Monday, April 21, 2014

Adding Sam Fuld

Sam Fuld: Former Cub, former Ray,
former A and now current Twin.
The Twins on Sunday picked up outfielder Sam Fuld on waivers and designated outfielder Darin Mastroianni for assignment.

This is swapping out marginal outfielders. Mastroianni had gone 0-for-11 (with one walk and five strikeouts) since his recall and has a major league career average of .220 in 241 at-bats; Fuld was hitting an even .200 when Oakland designated him for assignment and has a major league career average of .233.

The move raised immediate speculation about the implications for Aaron Hicks, the Twins regular center fielder. Hicks, a switch hitter, is much better from the right side. Fuld, a lefty, makes a natural platoon partner should the Twins be so inclined. (Mastroianni, a righty, didn't fit that role.)

But as I've noted repeatedly, Ron Gardenhire is not a platoon-oriented manager. And even beyond managerial aversion to platooning, I doubt that Hicks' development will be enhanced if he's dropped into a platoon role at age 24.

The next good Twins team will have Byron Buxton in center, not Hicks. If Hicks is a regular on that team, it will be as a corner outfielder, and he'll need to hit a lot more than he has to hold that kind of role. Sitting him against righties isn't going to help that cause.

For what it's worth -- and it's not much -- Fuld in his major league career has actually hit better against lefties than against righties.

Meanwhile, we are treated to more evidence that Gardenhire's managerial skills don't necessarily include talent evaluation. Fuld, he said after Sunday's game, is "a leadoff type." No, he isn't. He can steal a base, yes, but he has a well-below average career on-base percentage (.312). He's a bottom-of-the-order type. He may wind up hitting leadoff for lack of a real leadoff hitter, but he is NOT a leadoff type. Neither is Brian Dozier, for that matter.

Another interesting aspect (at least to me) in this move is the sequence that began late in spring training, when the Twins lost Alex Presley on waivers in order to keep Jason Bartlett. Now Bartlett is unofficially retired (he remained on the 40-man roster as of Sunday) and the Twins have scooped up another left-handed reserve outfielder, which is what Presley is.

I'm confident that Presley is a better hitter than Fuld, but Fuld is a superior defensive player and baserunner. Which is the better player? I'd say it depends on what the team needs from the bench. Considering the defensive deficiencies of the Minnesota outfield (particularly in the corners), Fuld may indeed be a more useful piece for this team.

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