TwinsCentric was formed by Twins super-bloggers Seth Stohs, Nick Nelson, Parker Hageman and John Bonnes. Together they publish at TwinsDaily.com and have authored books, e-books and magazines that provide independent and in-depth coverage of the Minnesota Twins from a fan's perspective. You can contact them at TwinsCentric@gmail.com.

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Posts about Off the field

TwinsCentric: Playing the waiting game with Cuddyer. Is it worth it?

Posted by: Parker Hageman Updated: December 9, 2011 - 11:51 AM

 Since the Twins locked up Jamey Carroll, Ryan Doumit and Matt Capps, their interest in the free agent market is at a standstill. That logjam is none other than Michael Cuddyer.

The Twins reportedly have an offer on the table for the veteran, one that is worth three years and $24 million, and are waiting for a decision.

The waiting game on Cuddyer is contingent on him exploring his option on the free agent market. In some ways that market has dried up but there are some suitors that could come into play quickly.

The Red Sox have entertained the thought but have stated their focus is on pitching not offense at the moment. Although the once aggressive Philadelphia Phillies have landed Ty Wigginton and Laynce Nix and recanted their interest, the Colorado Rockies, who have been shucking payroll left and right this offseason, are considering placing a three-year offer in front of Cuddyer’s agent. Meanwhile, the now Pujols-less St. Louis Cardinals have a ton of money to spend and could very well be in the market for a corner outfielder/first baseman-type. Similarly, the Baltimore Orioles, just a hop-skip-and-jump from his hometown, discussed the idea of signing him but haven’t been active.

Despite all of that interest from other teams, according to Lindsay Guentzel, word from Cuddyer’s camp is that he would like to stay in Minnesota and will do so if the offer was for $2 million more or a fourth year was added.

As it stands, the value of the contract – roughly $8 million per season – is a reasonable expectation to meet according to Fangraphs.com’s Value system. Outside of his 2010 and injury-filled 2008 seasons, Cuddyer has exceeded the $10 million mark dating back to 2006.  If the bidding starting to increase above the $10 million annual rate, the likelihood of being able to match that with his production decreases:

Michael Cuddyer’s Value

Year

Value

2006

$11.2

2007

$10.1

2008

$0.0

2009

$12.8

2010

$3.3

2011

$14.0

The value system takes in account Wins Above Replacement (or WAR), which factors in defense using Ultimate Zone Rating and weighted Runs Above Replacement, and research has shown that in order to purchase one WAR on the market, it will cost approximately $4.5 million. So, in Cuddyer’s case, his 2011 season was measured at 3.1 WAR (or a three-win player) which works out to $14 million.  

As decent as his season was last year, it is even likelier that if he didn’t receive a Jeremy Guthrie fastball to the wrist, he would have had an even better 2011 season.

Admittedly, it was noble of him to gut it out through the sore wrist but while the rest of the opening day lineup was drinking Tahitian Treat in the whirlpool, Cuddyer’s on-field performance suffered. Post-wrist injury - from August 22nd until the end of the season - Cuddyer manned up for 115 plate appearances, hitting .241/.287/.361 with just eight extra base hits including two home runs. It was a good example to set, however the balky back and the wrist were an obvious substantial power drain. In comparison, a healthy Cuddy was on pace to put up some very big numbers, hitting .295/.360/.485 with 18 home runs through his first 469 plate appearances. To put that in perspective, he went from hitting a home run once every 26 plate appearances to once every 57.

People harp on his defensive play – yes, he’s no speedster in the outfield – but this year he showed a much improved ability to patrol right field for the Twins.

Consider this: In 2010, when he had his knee issues, Cuddyer managed to get to 102 of the 116 plays within a standard right fielder’s zone (a .879 revised zone rating). Additionally, he was able to track down 15 more outs that were not in the standard right fielder’s zone. This amounted to a -20.6 ultimate zone rating – the third-lowest mark among right fielders with a minimum of 500 defensive innings. Meanwhile, he showed an impressive turnaround in 2011. This past year, working 639 innings in right Cuddyer was able to making plays on 101 of the 108 balls in his zone which led to a revised zoning rating of .935 (a career best for him). On top of that he nabbed an extra 41 plays on out of zone plays leading to an ultimate zone rating of 0.1. It is hard to gauge any defensive metrics on one year samplings but that is still an impressive improvement - particularly in his ability to get to out-of-zone plays. Did a healthy knee provide him with better wheels to chase down those extra plays? Or was it simply being position well by the coaching staff?

If he is able to sustain the 2011 level of defense next year – which at his age it is certainly not a given - he would not be such a liability in the field. Furthermore, with Justin Morneau’s ability to play first base in question, Cuddyer gives the Twins a player who has manned first in recent history (Ryan Doumit has played all of 251 innings at first and just 43 since 2006).

