Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Spring Training Highlights Process For Twins

Many have argued over the years that the amount of games played in the Grapefruit and Cactus Leagues could be drastically reduced. While teams need to gear up for their upcoming schedules, a month long exhibition fest may be too long. What's always worth remembering though, is that the process is more telling than the results.

It's pretty easy to understand that the record the Minnesota Twins, or any other team for that matter, put forth over the next month doesn't hold much weight. What's harder to wrap your head around is the production doesn't carry much weight either. Whether home runs are being sent over the wall on a consistent basis, or strikeouts are being piled up, the results are always going to be looked at through the microscope of the process.

Early on in spring training, we've been reminded of this thanks to Byungho Park. The Korean slugger has two homers to his credit already, and has been the Twins star through the first handful of games. He's also not on the 40 man roster, and is being forced to prove why he's more deserving of an Opening Day roster spot than Kennys Vargas. Whether or not he continues to provide #ParkBang highlights or not, the questions will be in regards to his strikeout rate, and how well Vargas is playing.

The reality is that spring production can far too often be an outlier. While I have continued to conduct the Park hype train, suggesting his 2016 was a mirage due in large part to injury, his uphill climb is a massive one. Trying to figure out how the narrative plays out when the dust settles simply from a production standpoint is a fool's errand. Should we get to the end of March with Park continuing to put together complete at bats, and Vargas finds himself struggling, we may have more to look at.

Also worth noting is that spring training isn't simply process oriented for just the players, but the manager as well. It is here that Paul Molitor needs to begin to put his best foot forward in a season in which he could be managing for his career. Far too often a year ago, his lineups lacked any evidence based backing, and he often times appeared in over his head during in-game situations.

Through just the first few games, Molitor has played Leonardo Reginatto in LF, despite being a career infielder (an outfield blunder ensued). He has used Daniel Palka in LF with Robbie Grossman in RF despite the natural spots for both being the opposite. He's even used top prospect Nick Gordon as a 2B, despite him playing just two professional games there, and Gordon ended up looking out of position communicating on a short blooper to right.

While it's fair to understand that spring training is about getting players repetitions in games, it's also integral that they happen in logical scenarios. Playing guys out of position simply to get them in, or worse, because you don't know any better, does no one any good. If there's something that Molitor needs to take drastic strides forward from 2016 in, it's understanding the strengths of his team, and relating better to the youth that should be the lifeblood of this organization.

Spring training is still in its infancy at this point, and with multiple weeks of action left, the club is going to move towards a more well oiled machine. Players, such as Byungho Park, will need to make their process match up consistently with the results. The manager will have to do the same.

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