Monday, August 8, 2011

Third base could be next for Mauer

Last night I wrote about the return of Justin Morneau in the next week to week and a half. This means that Joe Mauer will be losing the alternate position that he has been playing since he returned from the DL in the middle of June. There is the possibility that the team could pencil Mauer in at 1B and Morneau in at DH. But with a healthy Morneau, there will be much less of a need to put Mauer at 1B for the near future.

This begs the question, what other positions could be next for Mauer?

In his ten games started at first base, Mauer has seemed very comfortable in a new defensive position. The natural athletic ability that Mauer possesses made the transition to a new defensive position much easier than it might be for other players. This easy transition could mean the Twins will look for another spot on the field that Mauer can transition toward during the rest of 2011.

Any position that Mauer moves to is going to take some time for him to get acclimated to his new surroundings. Third base could be the next spot in line for Mauer to give himself a break from the grueling nature of being behind the plate. Like first base, a defensive player at third base is going to require a high level of athletic ability and talent. Lucky enough for the Twins, Mauer possesses both of this attributes and this could help him in another defensive transition.

Danny Valencia has been a constant at third base for the Twins since the middle of last season. His first full season in the big leagues has come with it share of ups and downs. He has been near the top on the Twins in home runs and RBI but his batting average has struggled to stay in the mid .200's. A recent hot streak has seen Valencia bat .319 with an OPS of .768 in his last 18 games.

For the Twins, the issue with Valencia has been on the defensive side of the ball. Some of this can be attributed to his struggles at the plate and the fact that the team thinks he is bring those bad ABs onto the field. His defensive WAR went from +0.5 in 2010 to -1.0 in 2011. He also has the third most errors in the entire American League. This has forced Ron Gardenhire to put Valencia in the dog house on more than one occasion this season and it has left the team looking to Mauer as a possible solution at 3B.

Another possible spot for Mauer in the future is a corner outfield position. The Twins have plenty of outfielder options on the 2011 roster so this most likely would not happen this season. The 2012 Twins could lose Michael Cuddyer and Jason Kubel so fitting Mauer into the outfield picture is not too far fetched for next season. This would also give Mauer the entire offseason to work on the skills required for the move to the outfield.

Members of the Twins organization and Mauer make sure to remind the media that Mauer is still the catcher for the organization. The massive contract that Mauer signed before the 2010 season only holds it's value if Mauer can continue to catch a majority of the games that he plays. But to keep Mauer healthy and in the line-up, other options need to be available to the Twins.

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