Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Corner Infield Conundrum

Obviously this team has more issues now than it had a week ago. This all but shatters any realistic hopes to stay in the hunt, although I'd like to retain some level of optimism until after I see what happens with Detroit this weekend.

Thankfully, the most logical options for this team to stay competitive also happen to be the same as if we were preparing for next year. How? Good question, glad I asked. Other than Justin Huber, who is already with the team and seems to be battling some lingering health issue himself, two of our top performers in Rochester happen to be corner infielders:

Danny Valencia, 3B

.286/.305/.454, 7HR, 41 RBI (71 games, 282 plate appearances in AAA)
Danny Valencia, the man that almost every blogger I read has been pining to see get some starts, and, I'm included. His offensive numbers are solid, although they dropped off slightly at the end of the season. He's the man that many are already pegging to have the edge at 3B next year as we move into Target Field. The biggest concern I foresee at the moment is his glove, and that could be what's holding him back (besides not currently being on the 40-man roster). During his stint at Rochester, he's committed 12 errors at third base and posted a .927 fielding percentage. Compare that to Crede (.983), Buscher (.979), and Harris (.950) when they start at 3B. In fact, the league average is .958, so it's quite a drop off to .927 -- although that is comparable to what Bobby Crosby and Mark DeRosa have posted there this year. I'd love to see Valencia get some reps nonetheless, as he'll at least be exciting to watch and should bring a solid bat. But I'm worried about seeing him on the field turf right now, and if he comes up and makes some big errors I can only imagine what Gardy's backlash would be. So if bad defense on turf that he won't be seeing next year gets him in Gardy's doghouse, is it worth a call-up?

Brock Peterson, 1B

.304/.376/.468, 10HR, 43RBI (99 games and 356 plate appearances)
Brock Peterson has put in his time in the minors. It's about to the point where the Twins need to figure out if he can contribute at a major league level, and the season he had at Rochester should have warranted a spot on our bench at least in my opinion. His minor league fielding percentage stands at .994 as he committed 4 errors in his starts at 1B in Rochester. And, if it translates, the league average for 1B in the majors is also .994 (Kendry Morales and Miguel Cabrera's defense is good for league average at 1B). With Morneau and Huber not available, Peterson should be a much better fit than Cuddyer at 1B, who posts an ugly .964, well below league average. I'm not a baseball manager or executive, obviously, but with his numbers and the open spot I can't see why he's not already on a plane to Minnesota.


Calling up these two would allow us to keep our outfielders in the outfield (where they belong), keep Harris, Tolbert, Buscher, and Casilla available off the bench, and potentially even give Morales some DH opportunities if they arise. If Huber's injury goes away, both he and Peterson should compete for the 1B spot and the other would be a nice option off the bench in a critical situation as they both are great bats.

Obviously there could be some growing pains, but I highly doubt they'll be much worse than trying to shove Cuddyer into the lineup at 1B every day and having to watch Delmon Young bumble around in left every night. When the lineup we see everyday looks like this, I can't help but wonder how we're going to score runs:

Span, RF
Cabrera, SS
Mauer, C
Kubel, DH
Cuddyer, 1B
Young, LF
Harris/Buscher, 3B
Gomez, CF
Punto/Casilla, 2B

Adding these two players would allow slightly more offense while not shifting people from their best positions:

Span, LF
Cabrera, SS
Mauer, C
Kubel, DH
Cuddyer, RF
Peterson, 1B
Valencia, 3B
Gomez, CF
Punto/Casilla, 2B

And good bats like Harris, Morales, Huber and even Young would all be available in critical situations.

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