Friday, December 23, 2016

Does Minnesota Trust What's Next?

As the offseason rolls on for the Minnesota Twins, easily the biggest storyline thus far has been the potential trade of Brian Dozier. I believe it's a move they must make, and more a matter of when as opposed to if. In a potential Dozier transaction though, the Twins will be faced with an interesting decision. Do they trust the next man up?

In the particular scenario of second base, the next man up would be Jorge Polanco, who played out of position at shortstop a season ago. The reality for a rebuilding team with young pieces though, is which ones are actually difference makers going forward. It's not just Polanco that the new braintrust has to decide upon, but actually a few fringe types that are worth wondering about.

Giving each of them some individual analysis, here's my thoughts on how some of the Twins positional youth factors into their long term plans.

Jorge Polanco

The aforementioned Polanco is an immediate replacement for Brian Dozier at second. He's not the power hitter that Dozier has become, but he's also not a dead pull bat and can spray the ball to all fields. He profiles as a more typical top two hitter, and has the ability to generate extra base hits with his speed. In a 69 G sample size during 2016, Polanco split balls put in play between grounders, liners, and fly balls, to the tune of roughly one-third each. He swung out of the zone far too often (also one-third), but had a respectable 84% contact rate. An abysmal shortstop, he's just fine at second base. The bat has always carried belief, and the total package should be one the Twins feel good about.

Kennys Vargas

It's actually interesting that Vargas was granted another option year for 2017. Had he not been, he's someone I would have totally been ok with the Twins DFA'ing with the potential that he's lost on waivers. Try to get out from the fact that he has a similar stature to David Ortiz, and accept that he may just be a guy. Now with roughly a full season worth of big league action split between three years, Vargas has shown an inability to take walks (aside from his impressive showing down the 2016 stretch). He makes contact just north of 70% of the time, and you'd definitely like to see more of his fly balls leave the yard. Vargas carries an average first base glove at best, and I'm not sure you couldn't find another DH type with more upside.

Eddie Rosario

Admittedly I was all in on getting Eddie Rosario to the big leagues prior to the 2015 season. He looked like a difference maker, and actually proved to be as much picking up Rookie of the Year votes. What his league leading 15 triples and impressive 16 outfield assists in 2015 masked were some bigger issues however. As the triples faded, the OPS and SLG tumbled. Rosario tries to be a bad ball hitter, chasing more than 40% of the time, but he also has gotten worse with his swing and its tendencies (up over 15% in 2016). In the outfield, he went from an 11 DRS mark in 2015 to a 2 DRS mark a year ago. At times, you wonder whether or not it's an effort thing, but Rosario's approach also may be too much to overcome. Right now, he fits for the Twins, but I'd be all in on another option or packaging him in a trade.

Danny Santana

There's maybe nothing more for Danny Santana to be able to hang his big league hat on than his rookie year. An incredibly unsustainable .405 BABIP led to an inflated .319 AVG. In the two seasons since, Santana has gone on to slash an ugly .227/.259/.308. He doesn't have much of a defensive ability, and at the plate he has become little more than a man with a bat. If he's going to play outfield, I think I'd give Zach Granite a look instead. If you want him as an infielder, Engelb Vielma could possibly be the choice. Santana is out of options, and it seems inevitable he's DFA'd at some point. What started off great never looked real, but it's also unfortunate it fell this far apart as well.

John Ryan Murphy

Maybe an odd inclusion for this list, Murphy gets a look being only 25 years old. While he didn't come through the Twins system, there was some belief from the old regime in swapping Aaron Hicks for him. Having played 67 games for the Yankees in 2015 with an OPS of .734, it appeared he may have a solid hit tool for the Twins. As things went last year, Murphy played in just 26 big league games, was passed over for Juan Centeno, and owned just a .609 OPS in 83 Triple-A games. He's decent in working the running game, and an ok receiver, but he doesn't do anything incredibly well. At this point, having Murphy and Mitch Garver battle for backup duties out of the gate seems like a good plan of action. With Jason Castro around for the next three seasons, Murphy won't see real work anytime soon. That said, it's pretty realistic that he could slide behind the Twins internally developed Garver as well.

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