Tuesday, September 15, 2015

The Twins Silent Star

This season, the Minnesota Twins have risen well above expectations. More likely to lose 90 games than be a playoff team, Paul Molitor has his squad in a very unexpected position. Getting key contributions from big names like Brian Dozier and Miguel Sano, the Twins offense has been rolling of late. There's another star that has not gotten near the publicity deserved however.

Trevor Plouffe.

Thought of as a placeholder at third base until Sano forced a position changed for either himself or Plouffe, it has been Trevor who has evolved into a lunch-pail type player. After a breakout season in 2014, Plouffe has followed it up by coming to the field every day and simply getting it done. Putting substantial credibility into his impressive 2014 campaign, Plouffe is on pace for plenty of career highs this season.

Through 135 games (which is just one shy of his career high) Plouffe owns a .250/.313/.445 slash line. To this point, the Twins third-basemen has 127 hits, 31 doubles, four triples, 20 home runs, 79 runs batted in, and 44 walks. Per FanGraphs, Plouffe owns a 2.6 fWAR the second highest mark of his career.

Looking at detractors, the biggest slide has been Plouffe's defensive prowess. A year after posting a career best 6 DRS (defensive runs saved) at the hot corner, he owns a -2 mark this season. Plouffe's UZR (ultimate zone rating) has also taken a hit falling from 6.7 a year ago to just 2.7 this season. Effectively however, that's where the negatives end.

On pace to accumulate new career highs in games played, runs, hits, triples (already accomplished), runs batted in, and potentially walks and home runs, 2015 has been a smashing success. The 29 year-old former first round pick has begun to enter his prime, and the Twins are better for it. With Dozier and Sano slotting in close to him in the lineup, it has been Plouffe that has provided the stability.

Going forward, much has been made about the eventual position change that either Plouffe or Sano will need to make. Despite Plouffe having played everything but catcher, pitcher, and centerfield at the major league level, that decision doesn't need to be made yet. Plouffe can spell Joe Mauer when he needs to, and Sano can operate as the team's primary designated hitter. No matter how Molitor chooses to utilize Sano, Plouffe, and Mauer, there's room for each in the foreseeable future.

Knowing what Plouffe brings to the Twins, it's probably best for Minnesota to be looking to pay him, rather than to trade him. Currently signed on a one-year $4.8 million deal, arbitration will become expensive in 2016. Not a free agent until 2018, Minnesota could do right by Plouffe and save themselves some money by buying out the next two years of arbitration while grabbing a year of free agency in the process.

At 32 years-old in 2018, Plouffe should still be expected to be roughly the same player he currently is. Minnesota has been the beneficiary of a California kid who has gotten it done in a big way the last two seasons. It's now time to make sure he's part of the future as well.

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