One area of the game in which he excels is his ownership over left-handed pitching. In the past two seasons, Cuddyer has posted a .929 OPS against southpaws – the third-highest among remaining free agents – and the Twins currently lack right-handed depth on the roster of that caliber. On the other hand, while that is considerable production, not far behind Cuddyer on that list are free agents Jonny Gomes (.859 OPS), Josh Willingham (.827) and Kelly Shoppach (.804). Those players may be able to be signed at a lower cost and replace Cuddyer’s output against lefties in the lineup but all of them have various flaws as well.

Then there are the numerous “intangibles” that Cuddyer displays which is highly valued.

Just by the hardware he’s brought home recently you can tell how well he is viewed by the organization. He’s won the Twins’ Bob Allison Leadership Award the past three year – bestowed upon the Twins player who best exemplifies determination, hustle, tenacity, competitive spirit and leadership both on and off the field. The past two years he’s won the Mike Augustin Award for the player who fosters a healthy relationship with the media.

Cuddyer oozes charisma all over everything, makes motivational t-shirts for the club, fields the tough post-game questions and apparently intervenes when Kevin Slowey was throwing his verbal feces at the beat writers (or something like that). He is to clubhouse demeanor as to one of those Grey’s Anatomy doctors are to bedside manner (full disclosure: I’ve never seen Grey’s Anatomy) yet odds are that the team would have lost 99 games last year with or without Cuddyer on the roster.

Still, it’s hard to write any of that off as meaningless. Sure, it doesn’t show up in his WAR or in the win column but that doesn’t mean that leadership is valueless. For a team like the Twins, who have plenty of young players taxiing up and down to the majors all the time, what does a clubhouse role model like Cuddyer provide? It is entirely possible that his example of hustle and tenacity rub off over time on the likes of Trevor Plouffe, Rene Tosoni or Joe Benson. It is very difficult to measure an effect like that analytically (if there is an effect at all) and assign a dollar value. At the same time, if you develop your organization well, then you should have various players able to step into that clubhouse leader role. After all, when Torii Hunter left, that created a void for Michael Cuddyer to fill. If Cuddyer leaves, it is definitely possible that someone else will take his place.

Cuddyer turns 33 in March, which means that he is a candidate for skill deterioration throughout the duration of the contract and the chances of injuries increases as well. If the Twins are serious about retaining him, they will also forfeit not one but two draft picks in 2012. Factoring this in, it should be a difficult decision to make, particularly if his asking price grows. The three-year, $24 million offer is completely reasonable but if other teams start driving that figure northward, it behooves the organization to shake hands, thank him for his contributions and move on to plan B. 

Twins Prospect Handbook - 2011

Posted by: Seth Stohs Updated: January 24, 2011 - 12:26 AM
Minor league baseball players are doing all the same work that the big leaguers do. They are just doing it with far less fanfare, smaller per diems, less luxurious travel and hotel arrangements, and noticeably lighter wallets due to pay checks with far fewer zeroes. These players deserve to be recognized too!

That is a statement that I have used in the Introduction of the first two Minnesota Twins Prospect Handbooks. I r

Cover by Brian Henricksen

Cover by Brian Henricksen

eally like that statement and as I’m writing the book, and spending the hours, trying to keep my eyes open, it is what keeps me going. There are profiles for well over 150 Twins prospects in this book. How many will play for the Minnesota Twins? Maybe 25? 35? 50? We don’t know, but in my mind, they all deserve to be recognized. They’re all working hard. They all are playing the game that I know I wanted to be playing as a career when I was in school.

The past two years, I have written Minnesota Twins Prospect Handbooks (2009 and 2010). Just within the last few days, I am now taking pre-orders for Minnesota Twins Prospect Handbook - 2011. Today, I wanted to post just a couple of exerpts from the book to give you a sense of what you can expect from the nearly 170 page book. If you are interested in purchasing a book, please go to SethSpeaks.net to find details for how to pre-order.

Over 160 Prospect Profiles - Players from the Gulf Coast League Twins through Triple-A Rochester will appear in the book. Profiles include some stats, but also a scouting perspective as well. I also give my Top 5 Twins Dominican Summer League Prospects. Here is one example of a player profile.

