Monday, March 16, 2015

Molitor's Lineup Signifies New Thinking

Twins first baseman Joe Mauer tosses the ball to pitcher Ryan Oâ Rourke in putout drills during the Minnesota Twins spring training at Hammond Stadium in Fort Myers on Saturday, Feb. 28, 2015. (Pioneer Press: John Autey)
 A year ago, the Minnesota Twins bumbled through the final month with a tired manager that had clearly given up trying. For anyone that follows along with local sports personality Brandon Warne, you are more than well aware of the frustration Ron Gardenhire's lineup decisions caused. Paul Molitor has since taken over, and although it's early in the spring, it appears he already gets it.

Mike Berardino spoke with Molitor after the club tied 6-6 with the Cardinals on Sunday. The conversation revolved around the game and the batting order; the information has to be music to fans ears.
With Molitor noting that he is looking at moving Mauer into the second hole with Dozier hitting in the more power profiled third slot, the Twins lineup would move towards a larger sense of competence for the first time in years. At this point in their career's, we are well aware of what both Mauer and Dozier bring to the table. Mauer is a guy who can spray the ball, typically going the opposite way, and doing so while hitting for average. Out of the two hole, he will be expected to pull the ball some to hit behind the runner, but profiles as a guy that shouldn't have swing and miss tendencies. Dozier is a power hitter that lacks in the average department, but is able to get on base at a high clip.

Should Molitor choose to go with Danny Santana, Mauer, and Dozier as his top three guys in the lineup, the construction would be amongst the best in years. Santana is a solid leadoff hitter, and should continue to be so even with regression bound to set in during 2015 (his .400 + batting average on balls in play is simply unattainable). Mauer will be able to advance runners, and as a doubles hitter, should plate a few himself. Dozier will show the ability to go yard and should signify a solid start to the heart of the order.

On top of the Berardino finding out some information in regards to the way Molitor plans to begin his lineup, we also has a pretty good idea as to how some positional battles are going this spring. Including Santana and saying he likes him at the top, you can almost bet on the Twins rolling with him at shortstop to start the season. Eduardo Escobar may be the rangier option of the two, but there's no denying he profiles as a better utility man than every day player.

Molitor also mentioned to Berardino that prospect Eddie Rosario will need to win the centerfield job to make the 25 man roster. This suggests that he's clearly vaulted himself into the competition, something I've noted, but that Hicks and Schafer appear likely to head north. There's no doubt adding another potential option to the competition makes things that much more exciting as spring rolls on however.

At this point, I find myself excited about Molitor being more in tune with statistical analysis and setting his lineup with optimal success in mind. When the Twins take on the Detroit Tigers on April 6, here's how I see things shaking out:

  1. Danny Santana SS
  2. Joe Mauer 1B
  3. Brian Dozier 2B
  4. Kennys Vargas DH
  5. Oswaldo Arcia LF
  6. Torii Hunter RF
  7. Trevor Plouffe 3B
  8. Kurt Suzuki C
  9. Aaron Hicks CF

Considering the omissions of names like Pedro Florimon and the like, it's pretty apparent the Twins will field a competitive club in 2015. There's still quite a few things that have to break right for the club to take big steps forwards, but there's no doubt reason to be excited.