Thursday, May 14, 2015

Has Joe Mauer Reinvented Himself In 2015?

A season ago, Joe Mauer made the full time transition to first base. Having been dealt his final blow as a catcher, the best move for the Twins and Mauer was to get him out from behind the plate, and in a position to remain healthy. Unfortunately, 2014 didn't set that narrative off on the right foot as Mauer played in just 120 games and the Twins lost 90 games for a fourth straight year. Starting out 2015, Mauer looks like a different player, and the early returns have been encouraging.

Now a full time first basemen, it's often immediately noted that Mauer doesn't hit for the power that the position commands. While there's no doubt the general consensus is that a first basemen is a plodding athlete that displays impressive force at the plate, Mauer is reinventing the expectation. Still looking for his first home run on the year, power is not Mauer's game. While there's no doubt the Twins would like to see at least a glimmer of the longball at some point from the St. Paul product, he's become a significant asset in other ways.

Further distanced from his concussion, Mauer looks to be completely healthy for the first time since 2010. He's played in 33 of the Twins first 34 games, and he currently owns a .282/.345/.374 slash line. Quite possibly the most promising bit of excitement for Mauer is that he has yet to find his groove in 2015. Owning a career .399 OBP, Mauer still has plenty of room to continue to project upwards from his current .345 mark. Never seen significantly as a run producer, he has plated 19 runs already in 2015, a mark he didn't reach until June 22 a season ago.

After batting .318/.392/.412 in the month of April this year, May has provided some struggles (.217/.250/.304 11 K 2 BB). As Mauer continues to work towards his early season approach at the plate, the Twins can only expect to benefit further. With Brian Dozier currently hitting leadoff and being followed by Torii Hunter, Mauer has been placed in the 3 hole by Paul Molitor. Lacking the power typical of that spot in the lineup, he could stand to benefit being flip-flopped with one of those two players.

As the summer months roll around, expect Mauer to heat up and get things going even further. The more distance Mauer can put between his injury history, and his concussion issues, the better off the Twins first basemen will be.

For everything Mauer lacks in the power department at the plate, he may actually make up in athleticism at first. Again, not the prototypical body style of a first basemen, Mauer's quickness and agility is something he has over his competition. Already worth a defensive run saved on the season, he trails Gold Glove winning Eric Hosmer by just around 1.0 runs above average in UZR.

When looking at Joe Mauer and what he brings to the Minnesota Twins, it's probably a best practice to stop trying to fit him into what the traditional sense of the position he plays is. Looking at him as a player, and what his own output is, Mauer may be reinventing the role. There's no doubt the corner spot is always going to need to be a run producer, but if Mauer can continue on his path and return to a similar form in his triple slash line, there's no doubt that both he and the Twins will be just fine.