Monday, May 18, 2015

Trevor Plouffe Has Given The Twins A Great Problem

Ann Heisenfelt / Associated Press
The year was 2011, and the Minnesota Twins had two players competing for one spot at the hot corner. One was a 19th round draft pick and coming off of a season that had him in the running for Rookie of the Year honors. The other was a first round draft pick that had just experienced his first cup of coffee. At the end of the year though, and into the future, it was the first round draft pick that would take over. Trevor Plouffe grabbed the role from Danny Valencia, and he hasn't looked back.

Of course knowing Plouffe's track record, there's little reason to suggest there haven't been bumps in the road. The 2012 season saw Plouffe play his first games at third for the Twins. In 95 games at third, Plouffe committed 17 errors, was worth -8 defensive runs saved, and owned an ugly -10.8 UZR. While it's one thing to suggest that the only way to go from there was up, the heights Plouffe would find himself at didn't immediately seem apparent.

In 2013, the Twins new third basemen made 13 errors in 120 games and owned a -7.4 UZR rating. Bringing his DRS to an even 0 was a step in the right direction however. Then the turnaround happened, and in a big way. Last season, despite making 14 errors, Plouffe owned a 6.7 UZR and was worth 6 DRS. Not only did he play the best third base of his career, but he did so across 127 games, also a career high. Even better, Plouffe hadn't only made stride in the field, but at the plate as well.

Back in 2012, his first season at the hot corner, Plouffe used a scorching July to carry himself to a career high 24 home runs. While he has yet to match that output, 2013 and 2014 saw big advancements in other offensive areas. The California native carried a .254/.309/.392 slash line in 2013 with 14 HR and 52 RBI. He backed that up a year later in 2014 by slashing .258/.328/.423 and launching 14 HR with a career high 80 RBI. Plouffe also grew a greater patience and command at the dish by walking 53 times, nearly doubling his past career high.

Following along the same trend that he has laid out the past two seasons, Plouffe has started 2015 on a similar note. Currently owning a .254/.336/.423 slash line with 5 HR and 18 RBI, it looks like the production will continue. In 34 games at the hot corner, he's made just 3 errors while compiling an early 1.6 UZR.

Not too long ago, Trevor Plouffe was seen as a player holding down a position until someone else came along. As uber prospect Miguel Sano gained steam, it appeared that Plouffe was just keeping his eventual role warm. Since, it's not the Sano has cooled, but that Plouffe has transformed himself to be on of the best third baggers in Major League Baseball. A guy that owned -0.4 and -0.9 fWAR in his first two seasons, Plouffe was worth a 3.6 fWAR last season, and has already jumped out to a 1.1 fWAR mark in 2015.

At some point, the Twins will have to decide how to position players like Trevor Plouffe, Joe Mauer, and Miguel Sano to make everyone fit. While that time isn't yet hear, there's little reason to suggest that Plouffe hasn't given the Twins a great problem to have. Instead of just being a guy holding down a spot, he has become the guy on a team that looks poised to turn the corner. With a possible payday looming, Plouffe has no one but himself to thank for cashing in. The transformation has been fun to watch, and it may just be the beginning of it.