Monday, February 7, 2011

Top 3 Over and Underrated Twins

I stumbled upon an article on Bleacher Report this weekend that looked at the Twins through the lens of the top 5 over and underrated players on the team. When I posted this on Twitter I got some interesting responses to the players on the list. I decided that I should delve into the Twins roster and create my own list of over and underrated players for the Twins.

Here is the way that Bleacher Report ranked the Twins.
Honorable Mention: Nick Punto (one last shot at Punto as he exits)
5. Denard Span (one good season + one OK season)
4. Carl Pavano (innings eater for the Twins, horse of the rotation)
3. Jim Thome (See below)
2. Joe Mauer (What???)
1. Tsuyoshi Nishioka (Hasn't played a game yet, so there is no way to judge him at the major league level)

5. Drew Butera (No offense or no offence, but he is the back-up catcher)
4. Brian Duensing (See below)
3. Matt Tolbert (a bench player who only had 100 plate appearances last year)
2. Joe Mauer (He's on both lists, now that's just confusing)
1. Michael Cuddyer (See below)

There are a variety of challenges in creating a list of over and underrated players because there is so much subjectivity that can go into picking one player over another. There are going to be many that view a player differently than the next person. In order to pick someone that is overrated, you must assume that other's value that player more highly than he should be valued.  In order to pick someone that is underrated, you must find players that provided value to the Twins while not being thought of in the highest regard.

Top 3 Overrated Twins (in alphabetical order)
Matt Capps- The Twins acquired Capps at the trade deadline last season in exchange for catching prospect Wilson Ramos. Capps took over the closer role for the Twins down the stretch and provided his share of ups and downs. He makes this list because the Twins overvalued Capps when they traded for him. This coming season he will be an insurance policy for Joe Nathan but there are others that could have filled this role. One of the key characteristics that makes him overrated are the amount of saves that he has accumulated over the course of the last four seasons (108 saves with 42 of them coming last year). He also was an All-Star last season because he was on a bad team and every organization gets to be recognized. In arbitration the Twins were forced to pay Capps $6 million for his overrated role on the team.

Jim Thome- The offensive value that Thome provided the Twins in 2010 might have been the saving grace of a team that lost an MVP candidate at mid-season. His Wins Above Replacement (WAR) was the third highest on the Twins last season behind Mauer and Morneau. He will be 40 years old next season and this could add to a lot of other problems that have shown in Thome in recent years. His back issues have prevented him from being an everyday DH. His presence on the basepath is an extreme hindrance and he often has to be replaced on the bases in close situations late in the game. Defensively he offers nothing to the Twins as Gardenhire won't even let Thome touch a glove in Spring Training. His offense and veteran leadership are why the Twins have him on their roster. He is a future Hall-of-Famer that is in the twilight of his career.

Delmon Young- There was plenty of upside when the Twins traded for Delmon Young before the start of the 2008 season. He had just won the AL Rookie of the Year Award and had a promising future ahead of him. The problem was in his first two seasons with the Twins he regressed from the outstanding numbers that he compiled in his rookie campaign. In 2010, he finally regained his offensive prowess but his defensive skills are still lacking. In his three seasons with the Twins his defensive WAR has been -4.7 while during the same time he has a 5.0 offensive WAR. Young's high RBI count last season pushed him to 10th in the AL MVP voting but watching him field a fly ball continues to be an adventure. For him to be considered a great player his defense is going to need a variety of improvements. He could be one of the cornerstone pieces of this franchise but he will need to gain more consistency from year to year on offense and defense.

Top 3 Underrated Twins (in alphabetical order)
Scott Baker- Baker has been searching for his inner Brad Radke since Radke retired at the end of the 2006 season. When Baker was younger it seemed that he would be a very similar player to Radke. His career path hasn't mirrored Radke's but Baker has been a vital part of the starting rotation on three division winning teams. Two out of the last three years he has led Twins starters in WAR. He has pitched 170+ innings in the last three seasons. By looking at all of those stats one could argue that he has been the Twins top starter since 2008. Baker isn't a perfect star but he has fit the mold that the Twins have created for him. 2011 could be the season that he shows the organization what they hoped they could get out of Baker since Radke's retirement.

Michael Cuddyer- The one veteran player that has been part of all of six of the the Twins division championships since 2002. His versatility has allowed him to play every position on the field except shortstop, pitcher, and catcher. This offseason ESPN's Jason Stark named Cuddyer to his All-Underrated Team. At the beginning of the 2010 season a Sporting News survey of General Managers named Cuddyer as the most underrated player in all of baseball. So the question remains, how long can you be considered underrated? The name Michael Cuddyer is not a household name to many major league baseball fans across the United States. Since 2002 there have only been two teams that have won their division six times, the Twins and the Yankees. Jeter, Rivera, and Posada are the well-known players that have been part of the Yankees recent run. Cuddyer is the lesser known, small-market veteran player that still clings to his underrated status.

Brian Duensing- The Twins could have tried to trade for some of the big name pitchers that were available at the last two trade deadlines but they had an ace up their sleeve. Duensing has a second half savior for the Twins in their last two division titles. He has been able to fill the role of relief pitcher, spot starter, and playoff starting rotation member. There were only two pitchers, Liriano and Pavano, on the Twins staff that had a higher WAR than Duensing in 2010. The Twins still don't know what Duensing's role will be in 2011 but Duensing has shown that he can succeed in a multitude of settings and roles. If the Twins allow Duensing to be part of the starting rotation for an entire season it could be a short amount of time before he becomes well known in the American League.

There can be many opinions on this topic. Leave me a comment and tell me who would be on your overrated or underrated list for the Twins.


JimCrikket said...

I expect you'll catch the same grief from the Cuddyer haters that Stark did. He certainly isn't being paid like someone who's underrated, but he catches so much crap from people on the blogs, that I tend to agree that he's underrated. This is a big year for Cuddyer. It will determine whether he can get another decent contract (from the Twins or elsewhere) or whether he's viewed as a veteran in decline.

I'd probably take issue with Young and Capps as "overrated". I think to be overrated, a player has to be held in relatively high public esteem and, again based just upon the online chatter, there isn't much love for Young and Capps. You're factoring in salary when evaluating Capps, but not Cuddyer... seems inconsistent. I'd probably replace Capps with Nathan on the overrated list. Considering his pay, his age, and his returning from a serious injury, I think people (especially those who just see Capps as overpaid "insurance") are overrating Nathan at this particular point in his career.

NoDak Twins Fan said...

For Young I was looking at the perspective that nationally he seems to be over valued as a player. Fans want to see more from Young and I put him on my list in hopes that he can duplicate his production from 2010. And I want to see better defense from him but I know that is a wish and a prayer.

For Capps my perspective was that of the Twins overrating him and the role he served last year (that's why I brought up the money factor). I think the Twins could have been better off to invest his money into a different veteran relief pitcher. But you are correct in saying that the fan base doesn't think highly of Capps.

Chris Dunn said...

Thank you for adding Span. No one has frustrated me more in a Twins uni than this guy. Maybe it is b/c I am still a die-hard Torii fan, but it just seems as if Span completely disappears as soon as he's in a huge spot. I thought Punto leaving would make me happier, but I just don;t trust this guy as our leadoff hitter anymore. How long do you think the Twins will give him? I say the first half and then we start looking at other options.