A.J. Achter – RHP – (8/27/88)
Acquired: 46th round draft pick in 2010 out of Michigan State
2010 Team(s): Elizabethton Twins
2010 Stats: 1-0, 4.91 ERA, 1.36 WHIP, 7 IP, 3 BB, 8 K
 
Many times, teams will draft someone in the later rounds that they like but are not certain they will be able to sign. They want to see something more. After a year at Texas Southern, Achter transferred to Michigan State. In 14 starts in 2009, he went 3-6 with a 3.76 ERA and a 1.62 WHIP for the Spartans. In 2010, he went 4-4 with a 4.20 ERA and a 1.44 WHIP (thanks to cutting his walk rate in half). The Twins took a late-round pick on the six-foot-five right-hander, but wanted to see more. Achter went to the prestigious Cape Cod League for the summer. There, he gave up just six earned runs and struck out 34 batters in 38 innings. On the final signing day, the Twins signed Achter and sent him to Elizabethton. In his first outing, he gave up four runs on five hits in 1.1 innings. In his three other appearances, he gave up just two hits (no runs) in six innings.

At 6-5 and 190 pounds, Achter has a good frame, and a strong presence on the mound. He has a fastball that touches 92 but sits at about 90. He is working on a curveball and slider. His best pitch at this stage is his changeup.

There are also a few stories from some other Twins bloggers and other writers. To give an example, here is a bit of an article I wrote called Nate Hanson: Minnesota's Own.

Every year there is someone in the Twins organization (and likely every organization) who steps up and makes a name for himself. The player may have been a late-round pick. The player may have put up average numbers but nothing that jumps out at you. And then out-of-nowhere, the player has a tremendous season and the front office, scouts and fans all have to take a step back and re-evaluate the prospect. In 2010, that prospect for the Twins had to be Nate Hanson.
 
Hanson is a Minnesotan. Hanson was drafted by the Twins in the 28th round of the 2008 draft out of the University of Minnesota, but he had been a Minnesota guy for a long time already. Sure, he was born in California, but he moved to Minnesota when he was ten years old. Baseball and hockey were his two loves.
 
“We arrived in Minnesota, we quickly saw how much the state loved its hockey. I was a hockey and baseball player when we lived in California and continued that into Minnesota. I loved both sports the same amount and it was one of those cases where I loved the sport in which I was in season. I did not know what route I wanted to take in college.”
 
Which sport would he pick, and why? “I was being recruited for both sports and it was a tough decision. I ultimately thought I could play longer in baseball and knew the U of M had an excellent tradition. I visited a few schools and talked to many, but a big factor was coach (John) Anderson and the way he coaches and produces well rounded young men on and off the field. Minnesota is always at the top of the Big Ten and going to Minnesota was the best choice I could have ever made, especially with being so close to home and having my family there at every game. They really wanted to be able to come to all the home games.”
 
John Anderson became the head coach of the Gophers baseball program in the fall of 1981 and remains the team’s coach. He enters the 2011 with a career record of 1038-675-3 in his tenure. When he reached the 1,000 win plateau, he became the 39th coach in Division I history to reach that number, and just the 20th to reach that number with one team. The list of accolades for Anderson is huge, but he has been hugely successful on the field for the Gophers, and more important, he has prepared his players for the game and for life beyond the ball field.
 
According to Hanson, “Coach Anderson is a flat out leader. He has been winning since he took over as head coach. He is a coach that is well respected not only in the Big Ten, but nationally as well. Players listen to what he has to say and he is a player’s coach. It is always easier to play for a coach that knows the game and doesn't ever panic if faced with adversity. He expects excellence and hard work on and off the field and that is a big reason why guys get drafted a lot from the U of M and why the Gophers finish in the top of the Big Ten year after year. Coach Anderson has taught me how to represent myself and the Gopher baseball tradition.”
 
Speaking of the draft, the Minnesota Twins have drafted 35 players out of the University of Minnesota since MLB initiated its Rule 4 draft in 1965. Glen Perkins is the only Gophers player to be drafted in the first round. Others drafted high include Denny Neagle (3rd, 1989), Derek McCallum (4th, 2009), Shane Gunderson (6th, 1995), Tom Jagletta (7th, 1977), Bryan Hickerson (7th, 1986) and Matt Scanlon (8th, 1999). Former Gopher Jay Kvasnicka was also drafted by the Twins in the 8th round of the 1988 draft. In 2010, his son Michael Kvasnicka was a first-round selection of the Houston Astros after playing three years with the Gophers.

That is a little less than half of the Hanson story, but it gives a good flavor of the type of information in the book.

Also in the book are several Top 10 Prospect Lists, Josh Johnson (Josh's Thoughts) helped me out by writing a terrific article on Twins 1B prospect Chris Parmelee, as well as with several of the prospect profiles. I included his Top 30 Twins prospects as well. Also, for the first time, I asked someone associated with each of the Twins full-season affiliates to write an article related to their team, city, stadium and more. They did a good job of telling us about the affiliates. Regarding the 2010 draft, I was able to write a story telling the draft stories of several of the 2010 Twins draft picks including David Deminski, a Twins draft pick from St. Cloud State University, who had a very interesting story. In part:

His final three college seasons were spent playing for Pat Dolan at St. Cloud State University. However, the story of Deminsky is that he wondered how long, or even if, he would be able to play at all. “My college career was a bit of a roller coaster as I had never expected to be playing at the professional level after having my colon removed after a two-year battle with Ulcerative Colitis up until my freshman year of college baseball. I never even thought that I would be back for my sophomore season after going down to the Mayo (Clinic) in Rochester to have a surgery that would forever cure me from UC.”
 
