Friday, January 31, 2014

Eye on 2014: First base

Joe Mauer, first baseman.
Joe Mauer is the 500-pound gorilla of the Twins lineup. Between the talent and the contract, he is the centerpiece of the roster.

And now that he's no longer a catcher, the question remains: Where's the best place to put him?

This much as been established: He's the Twins first baseman now. But it's hard to believe that the least-demanding defensive position is the best use of his athleticism.

Mike Bernadino of the Pioneer Press last weekend put out a short video on Tout of Mauer talking about his limited exposure to third base in his childhood. As soon as Bernadino put the question, Mauer gave a little smile-grimace that conveyed: I know where this is going. You think I should be moved to third.

And there is an argument for the notion. Mauer has the arm and the hands for third base. The arm, at least, is wasted at first.

On the other hand, there aren't a lot of 6-foot-5 third basemen. And Mauer is now 30. He might wind up at first in a couple of years anyway.

And, more particularly, the Twins have Miguel Sano rocketing up the ladder at third base. Trevor Plouffe, the incumbent at third, is just a placeholder. The Twins don't have a Sano equivalent at first base in the minors.

They do have some prospects who might be moved to first base, Sano being one and Max Kepler another.

If the Twins were to put Mauer at third, their first base options would be some combination of Chris Parmelee, Chris Colabello and Plouffe, presumably with Sano getting a crash course in the position in the minors.

There's no real long-term gain apparent from moving Mauer to third base now.

Then there's this aspect. You know the joke about 500-pound gorillas: Where do they sit? Wherever they want. Mauer was, by all accounts, reluctant to abandon his accustomed catching position. He's more comfortable at first than at third. He's the 500-pound gorilla, and he's going to play first base.

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