Friday, August 2, 2013

Missing the benchmarks

Aaron Hicks has had
moments of brilliance
and stretches of
failure.
Another non-competitive loss Thursday for the Twins resulted in two demotions: starter Scott Diamond and center fielder Aaron Hicks were shipped out to Triple A Rochester.

Oswaldo Arcia was called up to take Hicks' spot; no move was immediately made to fill Diamond's rotation berth. The immediate speculation had Andrew Albers (like Diamond, a Canadian lefty) getting the call. I wonder if the delay might mean the Twins have a waiver-wire pickup pending; their sinking record has them in prime position to claim players.

There's no way to argue that Diamond and Hicks deserved to stay in the majors. Neither has had a good season, and both were sliding.

But their demotions signal a discouraging reality: As promising as things are in the minor leagues, the major league roster has made almost no progress toward contention. Coming into spring training, I identified eight specific areas that figured to be priorities. Of those eight, we can see success only in the bullpen roles and maybe at shortstop and second base. As for the others:

Scott Diamond's
strikeout rate, already
low, is sinking.
Starting rotation: Success here meant establishing Diamond and Vance Worley as 200-inning guys and getting Kyle Gibson settled into the major league rotation. Diamond and Worley regressed to Triple A, and Gibson's ERA is 6.21. The rise of Sam Deduno merely puts him in roughly the position Diamond was in at this point last season.

Center field: Success here meant establishing Hicks by season's end. Obviously, he's anything but established.

Leadoff hitter: Success here again meant Hicks. Ain't happening, at least not this year.

Establishing Trevor Plouffe and Chris Parmelee: Parmelee is in Triple A (the Star Tribune's Phil Miller noted on Twitter Thursday evening that the Opening Day outfield — Josh Willingham, Hicks and Parmelee — will be playing in Rochester this weekend). Plouffe is hitting .245/.303/.404, which isn't sufficient to carry his defense at third base.

Discouraging indeed.


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