But he not only returned to baseball, but he pitched well enough to garner interest from pro scouts. “I talked with (Twins area scout) Mark Wilson every once in awhile, but I was also in contact with several other teams from around the MLB.”

Draft day was exciting for the left-hander. “It was an honor to have my name called and be drafted. I could not be happier to have been selected by my hometown state’s team, as I have always been a hometown boy my whole life.” In fact, signing was a pretty easy decision, “Pretty simple. Where do I sign?”

There is a lot of information on the Twins minor leaguers fit into 170+ pages of the Minnesota Twins Prospect Handbook - 2011. It was a ton of work, but it is stuff that I really enjoy. For Twins fans, understanding that the Twins choose to build from within whenever possible, the prospect handbook is a must-have! It's a coffee table book to be used whenever Dick Bremer or LaVelle of Joe mention a minor leaguer. And, somehow, I am able to keep the price very low. Similar books that I have seen are found for anywhere from $20-$32, and I am trying to keep the book at $13.95. To pre-order, and for all pre-order information, click here. If you have any questions, please feel free to e-mail me. And, as always, thank you to all of you who support us!

------------------------------

  • Be sure to check out the new product offerings at DiamondCentric. Thome is my Homey t-shirts and sweatshirts are available. There is a special on the Punto Plays Dirty shirts. And, you'll definitely want to check out the new t-shirts that were recently introduced!

 

Who's to Blame?

Posted by: Seth Stohs Updated: July 20, 2010 - 1:47 AM

The 2010 Minnesota Twins season has been as frustrating as any in recent Twins history. Never have expectations been as high as they are this year. The team entered a new stadium in Target Field. With the new stadium came increased revenues. With the increased revenues, the team went out and spent a ton of money to acquire the types of players that Twins fans wanted. During spring training, the team said all the right things. This team was different. They were no longer "just trying to win the division."

So naturally expectations among fans and bloggers were sky high. The team went 15-8 in April and 16-12 in May.

Since then, the team has gone just 18-24. Injuries have certainly played a part. Justin Morneau's injury is worrisome. Orlando Hudson and JJ Hardy each spent significant time on the Disabled List which certainly affected the lineup and the team's defense.

As Scott Baker walked off the field last night, having given up five runs (another would score later) on ten hits and three walks, I was almost surprised (pleasantly) that there were a bunch of well-deserved boos heard throughout the crowd. Twins fans have grown impatient, despite the fact that the Twins are essentially where they were a year ago (and several previous years). We were told that this year would be different. I think fans assumed, fair or not, that this talented roster would not lose as many games to teams they shouldn't, and they wouldn't have so many brain cramps on the field. This team is in contention, but we all thought (not so wisely) that the AL Central would be wrapped up by the July trade deadline.

So, who is to blame for the Twins struggles?

Some want to blame the Twins front office. To those, I would say that the front office stepped up in the offseason and increased the payroll to about $95 million. The team needed and wanted a middle infielder and a second-place hitter. They acquired JJ Hardy and Orlando Hudson, and when healthy those two provide very strong defense up the middle. When Jim Thome became available at $1.5 million, they jumped at the opportunity, and he has been more than they were hoping for.

Some want to blame the manager. I can't say that I 100% agree with every decision that the manager makes. Ozzie Guillen is getting credit for continuing to show patience in Gordon Beckham, who is on a tear. Ron Gardenhire has shown tremendous patience with his starting pitchers, guys who have had a lot of success in the past. He has been stuck with a short bench. Sure, you can rightly argue that Delmon Young should not be hitting 7th or 8th in the lineup. The Michael Cuddyer at 3B experience was a mess. Joe Mauer has returned to being a great #2 hitter option. I believe that continuity is a good thing and has contributed to the Twins success in the last decade. I believe that few changes should be made in the season's first two to three months. But now we are in late July, so it's time to believe in the numbers and do whatever is best for the team now.

