Starting today, I’m going to consider what options the Twins have in this offseason. In some ways, this feels like a futile exercise, given that four talented, prolific bloggers have united at Twinscentric.com to provide a comprehensive overview of the offseason. Written by John Bonnes, Parker Hageman, Nick Nelson, and Seth Stohs, the TwinsCentric offseason handbook provides 137 pages (plus a Bill Smith interview recently added) of detailed analysis and gives you a chance to decide what you would do were you in shoes of Bill Smith et al. Personally, what I find great about this handbook is that all four of these guys bring unique perspectives and styles to baseball analysis. If you haven’t checked out their abundant free content on their blogs yet, do so. If you like it, consider the handbook. I know I’m like, three weeks late in plugging this, but just in case you haven’t heard of it yet, check it out. You can even download 1/3 of it for free to see if you like it.
Anyway, clearly what the Twins really need this offseason is two of the following three: a third baseman, a short stop, a second baseman. I say two of three for both practical and hopeful reasons. First (the practical reason), it’s unlikely the Twins would be able to sign a free agent, make a trade and/or develop from within, filling all of these holes, without either dramatically increasing the payroll or making a blockbuster deal, which both seem unlikely given Mauer’s looming extension and the fact that the Twins aren’t likely to trade away a pieces necessary to make such a deal – despite the fact that I think they have at least one piece to make that sort of deal happen. Second (the hopeful reason), if the Twins can improve at, say, second and third, they can hope that Nick Punto builds on his late-2009 walk-inducing renaissance and provide good defense and on-base capabilities at short.
Today, we’ll tackle third base. Rumors that Danny Valencia is waiting in the wings should give Twins fans some reason for excitement. In 4 seasons and 1,804 plate appearances in the minors, Valencia has posted a .299/.354/.480 line, with 111 doubles, 54 homers, and a decent 2.3 K/BB ratio. His production has been fairly consistent over his last three years as he has moved up through the Twins’ minor league system, which makes it reasonable to assume that he certainly could become a good big league player. However, his on base percentage this last year at AAA dipped to .305, well below his career minor league average, and his OPS at AAA tumbled almost 100 points from where it stood at AA in the first half of 2009. Valencia’s career track in the minors has been almost mechanical as he has moved up one level every year since the beginning of 2007, with an unsurprising yearly second-half dip in production as he adjusts to a more competitive league. Consider his yearly OPS since 2006 (compared to league average for context), taking into account his transitions from one league to the next:
|Year (Level)||Team (League)||OPS (League Average)|
|2006 (A)||Elizabethon (Appalachian)||.870 (.702)|
|2007 (2 leagues)|
|2007 (A)||Beloit (Midwest)||.874 (.696)|
|2007 (A-adv)||Fort Meyers (Florida State League (FSL))||.754 (.713)|
|2008 (2 leagues)|
|2008 (A-adv)||Fort Meyers (FSL)||.921 (.704)|
|2008 (AA)||New Britain (Eastern League)||.819 (.741)|
|2009 (2 leagues)|
|2009 (AA)||New Britain (Eastern League)||.855 (.717)|
|2009 (AAA)||Rochester (International League)||.758 (.723)|
While this isn’t an especially scientific or scout-savvy way to make a projection, it seems logical to assume that Valencia will probably need to spend some time in Rochester for the first half of 2010, when he will probably start mashing opposing pitching, get promoted to the majors and then struggle as he adjusts to a (much) more competitive league. What is worth noting though is that his second-half struggles in the minors have still resulted in posting an OPS that is above league average. This isn’t to say Valencia is going to come up to the majors and post an OPS just above the major league average of .764, but it does suggest that his struggles in the minors are, well, minor enough that he should be able to hold his own in the second half of 2010.
So, what to do with third base? Considering that Valencia probably should start next year in AAA, and that he is likely to struggle somewhat as a rookie major leaguer, the Twins need basically a one year option that can give them solid, preferably cheap, production and would be able to platoon with Valencia in the second half of the season. Over at Twins Target, the suggestion is to bring backJoe Crede for one year. I couldn’t agree more. Crede’s excellent glove work, power bat, and certain bargain price make him an ideal fit. Valencia’s seemingly imminent call-up also greatly lessens the injury risk associated with Crede. The other player who intrigues me is Mark DeRosa. Able to play any position on defense save for center field and catcher, DeRosa sports a respectable career OPS of .767 and weighted on-base average of .337. DeRosa could play third until Valencia comes up, move to a different position, and fill in at third as needed to spell Valencia should he struggle. The one worry with DeRosa is that, at 34 years old (35 before next year starts), there are signs his skills are diminishing. His on base percentage was way down, strikeout percentage was way up, and line drive percentage down to 16% when it had been at or above 20% since 2003. DeRosa suffered a terrible second half, and I wouldn’t rule out a bounce back in 2010. His versatility would also make him a worthwhile gamble to stem the tide until Valencia arrives.
No matter what the Twins do, there is reason to look forward to Valencia’s call-up. All signs point to him becoming an impact hitter. If he can man the hot corner, the Twins shouldn’t have to deal with this old problem again for some time.