Thursday, January 17, 2013

Benchmarks for 2013: Third base

This figures to be a crucial
season for Trevor Plouffe.
There's been no shortage of posts here over the past two years on Trevor Plouffe, and one thing that jumps out at me as I review them is how little I seem to understand what the Twins are doing with him.

They tried to find a shortstop in him long after I expected them to have given up on that task. They pulled the plug on him as an outfielder far sooner than I anticipated.

So I should be wary of making declarative statements about their plans with him. But here it comes anyway ...

Plouffe comes into camp next month still the third baseman-designate, but Terry Ryan has talked all winter about finding somebody to challenge that status. Ryan certainly didn't import a recognizable veteran name to do so, but he did bring in Mark Sobolewski, who has been kicking around the Toronto organization about as long as Plouffe's been in the Twins system.

Like Plouffe, Sobolewski profiles at the plate as a low-average, low-OPB hitter with some power. Unlike Plouffe, Sobolewski hasn't reached the majors, and he's never had the home-run breakout Plouffe had last summer. Also unlike Plouffe, who struggled mightily defensively at third base, Sobolewski is said to have some chops in the field.

Still, this is Plouffe's job. He hit 24 homers in his rollercoaster 2012, most of them in a torrid six-week midsummer span that bore no resemblance to his minor league record. If Plouffe is truly a significant power hitter, Sobolewski's not taking the job, and Plouffe will get a long opportunity to develop some defensive skills at the hot corner.

The endgame

It's really up to Plouffe. It's unfair to expect him to slug .750-plus, as he did during that hot stretch in 2012 -- nobody's that good. If he hits as he did for the entire season (,235/.301/.455), he'll probably need to sharpen the glovework to keep the job. Miguel Cabrera can be a butcher at third because he hits like few others. Plouffe isn't going to hit like that.

If Plouffe can't hold the job, the options on hand aren't appealing. Sobolewski (and, for that matter, Deibinson Romero, another nonroster invitee who plays third) aren't likely long-term solutions at third base. For that one has to reach down to A ball and Miguel Sano, and Sano is no lock to remain at third base either.

1 comment:

  1. Sobolewski was drafted in 2008, four years after Plouffe. He is the same age as Plouffe and has 86 plate appearances above AA. His defense makes him competition for providing depth at third base at AAA. He is not going to win the major league job no matter how well Plouffe hits. If Plouffe fails, the Twins will stick Carroll at third or trade for someone outside the organization.