Thursday, February 12, 2015

The Twins by position: Center field

Jordan Schafer hit .285 for the Twins
in the last two months of 2014.
If we ignore Danny Santana, who enters spring training a presumed shortstop, the Twins will open camp with three center fielders with multiple seasons of major league experience: Aaron Hicks, Shane Robinson and Jordan Schafer.

Hicks is 25 and a .201 career hitter in 538 plate appearances spread over two years.

Robinson, a non-roster invitee signed after the Cardinals let him go, is 30 and a .231 career hitter (five seasons, less that 500 plate appearances)

Schafer is 28 and a .229 hitter (five years and nearly 1,400 plate appearances).

You can draw up various platoon possibilities out of these three. Schafer is left-handed, Robinson right-handed, Hicks a switch hitter. You might still envision Hicks as a regular, although that notion is increasingly dubious. No matter how you deploy this group, you get inadequacy. These are, at best, bench guys,

The best center field talent in camp (and this is true even if we count Santana as a center fielder) are two prospects coming off disappointing 2014s and ticketed for Double A: Byron Buxton, who had repeated injuries, and Eddie Rosario, who served a 50-game drug suspension.

Despite his 2014 stall, I still believe that if the Twins simply handed the center field job to Buxton this spring and let him play all year, his floor is something like .260 with 10 homers, 30 steals and Gold Glove caliber defense (assuming, of course, that he stayed intact). Rosario would probably put up a better batting average but with fewer steals and lesser defense.

You know to a dead certainty that the three "major leaguers" aren't going to come near those numbers. Not a dead certainty, but close to it, is that the Twins front office won't let Buxton sniff the majors until the second half of the year at the earliest, and Rosario isn't going to be fast tracked either.

The Twins have reasons to slow play Buxton and Rosario. They would do better to look for reasons to play the kids, not to look for reasons to keep them in the minors. Let the kids play.

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