Thursday, August 11, 2011

Contemplating Trevor Plouffe

Trevor Plouffe contemplated Tuesday's loss. On
Wednesday, he was demoted.
Trevor Plouffe started Wednesday night's game at second base. He had a hit in three at-bats, which raised his batting average to .202. He also struck out for the 28th time in 114 at-bats (he has five more K's than hits), bounced into a double play and committed a potentially pivotal error in the field.

After the game, he was demoted back to Triple A to make roster space for Alexi Casilla. I assume that the error wasn't the deciding factor, but it could have been.

The former first-round pick has yo-yoed between Minnesota and Rochester this season, and he has gone from a potential regular shortstop to a possible utility player. He's hit in Rochester this year (.313/.384/.635)  far better than he ever has in his previous three seasons there, and the drastic improvement in his walk rate suggests that the surge could be realistic, He is still only 25.

But even though he has cranked five homers in his two major league stints, he hasn't been nearly as productive at the plate in the majors, and if he's to become a multi-position player he needs not only to hit but to sharpen his defense. His PT at positions other than short in the minors has been minimal.

Seth Stohs, who is higher on Plouffe than I am, wrote a few days ago after giving up on the Twins as 2011 contenders that they should now play Plouffe regularly, moving him from position to position — including shortstop. They're probably going to do that with him in Triple A, except for the shortstop part. My guess is that Plouffe has played his last inning at short for Ron Gardenhire.

Which makes sense. Stohs envisions Plouffe as a "super utility" man — a regular who plays several positions. Like Ben Zobrist in Tampa Bay, or (this year) Michael Cuddyer for the Twins — or, in years past, Cesar Tovar and Tony Phillips.

What all those guys have in common: They hit well enough to play a corner — and a player who hits that well AND can handle shortstop defensively isn't going to spend time at first base or right field.  Tampa Bay's gone through a lot of shortstops this season, and Zobrist, like Plouffe, was primarily a shortstop in the minors, but he hasn't played an inning there the last two seasons.

Zobrist represents the template for Plouffe, and if Plouffe can get there, he's be a valuable player indeed. But he's not there yet.

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