Following the 2008 baseball season the Minnesota Twins had several problems that they needed to deal with before taking the field in 2009. The most pressing, perhaps, was the gaping hole at third base. A few millions dollars later, though, and Joe Crede has lived up to the defensive expectations that surrounded his signing.
The bullpen issue was addressed this offseason, but not necessarily solved. Luis Ayala and R.A. Dickey have been brought on, but neither promise to be elite relievers.
The problem that has lingered the longest could also be considered a “good” problem.
Michael Cuddyer, Carlos Gomez, Denard Span, Jason Kubel, and Delmon Young. Five very talented outfielders vying for four positions… or so we thought. Span has flashed the potential to be the best lead-off hitter the Twins have had in a long time, and Gomez has shown the defensive range of a gold glover.
As a matter of fact, Gomez was among the very best in the Major Leagues in quite a few key defensive statistics. Let’s take a look.
|Player Name||Revised Zone Rating (RZR)|
|Adam Jones, BAL||.953|
|Cody Ross, FLA||.952|
|Chris Young, ARI||.947|
|Carlos Gomez, MIN||.946|
|Aaron Rowand, SF||.945|
While it may be hard to believe, young Gomez was the fourth best defensive player in the league when it came to this stat. Nearly 95 percent of the 352 balls hit into Gomez’s quite large centerfield zone were turned into outs. (As a side note, those 352 balls were more than Young, Ross, and Jones had in their respective zones.)
There’s no denying the speed of Gomez, either.
|Player Name||Out of Zone (OOZ)|
|Carlos Beltran, NYM||111|
|Carlos Gomez, MIN||104|
|Grady Sizemore, CLE||94|
|Torii Hunter, LAA||93|
|Chris Young, ARI||93|
In the entire league, Gomez made 104 outs that weren’t hit to his zone. Both of these stats should prove that Gomez is too valuable to place on the bench more than once or twice a week.
Denard Span is the second half of the young outfield duo that the Twins have come to enjoy. Through four games Span has an on-base-percentage of .976. While this reeks of “small sample size,” Span has done an incredible job of getting on base and providing an awesome top-of-the-order bat. There is little doubt that when Mauer returns the Twins will boast one of the best first-six-batters in the league.
So, if Span and Gomez play the majority of the time that changes the equation a little, doesn’t it? No longer are five outfielders competing for four positions, but three are hoping for one of two places. Cuddyer, Young, and Kubel are in the running for the remaining outfield and designated hitter positions.
In the two games Young has had plate appearances he has failed to reach base. He has added all the ingredients of a successful season to his pot this year, though, and should be allowed the chance to prove that he belongs in the outfield. Few people doubt his potential to be a top-tier outfielder, but that obviously won’t happen when/if he is on the back burner.
That leaves Jason Kubel and Michael Cuddyer. Defensively, both could perform just about as well as Young, but in terms of offensive/potential, they can’t hold a candle to the 23-year old.
If I had my say, Kubel and Cuddyer would platoon in the designated hitter spot on a relatively permanent basis. Span, Gomez, and Young make one of the youngest outfields in the league, but would also be one of the best defensively. Cuddyer and Kubel would provide great substitutions when one of the three young guns need a breather.
I’m not totally opposed to the idea of trading one of Kubel or Cuddyer, either.