Twins and 1st and 3rdPublished 4:43pm Wednesday, February 15, 2012
Today I’m going to take a look at third base and first base for the Twins. We all hoped that it would be Justin Morneau and 1st and Danny Valencia at third for a number of years, but as in life, things don’t always work out they way you would like.
With that last statement I am not giving up on the two guys, no not at all, but after last season it just isn’t a sure fire thing anymore. Last year may be chalked up to the old sophomore jinx for Valencia. His batting numbers were down and he didn’t quite field as well at third base as he did the year before. Manager Ron Gardenhire was quite vocal at times at how displeased he was with Valencia’s play at third so that is why the position isn’t a for sure thing in his favor.
On the offensive side he didn’t hit as well as he did the year before but it wasn’t a total bust either. He hit 15 homeruns and drove in 72 while batting .246 which really isn’t all that bad for his second year. He has already stated that he knows he needs to change some things in his swing and I believe he will. He also, like a lot of Twins, may have been a little embarrassed about his season last year especially in his defense.
I think Valencia will be fine. I see him hitting better and being a productive hitter in the lineup for 2012. He will also field better as I am sure all the losing last year may have had an effect on a lot of things and players. It’s not easy losing 99 games and after awhile, and especially with everything going wrong for the Twins, it is easy to get a little lethargic especially if you are a young player. Valencia was also the most healthy of the regular players last year and that has to be held into some account for him.
The Twins lacked backup plans for a lot of positions going into last season so they have tried to fill that in a little this off season. The one guy they have brought in to put a fire under Valencia is Sean Burroughs. He is coming back from some alcohol abuse issues and is a very good fielding third baseman. He also hits left handed so if Valencia struggles a little bit they could platoon the two like they did with Pagliarulo and Leius back in 1961. Luke Hughes is another guy who can fill in at third if necessary or to give Valencia a rest. But I really think Valencia is going to bounce back with a little more maturity and have a good season for the Twins.
First base may be the key to the Twins season. If Justin Morneau is completely healthy and can put up his normal numbers or reasonably close, the Twins will have a good year. The problem with that last statement is that the if in front of it is a big IF. Poor Justin hasn’t finished a season for the Twins the last three years. After being kind of a rock in the lineup he has turned into a pebble with some kind of injury. I love the guy, but with some of his nagging injuries and now his concussions and wrist injury I am a little more than concerned about his baseball future.
He says he feels pretty good now but what will happen when he starts to play again. A lot of these guys with the head injuries have really struggled to play again. Peirre-Marc Bouchard of the Wild hockey team has hardly played since he had his concussion. When he seems recovered he goes out on the ice for awhile and then gets another one. At some point these players have to make a decision whether they want to risk more injury or just retire.
So what is the backup plan if Morneau can’t play first base? They don’t have Michael Cuddyer to plug in there anymore. One may be to shift Joe Mauer from catcher to first, but then there is a hole at catcher. (more about that later when I look at the catchers) Ryan Doumit who was signed this winter could play there but he is a little defensively challenged at that position and I’m not sure you would want him there for any length of time. Luke Hughes could play there but may not have the production at the plate that you would want out of a first baseman. The final answer could be Chris Parmelee. He came up late last season and played in 21 games for the Twins and hit 4 homers, drove in 14 runs and hit .355. Now I think we all know he more than likely can not duplicate those numbers throughout a whole season, but in a pinch he did show he can play. He hits left handed so if Morneau goes out Parmelee could platoon at the position with either Doumit or Hughes but we all know platooning isn’t one of Gardy’s things.
With Kubel and Cuddyer’s bats out of the lineup it is imperative that Morneau is healthy for the whole season for the Twins to be relevant in 2012. That is a lot of pressure on Morneau’s shoulders especially with his head problems. So maybe we better not tell him just how key a player he is as he will have enough on his mind.
After all of this what do I think about the Twins at first base? I am concerned!
Next up, the outfielders.