There is the old cliche that you can't fire all 25 players, so the manager gets fired. Well, I don't think firing is necessary, but I do believe that the players deserve a very large percentage of the blame. When Scott Baker, Nick Blackburn or Kevin Slowey leave pitches right down the middle of the plate over and over again, my assumption is Gardenhire or pitching coach Rick Anderson didn't coach them or instruct them to throw it there. When any of the Twins hitters ground into double plays, is that what Joe Vavra and Gardy want them to do? I'm guessing not. When Joe Mauer backhands balls in the dirt for wild pitches, I'm assuming that's not how he is coached since Drew Butera does it more fundamentally sound. When Denard Span gets picked off of first base time and again, I'm assuming that Jerry White, who was a great base stealer in his brief playing days, is coaching him base running properly. I'm guessing that Rick Stelmaszek isn't telling the bullpen pitchers, as they leave the bullpen to enter the game, to go out there and allow inherited runners to score.

The Twins haven't done the little things right for a long time. But I know they practice things like bunting, base running and situational hitter a lot in spring training and throughout the season. Not to pick out just one situation, but last night, Jim Thome came to bat in the middle innings with runners on second and third base with just one out. My guess is that Joe Vavra did not have to tell him that a fly ball would be great, a sacrifice fly and an easy run for the Twins. When Thome hit the ball three feet and was thrown out at 1B without the run scoring, how can that be blamed on Gardenhire or Vavra?

Is the Twins coaching staff perfect? Is the front office perfect? Of course not, but guess what, neither are the others around baseball.

The Twins front office accumulated a roster full of talent, many of them veterans. Justin Morneau has been terrific again. Delmon Young has finally met many of his expectations. Carl Pavano and Francisco Liriano have both pitched very well. Brian Duensing has been a very consistent contributor all year in the bullpen.

The Twins have the best roster of players that they have had in a long time, but this is clearly not the best team that Twins fans have seen to this point. Who knows what is going to happen the rest of the way. I believe that the front office is working the phones hard and looking to make another acquisition or two before the July and August trade deadlines, as they did last year. Gardenhire has led his teams right through game 162, and even 163 the last two years, and deserves credit for that. So, don't assume this team is done yet.

But if the Twins want to win in 2010, it's time for the players themselves to all look in the mirror a little bit and figure things out for themselves. It's that simple. But I'm sure it's not that easy.

-----------------------------------------------------------

Here are some more links for you to peruse:

Opening Day... COMING SOON!

Posted by: Seth Stohs Updated: March 25, 2010 - 9:29 AM

 

It’s getting close, isn’t it? We are less than a dozen days away from Opening Day. The excitement surrounding the Twins this year is more than I can remember in my lifetime, and that includes after those World Series years. The front office continued to say that when revenues increased, payroll would increase, and that has certainly been the case as the Opening Day payroll will be about 45% more than one year ago.
But it isn’t just those numbers. Some of that is pay increases to arbitration-eligible players. What is exciting is that the Twins have added components that they needed, to fill some holes. Fortunately, the Twins are run in such a way that they will continue the model of building from within. Names like Danny Valencia and Anthony Slama will likely roam Target Field before the Twins give up too many good prospects to get guys that may or may not offer improvement.
Orlando Hudson is on this team now. He filled a need at second base, and maybe more important, in the second spot in the lineup. JJ Hardy came over from the Brewers and gives the Twins a presence at shortstop that they haven’t really had for a long time. Speaking of presence, Jim Thome, a future Hall of Famer, is going to be a member of this team, and likely a valuable contributor on and off the field.
With less than two weeks, most of the Twins roster spots have already been determined. I mean, was there really any question about who the Twins starting catcher, first baseman, second baseman, shortstop, DH or any of the outfielders would be? Four of the five starting rotation spots were certain, and Francisco Liriano is giving fans more reason to be excited and has (hopefully) cemented himself in to the rotation as well. Even with the Joe Nathan injury, the depth that the Twins have brought into their bullpen should carry them through.
The addition of Ron Mahay yesterday certainly does cloud up the bullpen a little more, but in the name of depth, that is not the worst thing in the world. As the Twins Geek wrote today, there really are only a couple of questions at the back end of the bullpen. The only other roster spot up in the air appears to be between Alexi Casilla (out of options), Matt Tolbert (out of talent?) and Jacque Jones (who has shown in camp that he just might have a little bit left in the tank).
Opening Day is looming, and it is incredibly exciting for baseball fans.
I just want to know… Do any of your have Opening Day traditions? (Or am I the only one?)
For the last about ten years, I have not worked on the Monday afternoon of Opening Day. Instead, I have gone home, set up two TVs side by side, and watched ball games on both of them throughout the afternoon. I would switch which TV had the volume up and which was muted. I would set the “Call Back” or “Previous” button on other games on other stations. I’d usually see if any friends wanted to come over and we’d pick up something to eat, chicken wings, pizza, hot dogs. Basically I would be able to watch about four games in the afternoon. Then, since it is starting to get nice in Minnesota around the beginning of April, I usually go wash my car. I don’t know. It just feels like a good spring thing to do. It also gets me away from the couch and prepared for the evening of ball games. With the Twins not opening up their season until 9:00 central time this year, I will be able to watch evening games up to that point as well.
Do any of you do anything for Opening Day? I know there are some who make a point to go to Twins opening day each year, home or on the road. I’m always looking for new ideas, so please share yours with mine.
And then a week later, the Twins will open up Target Field officially for their first regular season home games. They will play the Boston Red Sox in games that are probably a bit more important than these Mayor Cup games we are hearing far too much about in Florida!
I had the opportunity to go to Target Field last Saturday, and the place is amazing. Absolutely remarkable! Few stones were unturned. It feels as if it is one of those places where every time you go, you’ll see something that you hadn’t noticed before. They did a tremendous job of bringing the rich history of Minnesota and the Minnesota Twins to the stadium. The field is incredible. The scoreboard is even more amazing (and clear) than I would have imagined. The seats face the infield. Seriously! The seats face the infield!! Novel concept, isn’t it?
If you are able, on Saturday, the Minnesota Gophers will play a game against Louisiana Tech in Target Field. The first 25,000 fans there will be able to get into the stadium for $2 with proceeds going to the Twins Community Fund. I am planning to attend because I just want to be there. Isn’t that reason enough?
Spring is here. There is no snow on the ground in the Twin Cities. It’s time for a new season, and I can say that I officially have Baseball (And Twins) Fever now!!
Here are some other links to peruse or listen to as you have time today:
·         On Wednesday, Seth was on a New York Mets podcast (Call to the Bullpen) and was able to talk about the Twins. They discussed the Joe Mauer contract, the Joe Nathan injury and its affect that bullpen, Target Field and much more.
·         On Wednesday night, John and Seth joined Topper Anton on Fanatic Jack’s Twins Talk podcast. There were many topics, including the Twins bullpen and the backup catching situation.
·         Tonight at 8:00, Seth will host another episode of The Show on SethSpeaks.net. His guests tonight will be Trayvone Johnson (Twins 2009 draft pick), JJ Stankevitz (White Sox Examiner writer) and Max Kepler (Twins prized German prospect). Links to listen live will be available at www.SethSpeaks.net approximately 30 minute before the show begins.
·         Nick continued his Twins position analysis by looking at the relief pitchers.

