on the 40-man and haven't removed him yet, so you have to think they value his presence.  Therefore, I see Suzuki as a one-year Twins catcher because I'm not willing to even entertain the thought that Pinto will flop.  Twins fans deserve something good from Pinto.

Here are the facts.  The Twins got a good deal when they signed Willingham before the 2012 season.  Willingham had a fantastic 2012 season, posting a career-best OPS+ of 143.  Willingham dealt with injuries and had a very disappointing 2013 season.  Willingham has one year left on his very reasonable contract.  Willingham will be 36 when the 2015 season starts.  The Twins have numerous young outfielders.  Oswaldo Arcia is better suited for left field than right field.  The Twins like to use the DH to rest regulars.  The facts point toward 2014 being Willingham's last season with the Twins. 

Parmelee has a slightly better chance of being with the Twins in 2015, if only because he is younger and cheaper.  Since Parmelee posted a ridiculous 183 OPS+ in his 2011 September debut, he has hit .228/.302/.364 in 543 plate appearances.  That works out an 84 OPS+ and that is not acceptable for a corner outfielder or a first baseman.  Parmelee will be 27 when the 2015 season starts.  He will be in his final non-arbitration season.  Unless his offense comes around rapidly, he won't get to that 2015 season with the Twins.  I have to say, I'm not fond of his chances. 

Eric Fryer

Fryer is a back-up catcher with good plate discipline.  The Twins seem to like his defense and have a long track record with true back-up catchers who provide good defense and little else.  Everyone thinks of Drew Butera, of course.  Fryer can't hit either, but he can draw a walk.  Fryer is younger, and therefore cheaper than Butera.  Fryer is almost certainly destined for AAA in 2014.  However, having a reliable backstop just a phone call away is not the worst use of a 40-man spot.  Fryer will make the league-minimum in 2015 and I imagine he'll still be kicking around with the Twins while getting kicked around by the fans. 

Chris Herrmann

I'm not sure that Herrmann is a good player, or even an average player, but he is a versatile player.  Versatility is underrated.  The fact that Herrmann can catch is useful.  While Eric Fryer may be a better receiver, Herrmann may be a better fit for the active roster because he can play another position when not pitching.  Obviously, you know what versatility is, so I'm not really sure why I explained it so deeply.  The Twins seem to value versatility and Herrmann would make for a good value, even if he isn't really a good player.  If he can demonstrate some of his Minor League plate discipline as an MLB player, he might become a legitimately good player. 

When the Twins acquired Presley in the Justin Morneau trade, I thought he could have been released or designated for assignment this off-season.  Instead, Presley looked pretty good in his September in Minnesota.  He hit .283/.336/.363 in 122 plate appearances and played solid defense in center.  Presley can hit leadoff and play center, two valuable qualities.  However, Presley is 28, in his final pre-arb season and not nearly as talented as the next guy on this list.  He's better suited as a 4th outfielder and I think that's the role he will fill in 2015.  4th outfielders are important and he'll contribute in that role.

Oh my.  In 2013, Hicks hit .192/.259/.338 and nearly went 0 for April.  He had a clash with his manager (which I explained here), got sent to AAA in July and was not recalled as part of the Twins' September call-ups.  He then decided not to play Winter Ball and ugh, gosh he just had a really bad year.   I hope the Twins and Twins fans can just forget about his 2013 season and look at the fact that he is a very talented player.  The 2014 and 2015 Twins will be better if Hicks can get his career back on track.  I think he will.

First, Hicks has always adjusted to new levels slowly.  He needed two stops in Low-A and he showed major improvements in High-A and AA in the second halves of those seasons.  Then, the Twins skipped him an entire level and he struggled mightily.  It's not the most shocking development.  Second, Hicks had his moments, both in the field and at the plate.  He made some outstanding catches and covered a ton of ground in center.  Even at the plate, Hicks rebounded relatively well after that horrendous April.  His OPS+ was 90 or higher from May to July.  He wasn't good, but he wasn't awful.  It's a shame his worst month was his first.  Third, he's 24 and he has a first-round pedigree.  He's an incredible athlete and an instinctual baseball player.  There's no reason to think he won't rebound.

He's going to be better in 2014 and then even better in 2015.  He might move to right field because Byron Buxton is a phenom, but Hicks and Buxton will cover an amazing amount of real estate in the outfield and Hicks will get to flex his massive arm on throws from right field.  I'm very excited to watch Hicks again.

Josmil Pinto

Pinto hit .342/.398/.566 in his brief September debut.  In that month, he basically convinced everyone that he was the catcher of the future and that Joe Mauer should be traded for some bubblegum.  The Twins did the reasonable thing and moved Mauer to first base and then signed Kurt Suzuki to share the catching responsibilities.  They'll likely just buy some gum.  Pinto is going to be a good, but he isn't 165 OPS+ good.  He had a .440 BABIP in September, which is both insane and not sustainable.  Even so, I do think Pinto is the catcher of the future and I fully expect that he is huge part of the 2015 team. 

Oswaldo Arcia

Arcia is a cornerstone player and an emerging fan favorite.  He had rough patches in his rookie year, but still posted a 102 OPS+ as a 22-year-old with almost no AAA experience.  He struck out a ton and didn't walk much, but he also just reached legal drinking age.  He slugged .430 and I wouldn't be surprised if he eclipses that number for the next ten seasons.  I really liked what I saw from Arcia in 2013 and I think he'll be one of the biggest reasons why the 2015 Twins will contend for the playoffs. 

Here's some proof for the nay-sayers.  In the past 25 years, just 76 players have posted an OPS+ of 102 or better, with the same amount of plate appearances as Arcia, at age 22 or younger.  A couple are repeats actually, so we're talking about just 54 total players, or about 2 per season.  Here's the link to the list:  Click here.  Some of the names are duds, but the vast majority are All-Stars.  Impressive company. 

With that ray of sunshine, we end.  Tomorrow, I'll give you my thoughts on the infielders.  I'll see you all then!

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