RandBall: Michael Rand
As a team in 2017, the Twins were quite formidable on offense. They finished seventh in MLB in runs scored (815) and ninth in on-base-plus-slugging percentage or OPS (.768). Much of that was fueled by a surge in the last two months when the offense carried the Twins to a wild-card berth.
With many of the key players from that team young and improving, the Twins’ offense already figured to be ascending in 2018. But then they found what on the surface looked like both a bargain and a luxury — Logan Morrison — and signed him in free agency.
The Twins already have a first baseman (Joe Mauer) and already have plenty of lefthanded hitters, and both those things describe Morrison. So what gives?
Well, the short answer is you can never have too many good players.
The longer answer is that a peek inside the numbers shows the Twins had a couple of deficiencies within their very good offensive production last season.
First, their designated hitters combined for just 17 home runs and a .711 OPS. Only Twins catchers had a lower OPS by position last season, and only two AL teams had fewer home runs from that spot a year ago.
Second, Twins cleanup hitters combined for a .748 OPS last season — ranking just No. 23 in MLB.
The Twins probably could have solved those problems without Morrison, but for $6.5 million in 2018 the plan should be simple. At least against righthanders, Morrison — who hit 38 home runs last season — is the designated hitter and bats cleanup.
Two problems solved with one guy.
Michael Rand is the senior digital writer for Star Tribune sports and keeper of the RandBall blog at startribune.com/RandBall.
Now that the Twins have a big bopper in the lineup with the addition of Logan Morrison, the question becomes where to slot him in the batting order?
The Rays, Morrison’s former team, slotted him fourth in the lineup for 114 games last season and Morrison hit 30 of his 38 home runs from that spot. It seems a good fit for him in Minnesota.
Wherever they slot him, the Twins just may want to make sure somebody is protecting Morrison in the lineup because he feasted on fastballs. Morrison hit 18 of 36 home runs on fastballs, 11 of which were two-seamers, according to Statcast.
Morrison did manage to hit eight home runs off changeups and six off sinkers.
But Morrison said he feels most comfortable at the plate when he knows a fastball is coming.
“What I ultimately want to do is hunt fastballs [in the middle of the plate],” Morrison told Fangraphs.com last season. “But at the same time, I want knowledge on what the pitcher likes to do. Especially in certain counts. If I know a pitcher doesn’t like to use one side of the plate, that helps me out even more. If it’s a guy who can do everything, I’m just trying to get a fastball middle until two strikes. Sometimes pitchers don’t comply.”
Part of the Twins’ issue on where to slot Morrison likely won’t get settled until MLB completes its investigation into Miguel Sano’s alleged sexual assault of a female photographer.
Whether Sano is in or out of the lineup, the Twins need to find a way to make pitchers pitch to Morrison instead of pitching around him.