Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Denard Span: Gone mad

There were a variety of headlines coming out of Ft. Myers on President's Day.

~Justin Morneau arrived and talked to the media for over 30 minutes

~Liriano might have missed some of his shoulder exercises this offseason

There was one quote from the entire day that stuck out to me and it came from Denard Span. La Velle E. Neal quoted Span in his Twins Insider Blog as saying, "I'm mad. I'm just not going to tell you what I'm mad about."

The Twins gave Span a lot of reasons not to be mad at the beginning of last season by signing him to a 5-year $16.5 million contract. In his first two seasons Span had showed the Twins that he could be the defensive CF that the club needed at the top of their line-up. His combined WAR for 2008 and 2009 was a respectable 7.2 and the Twins rewarded Span accordingly.

There could be a lot of things that Span is mad about after the season that he put together last year. His batting average dropped 47 points from the previous season. On a team that was third in the American League in batting he had the second lowest BA out of everyday players, only ahead of Kubel. The only everyday players that had a lower OBP than him were JJ Hardy and Jason Kubel. His slugging percentage dropped under .400 for the first time in his career. He also saw his OPS drop from .807 in 2009 to .679 in 2010. These aren't the numbers that the Twins needed from their leadoff hitter.

His defensive statistics also saw some decline in his first full season at Target Field. He started a career high 151 games in CF in 2010. In that time in CF he had a .990 fielding percentage that was on par with the league average. One negative is he is surrounded by sub-par defensive outfielders and that means that there is more pressure on Span to cover more ground. This lead to his Rtot, the number of runs above or below average the player was worth based on the number of plays made, was -17. His defensive WAR also went south ending up at -1.7 for all of 2010.

There were some positives for Span in 2010. He had a career high in steals with 26 and he was only caught stealing four times, a career low. He also hit double digits in triples for the second consecutive season. He was 3rd in the AL in putouts for a CF and 2nd in games played in CF. Some there is some positive light at the end of the negative tunnel.

One other factor that might be leading to some of the anger from Span is the surplus of other young outfielders in the Twins system. Joe Benson, Aaron Hicks, and Ben Revere are all working their way through the minor leagues. That is a lot of young players to mentor for Span and he is still very young himself. All of these players could be one of the young guns to take over CF from Span in the coming years.

The Twins need Span to be a force at the front of the line-up especially with the question marks that surround the number two spot in the batting order. Whether it is Casilla, Nishioka, or some other player, the Twins won't have a veteran presence ahead of the middle of the order. This means Span needs to be mad enough to get on base and be the table-setter for a team looking for a three-peat in the AL Central. There could be many fans that are mad at Span if he looks like the Span that roamed the outfield last season. If Span can rekindle some of the spark that he had in his first two seasons, there will be very little to be mad about.

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