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Looking for clues in September

Posted by: John Bonnes Updated: August 26, 2013 - 10:14 PM

This season was supposed to answer some questions about the makeup of the next winning Minnesota Twins team. It has largely failed to do so. But there is still some time and some September callups which might provide some clues as to the proper moves to make this offseason.

The Starting Rotation (recall Scott Diamond)
I just deleted an introductory paragraph with a lot of stats because it showed you something you already know: the Twins starting rotation is very bad. It was very bad last year, too. And with no immediate help on the horizon, the question is whether the Twins can somehow avoid “very bad” again  next year.

Ideally, the answer would involve giving time to younger pitchers with limited experience and some upside, like Scott Diamond, Liam Hendriks, Vance Worley and Kyle Gibson. However, Hendriks is here and Worley and Gibson are likely done for the year. That leaves Diamond, who has posted a 1.91 ERA since his demotion. In an ideal world, he would replace Mike Pelfrey, who would be traded for a Buterrific prospect from a contending team. Otherwise, shouldn’t Pelfrey have an innings limit after coming back from Tommy John? Isn’t he nearing it? Please?

(Don’t get me started on giving Kevin Correia a two-year deal. No. Don’t. I’m not kidding. Be still.)

The Bullpen (recall Michael Tonkin)
The Twins one area of strength is the bullpen, so recalling Tonkin isn’t absolutely necessary. Tonkin was hit pretty hard on Sunday, and has already passed his career high for games this season. It would be understandable if he was just shut him down when Rochester’s season ends, especially if they rely on him down the stretch.

But one way the Twins could continue to build for the future would be to trade some relievers. The Twins already look like they have four impact relievers – Glen Perkins, Jared Burton, Caleb Thielbar and Casey Fien. Seeing Tonkin in the majors could make them more comfortable shopping one of these guys, though trading relievers in the offseason (when there are so many free agent arms available) doesn’t seem especially profitable.

Catcher (recall Josmil Pinto)
This is maybe the least likely callup, but there is a good reason to consider it. Just like re-signing Justin Morneau adds to the glut of corner fielding types, so does Ryan Doumit’s guaranteed deal next year. The Twins have any number of players that could use at-bats from the DH or right field spots, which makes Doumit’s primary value that of a catcher who can step in 70 games per year without embarrassing himself defensively.

In some ways, Josmil Pinto looks like a similar player. He has shown he can hit at each level but, like Doumit, his defense is questionable. Playing him (and Chris Herrmann) in September might give a hint as to how aggressively the Twins could shop Doumit, who isn’t particularly valuable, but can fill a valuable niche for some teams. It would also give the Twins some sense of their backup options if Mauer’s concussion doesn’t clear up immediately (and maybe give Mauer some extra rest).

Center Field (recall Darin Mastroianni)
We all wish Aaron Hicks was ready for the majors. Indeed, we all hoped he was. He wasn’t, and after some initial struggles in Rochester and then some injuries, he’s far from having mastered AAA. In fact, there is less evidence that Hicks belongs in the majors on Opening Day than there was at this time last year.

So the Twins need to figure out what their center field options are. Playing Mastroiann and Clete Thomas as a platoon in September might hint as to whether the Twins need to spackle over that centerfield spot until Hicks is ready. (So might calling up Antoan Richardson and his.393 OBP, but I’m not holding my breath.)

First Base/DH/Right Field/Left Field (recall Chris Parmelee)
I’m also not holding my breath for this move, either. Three of these four spots are regularly tied up by veterans – Doumit, Morneau and Josh Willingham - and the leftover spot needs to be dedicated to Oswaldo Arcia as often as possible. That has left Chris Colabello on the bench a little too often - check that - a LOT too often considering he seems to be behind Wilkin Ramirrez and Chris Herrmann on the depth chart. Don’t get me wrong – Ramirez and Herrmann both should be evaluated as bench players, but I’d much rather evaluate next year’s possible first baseman.

I can understand keeping Parmelee in Rochester. He is hitting just .223, and that isn’t the front office’s fault. But 2012's version of Chris Colabello who tore up the Eastern League had "Parmelee" stitched on his back and he’s four years younger and while he didn’t break through in his 242 at-bats this year, he didn’t crash and burn either. A September Parmelee/Colabello platoon makes sense as an experiment at any of three roster spots – first base, right field or DH – and its not like all the high-end talent in this lineup should prove an insurmountable obstacle.

Shortstop (recall Eduardo Escobar)
Instead, I suspect I’m going to see this. I’ll admit a bias against Escobar: he’s never hit (even in the minors), his defense looked downright crummy with the Twins and he’s the “return” we got for Francisco Liriano. On the other hand, I have become irrationally attached to Pedro Florimon; he shines defensively, teased a little with some early hitting and the Twins stole him as a waiver wire pickup. If you think that last point doesn’t really matter, then you don’t know me.

But Florimon is now just 27 points of the 600 OPS I feared he would ultimately have. Escobar has been hitting in Rochester - .287/.364/.419. More encouraging is that the 24-year-old (2 years younger than Florimon) has 14 BB and 29 strikeouts, which is a bit better than the nearly 1:4 ratio he had in AAA prior to this season. Finally, Escobar’s defensive reputation is much better than he demonstrated in his fairly short time with the Twins.

It makes sense to see if Escobar can reverse first impressions this fall. The problem is that if he succeeds, the Twins are right where they were to start the season – without any real answer at shortstop.

But truthfully, that can be said for any number of positions. The Twins have more questions than answers. Perhaps September and it’s callups will provides some clues.

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