Finally baseball is upon us! The Twins have now played 8 games after the conclusion of today’s 11 inning contest against the A’s and stand at 3-5, which is about where I would have pegged them. Here are some initial thoughts. Keep in mind, small sample size DOES apply here.
1. Trevor Plouffe—After his encouraging 2012 campaign in which for 6 weeks in June and July he hit 42 dingers (rough estimate), he turned in a pretty uninspiring 2013 season in which he hit .254/.309/.392 with only 14 home runs in 129 games. Coming into this spring training, he was the incumbent at third, but had all world prospect Miguel Sano breathing down his neck with a potential debut ETA of midseason. As we all know, Miguel’s elbow exploded (RIP), and the job was again handed to Plouffe, probably for the last time. Through a week of games, it appears he has seized the opportunity at age 27 with a much improved approach at the plate. His whole big league career, he’s been a dead red pull hitter with little to no plate discipline. Now I hope we all know not to get too worked up about 8 games, but Plouffe is now hitting the ball a lot less to the pull side and instead shooting it into right field for singles and doubles. If he can continue this approach, and keeps taking his medicine for his allergy to walks, he could be worth keeping around in some capacity as a utility man going forward. I’m encouraged.
2. Chris Colabello—Colabello’s story is something right out of a Disney movie. The 30 year old rookie 1B/DH was signed out of an independent league (not unlike the one the St. Paul Saints play in) and has spent the balance of 2012 and 2013 in the minors, raking at AA and AAA and winning the International League MVP last year as a 29 year old. However, upon his big break he had about as much success at the plate as I do hitting on girls at the bar (read: not very much). He did hit 7 homers, but slashed a reprehensible .194/.287/.344 while striking out in 32% of his plate appearances. Not good. In the offseason, he was reportedly offer upwards of $1M to play in South Korea, but turned it down for one last longshot at his dream. After unexpectedly coming north with the big club out of Spring Training, he has hit as well as anyone could have ever imagined through one week, driving the ball to right center on a consistent basis and sharing AL Player of the Week honors with Josh Hamilton after leading the world in RBIs through a week of games. It’s patently obvious that RBIs aren’t the best stat when it comes to predicting future performance, but his newfound competence in dealing with big league pitching, especially after being so out of place last year, is certainly encouraging.
3. Jason Kubel—After signing with Arizona after the 2011 season, Kubel hit 30 bombs in hitter friendly Chase Field in 2012 and appeared to be entrenched in his prime of being a slightly above average power hitter. However, he was absolutely awful last year in Arizona, and Cleveland after being DFA’d by the D’Backs, and most people (including yours truly) wrote him off as done. Instead, he signed with the Twins and came north despite a pretty bad spring, and has shown there’s still a little tread left on his tires after hitting a few doubles through week one. As long as Gardy keeps him out of the outfield as much as possible as well as on the bench against lefties, Kubel could turn into a nice grab off the top of the scrap heap. Is it likely to continue? I don’t know, but he has looked as though he still belongs in the big leagues through a week.
1. The Starting Pitching—The Twins starters, as per usual in the past 3 years, have been horrid in the first week. The two guys they signed to bolster the historically bad rotation, Ricky Nolasco and Phil Hughes, have not lived up to the billing the Twins gave them in their pressers, with respective ERAs through a couple of starts of 9.00 and 7.20. Off the top of my head, only #5 starter Kyle Gibson and Kevin Correia have turned in respectable starts so far this season. As with everything written about baseball in the first month, the small sample size disclaimer applies, but the first week of games have not been encouraging in that regard. Keep an eye out for Alex Meyer and Trevor May if things keep going this way.
2. Aaron Hicks—Everyone knows his story. Concisely, his rookie season last year was horrible. But as déjà vu would have it, he had another nice spring training and was given the starting Centerfield job for the second year in a row. He even had a couple of nice games in the opening series against the White Sox, but his line is back down to .200/.300/.280 for the year and he has again looked almost helpless when made to hit from the left side of the plate. Keep in mind that it’s still so early that his going 3-4 tomorrow hypothetically would raise his average to .276, but his early showing has again not been good.
3. The Twins management (or lackthereof) of the DL—The more things change, the more they stay the same. Over the weekend, Oswaldo Arcia and Josh Willingham were both injured, Arcia with a sore wrist and Willingham with a sore hand after being hit by a pitch. Gardy was quoted over the weekend as saying he’s (paraphrasing here) sick and tired of playing with a short bench due to the organization’s stubbornness in DL’ing guys. It appears those words were hollow as both players are still on the active roster. It would appear that they’re not able to play either, as in the 9th inning today, light hitting utility infielder
Hemmerling Eddie Escobar pinch hit instead of Arcia. It worked out, but Escobar should never be
your first option off the bench.