Fueled by interviews with assistant GM Rob Antony and manager Ron Gardenhire, yesterday became the best day of the year for Twins spring training news. The result? Almost every projected lineup you saw this offseason was probably wrong. Instead, you’ll like see a whole lot of Josh Willingham playing left field, Ryan Doumit playing right field, Justin Morneau as the designated hitter and Chris Parmelee playing first base.
The shakeup happens twelve days before the regular season starts and about a week before the Twins break camp. Like any reorg, it resulted in some good days and bad days:
Good Day: Parmelee
Not only does it look like Parmelee made the major league team, it looks like he is in position to be a regular without ever having played a game at AAA. That speaks highly of the organization’s confidence in him, confidence which is fueled by his second half in New Britain, a tremendous September call-up and a spring training where he has continued to show power.
But make no mistake, this plan hinges on Parmelee being a productive major league player. That is an open question. Parmelee has averaged just twelve home runs and a .266 batting average over his six years in he minors. That’s not nearly enough production for a first base prospect. If he falls flat, this plan looks a hell of a lot worse than any of those offseason projections. That’s because this next guy is suddenly a guy without a position.
Bad Day: Ben Revere
When Gardenhire announced yesterday that Willingham was going to be his everyday left fielder and Span his everyday center fielder, Revere was left without a position. Revere’s defensive strength is his range and his weakness is his arm. In Target Field that makes him a fantastic left fielder and a decent center fielder. But putting him in Target Field’s tiny right field negates his biggest strength and exposes his biggest weakness.
The Twins say he’s competing for right field, but were he to win it, Gardenhire would look borderline insane. They also say he’s competing for a roster spot, but without him on the roster, there isn’t a backup center fielder, unless the Twins decide to go with Darin Mastroianni. I almost hope they do, because I think Revere needs to get everyday at-bats if he’s going to develop into the water bug he could become.
Good Day: Gardenhire
Though He may not feel like it, because filling out the lineup sheet just got a lot more complicated. But provided PFOHF (Parmelee doesn’t fall on his face), Gardy’s roster has a ton of flexibility and offensive options to protect his two biggest guns, Morneau and Joe Mauer
. With Doumit on the roster, Mauer can play less at catcher, but still be in the lineup at first or DH. Morneau can take the spot that Mauer doesn’t and Parmelee can add his offense in right field. If Morneau needs a day off, Parmelee or Doumit can DH and Trevor Plouffe
can play first base and punish a southpaw or two.
Gardenhire also essentially replaces a bottom of the order bat (Revere) with a middle-of-the-order bat (Parmelee) for most games. My best guess on the lineup now looks like this:
Jamey Carroll (RH)
Danny Valencia (RH)
Alexi Casilla (SH)
If Doumit or Parmelee is hitting eighth, that’s a deep lineup. Congrats, Gardy.
Bad Day: The Pitching Staff
The Twins offense just went from one of the better defensive outfields in the majors to one of the worst. That’s how big of an impact Revere’s range could have had. And if PFOHF then there is a real mess. Either Gardenhire has to move Willingham back to right field or the staff has to deal with a bad outfield AND know that it has been designed in almost the worst possible way.
Bad Day: Nearly everyone hoping for a bench spot
For a four-man bench, it appears three spots are taken: Luke Hughes & Plouffe (both of whom are useful and out of options) and Revere. That leaves one spot for either another catcher or a utility guy. Both could be classified as luxuries.
The third catcher position doesn’t seem to be as critical now that we know Morneau will likely be seeing most of the at-bats at DH. If Doumit was the DH, and Mauer got hurt during a game, then they Twins would have had to have the pitcher bat if Doumit moved to catcher. That seems less likely now.
And the utility infielder role was mostly about backing up the shortstop, but the Twins do have two other players, Plouffe and Casilla, who can play shortstop. If Casilla plays short then Hughes, who is having a monster spring, could play second base. And while the Twins claim they want Plouffe to stay away from the middle infield, Parmelee’s emergence likely means less platoon opportunities for Plouffe. Maybe he needs to be looking at a super-utility role.
If you’re looking for more on this, TwinsDaily.com has it covered.
Oh, hell, there’s a lot more, but I can’t wait to get you to the dessert, so here you go: if you really want to get excited about imminent baseball, start by reading about Minnesota’s Church of Baseball.