For the past four years, we have produced an Offseason Handbook to put fans in the driver’s seat of the Twins franchise. Within it, we highlight all of the winter’s impending free agents, potential trade targets and review the organization’s strengths and weaknesses from top to bottom. This culminates with the presentation of our blueprints to improving the team.
In my blueprint, I laid out a fairly elementary explanation as to why the Twins failed so miserably in 2012 and, no, it was not a six-word piece that reads “JOE MAUER SHOULD HEET MOR DINGERS.”
While the starting pitching takes precedence and priority, the secondary issue was that scoring runs was also a weak spot for the 2012 squad. Consider this: Only three other American League teams finished with a lower runs per game average than the Minnesota Twins (Seattle, Cleveland and Kansas City). After focusing on repairing the rotation, I outlined several realistic moves that should help elevate the number of runs scored for next season but the move I would like to discuss here is this:
Sign Kevin Youkilis.
Yes, there is a huge hurdle to clear when it comes to Youkilis and that is his impending option for $13 million which the White Sox hold the rights to. Collectively, because of that hefty payday and his lackluster performance in 2012, we decided that Chicago will opt to pass and allow him to become a free agent. At which point, we estimate that the market will put him in the two-year, $14 million range (or perhaps even a one year, make-good type of contract).
Across the board, Youk’s 2012 production was at the lowest levels of his career. His power was down, his average was down and his on-base percentage was down. Even the mighty Greek God of Walks’ walks were down. It could be based on an age-related decline or something mechanical lurking in that funky swing of his, however, if you are basing just purely on his batted ball rates, there is indication that 2013 may see a change for the better.
For the most part, Youkilis’s batting ball rates were consistent with his career. His line drive rate was high but he had been hitting a higher percentage of ground balls the past two seasons and those did not find nearly as many holes in the infield as they once did (hence the significant decline in average and OBP). This resulted in a 54 point difference in his batting average on balls in play versus his career norm. Even if he maintains the higher ground ball rate and equals his near 20% line drive rate, he should experience some correction in those numbers.
For a guy who sprays the field in all directions regularly, Youkilis also has some pretty significant pull power. From 2008 to 2011, his .899 slugging percentage when yanking the ball was the fourth best in baseball, ahead of even Josh Willingham. Additionally, Youk’s numbers against left-handed pitching in that time was also among the best in the game. His 1.044 OPS in those years facing wrong-handers was the third-highest behind just Albert Pujols and David Wright. Admittedly, a lot of that power is derived from feasting on the close proximity of the Green Monster but even still, Youkilis had success on the road as well.
Obviously there are shortcomings when it comes to signing Youkilis. For starters, it denigrates the defense. Heading into his mid-30s, his glove work is not what it used to be. Likewise, as you will find in the blueprint, the subsequent move after signing Youk would be that Trevor Plouffe would be relocated to second base. Once again this downgrades the infield defense (and potentially increases the amount of souvenir balls thrown into the first base stands) but should increase the production in the lineup by putting a power-hitting second baseman in the order.
If he indeed bounces back, Youk’s addition would give the Twins the capabilities of moving Mauer up to the two-spot and insert a high quality right-handed bat with impressive on-base skills to, ultimately, score more runs.
If you purchase the Offseason Handbook (which you can download a free preview by clicking the link), you will read more about that specific move as well as other recommendations to improve the team. Not only do we provide our blueprints but we supply you with teems of information on the free agent, potential trade targets and the organization from top-to-bottom to allow you to create your own blueprint for success.