Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Plans for the Middle Infield

Plouffe could be making plays like this at the MLB level very soon.
The Twins are going to be searching for some solutions in the coming days as the team tries to dig itself out from the worst first month of a season in franchise history. The blame can be spread to many different parts of the Twins and making one change is not going to be a cure all remedy. But for the sake of this post, the focus will be on one change that is close to becoming a reality.

Alexi Casilla was almost guaranteed a starting job with the Twins as they entered Spring Training. The Twins looked at other options, but the consensus was that the job was Casilla's to lose. Manager Ron Gardenhire and the Twins have given Casilla many opportunities in the past and this could be the final chance that he is given to be a starter with the Twins.

Casilla is 26 this year and has put together some very pedestrian numbers to kick off the season. His batting average is .190, his OBP is .257, and his OPS is .543. The Twins wanted to add speed to the line-up and Casilla fit that mold of a player. He hasn't shown that speed on the base-paths this season. He has only managed two steals while scoring 10 runs for the Twins. It is also hard to show your speed when you aren't getting on base.

The Twins had to give Casilla as much of a chance as possible, but that chance could quickly be coming to an end. There have been discussions of a few different paths that the Twins can take in the coming weeks.

Plan A
In this plan a healthy Tsuyoshi Nishioka would take over at shortstop for the Twins. The everyday second baseman would become Michael Cuddyer. This leaves Gardenhire with the option to get Jason Kubel and Jim Thome in the line-up on a more consistent basis. Since the Twins aren't giving a timeline for the return of Joe Mauer, it would make sense to have the option to get both Kubel and Thome in the game. The Twins have questioned Nishioka's arm-strength at SS but he is the one player that has experienced success in the role at a professional level.

Plan B
This plan would include the call-up of minor leaguer, Trevor Plouffe. He would take over the SS role for the Twins and this would mean that Nishoka could stay at 2B. This season at Rochester, Plouffe has split time between SS and 2B so the option would still be on the table for the Twins to move Nishioka to SS. Plouffe's batting average continues to rise in his play with the Red Wings. He is currently batting .297 with six homeruns and 13 RBI. Plouffe deserves a chance and this might be his time to shine.

The Twins could even combine these two plans and use a platoon of Nishioka, Plouffe, and Cuddyer in the middle infield. All of these players can be a right handed bat to go along with the other left-handed power hitters in the Twins line-up.

Casilla's time seems to be short as he continues to struggle as a full-time starter at the MLB level. He can make some outstanding defensive plays but he lacks consistency. The Twins need a player that can make the routine plays in the field and provide a spark at the plate. Casilla has never been that player and he will not be that player in the future.


jjswol said...

ALthough I don't think that Ploffe can handle the shortstop job, the Twins are forced to give him a shot. Casilla has proven once again he is not an every day player and Plouffe is a Twins first round pick a number of several years ago. If Plouffe isn't ready at this point to play with the Twins he never will be. Either move Plouffe to a position he can play or let him move on.

The problem with playing Cuddyer at 2B is two-fold. Cuddy is far from a slick fielding second baseman and he has no speed. When you couple that with the domino moves that wil be required to play him there, Kubel to right and Thome to DH you have issues. There is no way that Thome can DH every day and the Twins have no one else on the roster to fill that role right now. Even if you use Hughes to DH now and then, you put Gardy into an even tougher spot with Thome on the bench and unavailable to play any position. If you use Hughes at DH, pinch-hit with Thome and run Casilla for Thome, all you have left on the bench is Butera. That is no way to play baseeball.

NoDak Twins Fan said...

It sounds like Plouffe will be getting his shot with the team. Hopefully he can show the team something.

It is going to be a rough middle infield for the rest of the year if the Twins don't figure something out.