Friday, March 16, 2018

Low-key competitions: Outfield

When the Twins signed Logan Morrison to be their primary designated hitter, Paul Molitor made a point of telling reporters that he had warned Robbie Grossman -- 2017's primary DH  --  that Grossman would have to make the roster as an outfielder.

The issue wth that is that Grossman is a terrible defensive outfielder.

There is a prototype for fourth outfielders:

  • fast enough to play center field
  • too weak at the plate to be a regular (but still good enough to get some at-bats), 
  • left handed or a switch hitter for platoon purposes, since most pitchers are right-handed. 
In the Twins specific case, however, the third point is off kilter. Because two of the three regular outfielders, Eddie Rosario and Max Kepler, are left-handed hitters with problems against lefties, the Twins would prefer their fourth outfielder be right-handed. And Rosario or Kepler are capable of sliding over to play center when Byron Buxton sits.

Grossman misses on the first point. Zack Granite fits the usual form perfectly but hits left-handed, so he's not much of a platoon partner to Rosario or Kepler.

There are a couple of right-handed hitting non-roster outfielders in camp.

Chris Heisey, 33, has compiled more than 1,750 major league plate appearances over the past eight seasons with three clubs (Reds, Dodgers, Nationals). He has not, however, been notably useful as a platoon player (his OPS, On-base Plus Slugging, is notably better against righties for his career), and he's probably not capable of playing center field well at this stage in his career. He hasn't hit much the past three years in limited playing time, and he hasn't hit much this spring.

Ryan LaMarre, 29, has -- his spring training batting average is above .500, which is obviously ridiculous and not to be maintained. He lacks Heisey's track record (just 40 major league at-bats) but is obviously fast enough to play center. Despite the gaudy Grapefruit League numbers, his minor league record isn't that impressive.

Grossman should still be reckoned the most likely fourth outfielder. But even if he opens the season on the roster, his position is not secure. His fielding issues are deep enough that he's got to hit to get in the lineup, and he didn't mash lefties as well in 2017 as he did in 2016. 

LaMarre has had an impressive camp so far. And it's also possible that the fourth outfielder is in somebody else's camp waiting to be waived or traded.

No comments:

Post a Comment