Thursday, January 29, 2015

The Twins by position: Third base

His arm fracture
aside, Trevor Plouffe
has had a good winter:
a $4.8 million
contract for 2015
and a baby on the way.
Trevor Plouffe, theoretically, should have the firmest grip of his career on the third base job. He had a fine 2014. His defense was much improved over previous years, and he had the highest OPS+ of his career.

But ... here comes Miguel Sano.

Sano is not going to come out of spring training with the third base job. Even if some calamity befalls Plouffe, the organization will certainly insist that the Dominican megaprospect get his feet back on the ground in the minors first. Sano had Tommy John surgery before exhibition play began last spring, and the Twins held him out of winter ball.

So the job is Plouffe's at least for now. What happens when Sano is deemed ready for the majors is another matter. Terry Ryan made some waves this winter when he commented that Sano might try the outfield; when that came out, Ryan walked it back.

Plouffe -- or at least the 2014 version -- is a valuable commodity. Third base is an odd position, with a mix of hitting and fielding demands that few are adept at meeting. Many third basemen who can hit have trouble with the defensive demands of the position; many who can play the position well are below-average hitters. Plouffe last year was a bit above average both at the plate and afield, a rare combination.

And yet, I have no qualms about making this assertion: Plouffe is not good enough to block Sano. When Sano is ready, he should push Plouffe aside.

Whether that means a position shift -- remember, in 2012 the Twins expected to make Plouffe an outfielder -- or a trade remains to be seen. A year ago I would have doubted that there would be much of a market for Plouffe. Today there should be teams willing to surrender value for him.

Plouffe himself is coming off injury. He fractured his forearm on a tag play in the last home game of the season and had surgery shortly afterwards. Presumably he'll be good to go from the start of spring training.

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