Monday, March 28, 2011

The Rationale of Tolbert over Hughes

To be clear, I'm a big proponent of Luke Hughes being ready for the Majors. He's shown he can hit, and spending any more time in the minors isn't going to make him Gold Glove material, so you might as well throw him to wolves and give him a place on the 25-man roster. But there is no reason that Hughes should break camp with the club right now instead of Matt Tolbert.

Luke Hughes had an amazing spring, and combined with his track record both in the minors and his short stint with the big league club last year has solidified that he won't be in Rochester for long. But the way that this team is currently assembled there isn't a place for him right now. The only possibiltiy for giving him a spot on the 25-man roster right now would be by trimming our bullpen, and with the uncertainties prevalent there that isn't going to happen.

1. Strength of the starting 9
Who are you going to pinch hit for in our starting lineup? The only obvious choice is Alexi Casilla -- and we have one pinch hitter already (either Thome or Kubel, whoever is sitting that day). I wouldn't hit Hughes over anyone else in the lineup. The lineup for the Twins is one of the more formidable and talented lineups from top to bottom, and consequently, the roles on the bench this year are very defined: speed and defense. The problem with the current construction of the team, and it's only a problem in that it limits our roster space, is that both Kubel and Thome are retaining essentially the same position. Neither should see such much if any time in the field, and both are left-handed power threats. Ideally, one of those spots would be filled by Luke Hughes, but I don't think anyone in Twins Territory is advocating removing Kubel or Thome from the roster to make room for Hughes.

2. Hughes needs to get playing time
At this point in his career, Tolbert is what he is. He can handle not getting many starts and only filling a few innings here or there, but Hughes should continue to get his work in. He was injured for most of last year, and in fact, he's had a slew of injuries that have hampered him from making much of an impact at the Majors until this point. I'd rather let him continue to get back in shape by playing regularly at AAA until a spot opens up for him than by letting him waste away on the bench and see a few at bats every week. Hughes can hit, and there's a very good chance he could be a capable everyday player at a corner infield or 2B position but he's not going to enhance those chances as a limited role player.

3. This means Cuddyer and Morneau are healthy
Believe me, if Cuddyer and Morneau aren't ready to go, Hughes would be coming north with the team. At this point, Hughes could take over 1B or RF and no one else would have to slide around positions. But regardless, I would rather have Cuddyer and Morneau in the lineup and playing than Hughes. This is a good thing. It means we're healthy and that the injury bugs that plagued us all of Spring Training are finally subsiding.

4. Hughes will get his shot
On the flipside, someone is going to get injured. It's bound to happen. Even if that someone is Tolbert.
I thought only Nick Punto could go horizontal like that

Hughes is only a phone call away and unless he literally falls off the face of a cliff, he will likely be the first call from Rochester. At the very least, when rosters expand in September, Hughes will be here. We don't have many other major-league ready right-handed power threats with the upside of Hughes waiting in our system, and as soon as he gets his shot I have to believe that he's going to want to prove that he shouldn't get sent back down -- similar perhaps to Danny Valencia's quest to stay in the Majors after getting his shot last year.

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