Saturday, May 8, 2010
Is Their A Wild Card in the 3rd Base Battle?
When the Opening Day Rosters were announced, their were not many surprises. Although Twins fans wanted to open the season without Nick Punto, there he was starting at 3rd base once again. We all know Punto is not the long term option and neither is Brendan Harris. They are glorified platoon players who should be bench guys. Sometime in 2010 a transition should be made to calling up a guy from AAA. But it may not be the guy you think who gets called up.
The idea or plan of how this season would play out would be sometime in June or July, 3rd base prospect Danny Valencia would finally get his opportunity to make his Major League Debut. Valencia known as the former 19th round pick out of U of Miami who has outplayed in draft status into the realm of prospect. So far in 2010 Valencia has not done enough to say that he was Major League ready. Valencia has been hitting pretty well in the past week to 10 days to get his average up to .274/.311/.354. Valencia has shown average to above average power in previous seasons but has yet to hit a home run this year and has a very poor OPS of .665. Also his plate recognition that he has had in the past has disappeared with 17K/6BB ratio.
What about Trevor Plouffe? Remember Trevor? He was a the first of 4 first round draft picks the Twins had in 2004 that all have not met expectations. 27 year old Glen Perkins has been sent back to AAA and is on the verge of being released. 23 year old Kyle Waldrop has been trying to rebound from shoulder injuries but is a decent bullpen option in AAA and 23 year old Jay Rainville has retired from baseball from a career ending shoulder injury that was never able to fully heal. Twins invested a total of $4.17 million dollars in these 4 guys and have clearly not gotten their moneys worth.
Trevor Plouffe went 20th overall in 2004. He is now starting his 5th year in the minors, second in AAA Rochester. Although Plouffe is a full time shortstop, his game can translate into the Twins future plans. In fact Plouffe's ability to play 2 maybe even 3 positions makes him a bit more valuable as a long term option in Minnesota. Plouffe has played 13% of his pro career somewhere other then shortstop. Plouffe has never been able to put it together in pro ball in the past. Closest he came was 2007 in New Britain when he hit .274 with 9 homeruns, 50 RBI and 12 steals in 126 games. His respectable season had him rated at the 10th best prospect in the Twins system and the shortstop of the future. In 2010 Plouffe has for lack of a better word played great. He is hitting .301/.371/.485. In 26 games Plouffe has hit 2 homeruns, 3 triples, 12 RBI, and scored 21 times.
So we always compare why Harris or Punto should play. But lets break down Danny Valencia vs Trevor Plouffe. Investment wise, the Twins have a lot more money put into Plouffe verus Valencia. Remember Plouffe got a $1.5 million dollar bonus being a first round pick when Valencia being the 576th player off the board has not really put a dent in the Twins checkbook. Age, Valencia has never had his age on his side in terms of prospect projection. Drafted late out of college, Valencia is 25 years old and will turn 26 in September. Plouffe is 23, turning 24 in June. Versatility also goes to Plouffe. He may not be a true 3rd baseman but we have seen in the past that solid shortstops have been able to translate well to playing 3rd base. They are both on the 40 man roster, so that is a wash.
It will be interesting if Trevor Plouffe might be able to play his way into Minnesota. He has momentum on his side. This may be something that the Twins will start to pay attention to as the season goes on. If Punto and Harris continue to struggle to a point where it effects wins and losses Bill Smith and Ron Gardenhire should make a move. I did not have Plouffe on my Twins prospect radar this season because of his lack of production. But because he is on the 40 man roster in Rochester, all it takes is a strong performance (like the one he is having now) to try and earn his way into the Majors. Denard Span did it 2 years ago. Plouffe's situation is a little different as he is not a true 3rd baseman, but he has experience playing 3rd base and I think would have a smooth transition process.