Position Analysis: Left Field

Posted by: Nick Nelson Updated: March 16, 2010 - 11:19 PM
Note: This is one installment in an ongoing series of pieces I've down previewing each position for the 2010 Twins. Today I take a look at Delmon Young and left field; if you please, you can also go and check out my breakdowns of catcher, first base, second base, third base and shortstop.
 
***
 
Likely Starter: Delmon Young
2009 Stats: .284/.308/.425, 12 HR, 60 RBI
 

 Will this be Young's year? (Photo courtesy of Keith Allison)

Potential Backups: Jason Kubel, Jacque Jones

Yesterday, in preparation for writing this article, I sent out a message from my Twitter account asking Twins fans to summarize their feelings about Delmon Young in one word. The responses, predictably, were mostly negative.

"Frustrating."
 
"Baffling."
 
"Underwhelmed."
 
"Exasperated."
 
"Trepidation."
 
"Malaise."
 
During his time here in Minnesota, Young has never really been embraced by the typically warm fan base because, for various reasons, I think it's been tough for fans to get behind him. Off the field, he doesn't have a particularly good reputation (although, to his credit, he hasn't had any publicized incidents since coming over from Tampa). On the field, he has been a major disappointment, having posted similarly underwhelming numbers in each of his three major-league seasons. His style of play can be frustrating to watch; he doesn't get to many balls in the outfield, swings at just about everything at the plate and hits into a lot of double plays. And while Young has failed to establish himself as a Twin, the two key players that Bill Smith traded for him -- Matt Garza and Jason Bartlett -- have blossomed into stars while wearing Rays uniforms.
 
Through his first couple years here in Minnesota, Young also had the misfortune of being juxtaposed against Carlos Gomez, another young player who was competing for playing time in the outfield. While the flaws in Gomez's game were perhaps no less frustrating than those in Young's, Gomez had a much more fan-friendly allure. His energy, enthusiasm and glowing personality portrayed him as a vastly different character than the more quiet and reserved Young.
 
After hedging back and forth between the two promising outfielders for much of the last two years, the Twins finally made a full commitment to Young this offseason by trading Gomez to the Brewers for J.J. Hardy. Young enters this season with regular playing time in left all but guaranteed. He's 24, with three full years of big-league experience under his belt and with nobody breathing down his neck. Everything seems aligned for him to finally emerge and fulfill -- at least to some degree -- the immense promise he showed as an elite teenage prospect. But will it happen?
 
