Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Arranging the Twins outfield

Delmon Young: Part of one rebuilt Twins outfield,
now a piece to be replaced in a new restructuring.
Gone from the Twins of the past few seasons: Michael Cuddyer, Jason Kubel, Delmon Young. These men were mainstays of the Minnesota outfield since 2008. Now the Twins are remaking their outfield around Denard Span (as they did after the 2007 season with Cuddyer as the holdover).

As matters stand, these players figure to play in the Twins outfield in 2012. I list them in the order of likely outfield playing time. Those above the line are likely to be on the Opening Day roster; those under are likely to at least begin 2012 in the minors.

Denard Span, cf
Josh Willingham, rf/lf/dh
Ben Revere, lf/cf
Trevor Plouffe, lf/rf
Ryan Doumit, c/rf/dh/lb
Rene Tosoni, rf/lf
Joe Benson, rf/lf/cf
all other outfielders in the system

Willingham voiced some concern after signing with the Twins about playing right, where he has minimal experience. Terry Ryan believes Willingham has sufficient arm for the position, and he probably does, as he is a converted catcher. Certainly we can expect Willingham to get plenty of right field time in Florida.

A number of bloggers -- notably the redoubtable Aaron Gleeman -- have penciled Doumit in as the regular designated hitter. I suspect that if the Twins wind up with a regular DH it will be Justin Morneau (for health reasons). The more Morneau is the DH, the more first base somebody else has to play. That somebody else is probably either Doumit or Joe Mauer, and I'm quite sure the Twins (and Mauer) would prefer to keep Mauer behind the plate. And the more Doumit is the DH, the less valuable his defensive flexibility is -- not that he's actually proficient at any of the positions he plays. My guess is that we'll see more of Doumit at first base than anybody expects -- at least 50 games.

A blog commenter suggested last week that the Twins put Revere in center with Span in right and Willingham in left. That arrangement makes some sense, but Ron Gardenhire is very unlikely to irritate Span by moving him out of center.

Gardy believes in locking his regulars into place. It's one thing if one of his starters volunteers to shift positions, as Michael Cuddyer and Nick Punto were known to do; but absent that, he would rather keep his regulars in their comfort zone. Span is a good center fielder; he may not have Revere's range, but he's not giving up a lot to Revere, and Span throws better. Span made it known last summer that he prefers to play center; I don't see Gardenhire irritating him by making him give way to Revere.

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