Monday, February 6, 2017

Improving The Twins 25th Man

It's often said that you're only as good as your weakest link. In sports, this proves vital when a team makes a playoff run, and every outcome matters. For the 2017 Minnesota Twins, a playoff run seems a bit lofty, but the club could look to vault themselves forward by upping the production from the bottom of their roster.

Given that a big league baseball team is able to deploy 25 players at any given time, the roster remains in flux throughout the majority of the season. For the Minnesota Twins though, one player that could be improved upon prior to leaving Spring Training in Fort Myers is super utility man Danny Santana.

Describing Santana as a super utility player may be also highlighting his greatest asset to the club. The idea that he can play all over is really where the benefits stop, because in reality, his roster spot causes extreme pause. Since his inflated .405 BABIP rookie season, Santana has slashed .227/.259/.308 in 166 major league games the past two years. He's contributed just 29 extra base hits, and his 123/18 K/BB ratio is anything but ideal.

Then there's that idea that Santana is some sort of a utility player capable of playing all over the diamond. Defensive metrics are a fickle beast, but across the board, none of them are kind to Santana. In 2016 alone, Santana was worth -8 DRS combining six different positions. In 2015, the former shortstop was worth -15 DRS proving to be an extreme liability in the infield. Thus far defensively, Santana has shown he doesn't have the chops to play center or short, and he's miscast as a body virtually everywhere else.

Looking at what Santana provides at the plate, the Twins should see a lot to be desired as well. He owns nearly a 12% career swinging strike rate that has elevated the past two seasons. He chases pitches out of the zone 40% of the time, and he makes hard contact just over a quarter of the time. To summarize, Santana isn't a fit in the field, doesn't carry a big bat, and is really a theoretical asset.

So, what do the Twins do to address the issue?

What it comes down to for Minnesota and Paul Molitor, is whether or not they can get over the idea that Santana provides value where he doesn't. Is it beneficial to have a player on the bench that can simply step up to the plate and occupy a fielding position, or is there someone who can push the envelop a bit further? Minnesota may not have an immediate utility bench type outside of Eduardo Escobar, but they could push the overall roster talent upwards by having more of a sure thing.

It's interesting that the organization decided to DFA Byungho Park prior to considering Danny Santana. While it may have been a lot to ask for the Twins to carry Park, Kennys Vargas, and Joe Mauer all on the big league roster, exposing Byungho to waivers first doesn't seem like the best bet. There's not a ton of veteran options in Minnesota's camp, but using Fort Myers as a proving ground to find a Santana replacement really should be a must.

Zach Granite may only be able to play the outfield, and Engelb Vielma may not hit at all, but players like those have true assets in one category or another. If the Twins can find someone to bring any real value on either side of the ball, moving on from Danny Santana (out of options and all) may not be a bad thing.

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