Young's defenders often point to his youth. After all, they note, the typical 24-year-old player is still getting his feet wet at Triple-A, not preparing for his fourth season as a full-time major-leaguer. But what's troubling is that Young has now amassed over 1800 big-league plate appearances and has not evolved one bit as a hitter. His offensive production has been nearly identical in his three full seasons, and that production -- .288/.321/.411 with an average of 12 home runs and 74 RBI -- is simply not satisfactory for someone playing a non-valuable defensive position (and poorly). The average American League left fielder batted .267/.338/.442 last year, so Young's offensive performance wasn't even average, and defensively he rated as one of the league's worst at his position. He struck out far more often than any of his past big-league seasons, and he drew only 12 walks in 416 plate appearances. This isn't exactly the type of progression you'd like to see from a hitter who should be figuring things out in his third full year against major-league competition.
 
Before we all go writing Young off, though, there are a few promising signs to be gleaned from his 2009 campaign upon closer inspection. For one thing, his overall numbers were significantly dragged down by a terrible slump that immediately followed the passing of his mother, which very obviously affected his focus on the field. In the weeks after returning from a (perhaps overly) brief absence from the team, Young was striking out in every other at-bat and his batting average sunk by about 60 points. Take out this understandably poor stretch of performance and his overall numbers look a whole lot better.
 
In addition, Young finished the season very strong, which always helps breed hope heading into the next season. During the 17-4 stretch that propelled the Twins past the Tigers and into the playoffs, Young hit .353 with four of his 12 home runs and 17 RBI. During those final weeks of the season, Young was consistently hammering the baseball, and his three-run double off the right-field baggy against the eventual Cy Young winner Zack Greinke in a must-win October contest still stands out to me as one of the most memorable moments in the Twins' amazing run.
 
Yet, the hot streak did not coincide with any discernible change in approach for Young. During that 21-game stretch, Young continued to hack away at the plate, drawing just two non-intentional walks in 92 plate appearances. And there are plenty of people -- myself included -- who believe that unless Young takes meaningful strides with his pitch recognition he'll never be able to take his game to the next level for an extended period of time. He's a great contact hitter with the body of an imposing slugger, but Young just isn't good enough to become an outstanding hitter while he's consistently swinging at bad pitches. Simply put, he's not Vladimir Guerrero.
 
So far this spring, Young has seemingly shown little interest in becoming a more patient at the dish, as he's drawn only one walk in seven games (and batted .176). But spring training stats are relatively meaningless and Young has at least indicated that he plans to become more selective now that he doesn't face the prospect of being benched after a bad day at the plate with Gomez gone. Of course, his comfortable leash in left field won't last forever; if he's not getting it done, Young will have to start worrying about Jim Thome -- who can nudge Jason Kubel into left field -- cutting into his playing time.
 
As it stands, Kubel will likely spend some time in left field with Thome serving as designated hitter against tough right-handed pitchers. That should benefit Young, who has been much more effective against lefties than righties over the course of his career.
 
It's now or never for Young. While he's only 24, this will be his fourth full season and now that he's in his arbitration years he's becoming quite expensive. If he can't take a legitimate step forward this year, I suspect that the Twins will seek to move in a different direction. There are certainly still those out there who believe in Young, as illustrated by those few tweets I received yesterday with positive tones like "optimistic" and "promising." And while those words ceased to describe my take on Young as I've watched him fail to make adjustments over the past three years, that doesn't mean I'm not hopeful.
 
Predicted 2010 Hitting Line for Young: .300/.335/.430, 15 HR, 60 RBI

Position Analysis: Left Field

Posted by: Nick Nelson Updated: March 16, 2010 - 11:19 PM
Note: This is one installment in an ongoing series of pieces I've down previewing each position for the 2010 Twins. Today I take a look at Delmon Young and left field; if you please, you can also go and check out my breakdowns of catcher, first base, second base, third base and shortstop.
 
***
 
Likely Starter: Delmon Young
2009 Stats: .284/.308/.425, 12 HR, 60 RBI
 

 Will this be Young's year? (Photo courtesy of Keith Allison)

Potential Backups: Jason Kubel, Jacque Jones

Yesterday, in preparation for writing this article, I sent out a message from my Twitter account asking Twins fans to summarize their feelings about Delmon Young in one word. The responses, predictably, were mostly negative.

"Frustrating."
 
"Baffling."
 
"Underwhelmed."
 
"Exasperated."
 
"Trepidation."
 
"Malaise."
 
