It's the last Friday in May and you know what that means: arbitrarily ranking ten Minnesota Twins players! Remember, these power rankings are cumulative, so May performances don't weigh any more heavily than April performances. I will not be bound by recency bias! Let's get "it" on.
NR. Danny Santana
Santana hasn't received enough playing time to truly be considered, but man, what a fun player to watch. He's not the greatest fielder (at short or in center) but he's exciting at the plate and on the bases. I think he'll be back in AAA before long, but he should have a long Twins career ahead of him.
10. Casey Fien
Fien did completely blow the game yesterday (joking) but besides that game, he's been pretty outstanding. He hasn't allowed a home run this season, which has helped offset his drastic drop in strikeout rate. Of course, with relievers, the samples are so small that a couple of high-strikeout outings and he'll be right back in line with his previous seasons. Fien has emerged as the Twins' best set-up man, not bad for a guy they grabbed off the scrap heap.
9. Sam Deduno
Deduno got off to a rough start on Thursday, but recovered to pitch another solid game. His 55.1% ground ball rate would be fourth in the American League if he qualified. He has done a better job with strikeouts and walks since entering the rotation. Gone are the days of 2012 when a five-walk performance is always looming. It looks like Deduno has legitimately figured things out and has settled in as a nice back-end starter. I'm glad the Twins were more patient with him than I ever was. Daily reminder - I am a hack.
8. Kyle Gibson
I actually flipped Gibson and Deduno based on their respective performances in the Rangers series, but both guys have been consistently solid and sometimes better. Gibson looked great on Wednesday, going six shutout innings while striking out four and walking zero. This was despite the fact that the strike zone was about as inconsistent as Josmil Pinto's playing time (more on that later). His lack of strikeouts still worries me, but he has done a better job of limiting walks recently. His ground ball rate is climbing and that might be the best indicator of all.
7. Josmil Pinto
Sam Deduno's personal catcher. It has a nice ring to it. No wait, that's horrible! Pinto actually played baseball on Thursday and rewarded my constant complaining about his absence by going 0-4. Pinto hasn't been hitting all that well when playing in May, but he's also getting playing time as patchy as a self-hair cut. Pinto is young and talented. That is a good combination. The irrational fear of not having a backup catcher or a DH IN ONE GAME is just not worth keeping someone this talented on the bench. Seth Stohs wrote about this in more detail at Twins Daily earlier in the week and you should read it because he's totally right.
Plus, I mapped it all out for whoever has to tell Ron Gardenhire to get him in the lineup. Here, just read how.
6. Kurt Suzuki
I read something that indicated that Suzuki is interested in an extension with the Twins. I can see why the Twins would be interested. Suzuki is off to a great start and he's the kind of leader the Twins have always loved. However, a Suzuki extension might actually stop my heart because it would mean more off this Pinto situation than I can take. Plus, he had a 78 OPS+ from 2011-2013 and he's starting to cool off, batting .189/.250/.324 over the past two weeks. It's extremely important to not overreact to hot stretches and I hope the Twins remember that. If not, I can certainly get Joe Mays and Nick Blackburn on the phone for them.
Who would have ever thought that Trevor Plouffe would round into a relatively complete player? Back when he was endangering the life of everyone in the first six rows behind first base, I would have collapsed if you told me that his arm would eventually become a decent weapon. Of course, he's always had a strong arm and I've always had a proclivity for fake falling, but his arm was so inaccurate that it just never seemed he would be able to utilize that tool. Now, he rates as an above-average defender at third and he's been an above-average hitter so far (108 wRC+). He's also cooled off after a hot start, but he's still drawing more walks and hitting for better balanced power.
Escobar is obviously playing well above his head, but let's just keep enjoying this wild ride while it's going. When I advocated more playing time for Escobar in January, I never dreamed he would be this productive. I did like his line drive swing and his doubles power, a combination that has helped him post a 145 OPS+ so far this season. His defense at short is not as dynamic as Pedro Florimon's but he makes almost all of the routine plays and his arm is shockingly strong. He's a fine solution at an important position, at least until Danny Santana or someone else is ready to take over full-time.
3. Glen Perkins
31 strikeouts and 3 walks in 23.1 innings pitched. Yeah, that's our closer. I'm not sure if the national folks have fully noticed yet, but the Twins have one of the most talented closers in baseball. I'm not sure that it matters if national folks have noticed either. I would guess that Perkins is a lock for the All-Star game, as he's a local guy and he would be a great ambassador for the sport and the city. He's been great, just as great as he's been in his entire career as a reliever. I think I might ask him to Prom.
2. Phil Hughes
It was really tough deciding who was 1 and who was 2. Hughes has been outstanding and probably the biggest positive surprise this season. Everyone thought that his move from Yankee Stadium would help because he'd give up fewer home runs, but no one realized the effect that moving specifically to Minnesota would have on his walk rate. The Twins preach to limit walks and Hughes has always done a decent job in that area. Now, he's elite. Elite walk rates turn marginal pitchers into effective pitchers (Scott Diamond, Carlos Silva, etc) and take effective pitchers and make them stars (Brad Radke and now Hughes). If he maintains this level of control, I see no reason to believe that he won't also maintain this level of performance. What a great signing!
1. Brian Dozier
Dozier has cooled off recently, but he's still giving the Twins great production in just about every way. His defense is outstanding, his baserunning is opportunistic and while his batting average is not great, his on-base skills and power make up for that lack of contact. He's doing all of this with a .252 BABIP, so I'd expect his average to start to rise in the coming weeks. He's on pace for about a 6-WAR season, which is approaching Chuck Knoblauch territory. Plus, that hair.
There we have it. What do you think of my list? Noticeably absent is Joe Mauer, who just can't seem to get a hot streak going. I thought he'd be in the top 3 by now, but maybe I was just a month early. I'd also expect Oswaldo Arcia to join this list in June, mostly because I love him and I am very biased.
Have a great weekend!