During his time here in Minnesota, Young has never really been embraced by the typically warm fan base because, for various reasons, I think it's been tough for fans to get behind him. Off the field, he doesn't have a particularly good reputation (although, to his credit, he hasn't had any publicized incidents since coming over from Tampa). On the field, he has been a major disappointment, having posted similarly underwhelming numbers in each of his three major-league seasons. His style of play can be frustrating to watch; he doesn't get to many balls in the outfield, swings at just about everything at the plate and hits into a lot of double plays. And while Young has failed to establish himself as a Twin, the two key players that Bill Smith traded for him -- Matt Garza and Jason Bartlett -- have blossomed into stars while wearing Rays uniforms.
 
Through his first couple years here in Minnesota, Young also had the misfortune of being juxtaposed against Carlos Gomez, another young player who was competing for playing time in the outfield. While the flaws in Gomez's game were perhaps no less frustrating than those in Young's, Gomez had a much more fan-friendly allure. His energy, enthusiasm and glowing personality portrayed him as a vastly different character than the more quiet and reserved Young.
 
After hedging back and forth between the two promising outfielders for much of the last two years, the Twins finally made a full commitment to Young this offseason by trading Gomez to the Brewers for J.J. Hardy. Young enters this season with regular playing time in left all but guaranteed. He's 24, with three full years of big-league experience under his belt and with nobody breathing down his neck. Everything seems aligned for him to finally emerge and fulfill -- at least to some degree -- the immense promise he showed as an elite teenage prospect. But will it happen?
 
Young's defenders often point to his youth. After all, they note, the typical 24-year-old player is still getting his feet wet at Triple-A, not preparing for his fourth season as a full-time major-leaguer. But what's troubling is that Young has now amassed over 1800 big-league plate appearances and has not evolved one bit as a hitter. His offensive production has been nearly identical in his three full seasons, and that production -- .288/.321/.411 with an average of 12 home runs and 74 RBI -- is simply not satisfactory for someone playing a non-valuable defensive position (and poorly). The average American League left fielder batted .267/.338/.442 last year, so Young's offensive performance wasn't even average, and defensively he rated as one of the league's worst at his position. He struck out far more often than any of his past big-league seasons, and he drew only 12 walks in 416 plate appearances. This isn't exactly the type of progression you'd like to see from a hitter who should be figuring things out in his third full year against major-league competition.
 
Before we all go writing Young off, though, there are a few promising signs to be gleaned from his 2009 campaign upon closer inspection. For one thing, his overall numbers were significantly dragged down by a terrible slump that immediately followed the passing of his mother, which very obviously affected his focus on the field. In the weeks after returning from a (perhaps overly) brief absence from the team, Young was striking out in every other at-bat and his batting average sunk by about 60 points. Take out this understandably poor stretch of performance and his overall numbers look a whole lot better.
 
In addition, Young finished the season very strong, which always helps breed hope heading into the next season. During the 17-4 stretch that propelled the Twins past the Tigers and into the playoffs, Young hit .353 with four of his 12 home runs and 17 RBI. During those final weeks of the season, Young was consistently hammering the baseball, and his three-run double off the right-field baggy against the eventual Cy Young winner Zack Greinke in a must-win October contest still stands out to me as one of the most memorable moments in the Twins' amazing run.
 
Yet, the hot streak did not coincide with any discernible change in approach for Young. During that 21-game stretch, Young continued to hack away at the plate, drawing just two non-intentional walks in 92 plate appearances. And there are plenty of people -- myself included -- who believe that unless Young takes meaningful strides with his pitch recognition he'll never be able to take his game to the next level for an extended period of time. He's a great contact hitter with the body of an imposing slugger, but Young just isn't good enough to become an outstanding hitter while he's consistently swinging at bad pitches. Simply put, he's not Vladimir Guerrero.
 
So far this spring, Young has seemingly shown little interest in becoming a more patient at the dish, as he's drawn only one walk in seven games (and batted .176). But spring training stats are relatively meaningless and Young has at least indicated that he plans to become more selective now that he doesn't face the prospect of being benched after a bad day at the plate with Gomez gone. Of course, his comfortable leash in left field won't last forever; if he's not getting it done, Young will have to start worrying about Jim Thome -- who can nudge Jason Kubel into left field -- cutting into his playing time.
 
As it stands, Kubel will likely spend some time in left field with Thome serving as designated hitter against tough right-handed pitchers. That should benefit Young, who has been much more effective against lefties than righties over the course of his career.
 
It's now or never for Young. While he's only 24, this will be his fourth full season and now that he's in his arbitration years he's becoming quite expensive. If he can't take a legitimate step forward this year, I suspect that the Twins will seek to move in a different direction. There are certainly still those out there who believe in Young, as illustrated by those few tweets I received yesterday with positive tones like "optimistic" and "promising." And while those words ceased to describe my take on Young as I've watched him fail to make adjustments over the past three years, that doesn't mean I'm not hopeful.
 
Predicted 2010 Hitting Line for Young: .300/.335/.430, 15 HR, 60 RBI

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