Monday, June 21, 2010

A Look at the Rooks

Due to numerous injuries, the Twins have already turned to a number of rookies thus far in 2010. How they've performed has had a big effect on the fortunes of the Twins through the first three months of the season. Here's how each of them has contributed.

Drew Butera- Butera made the Major League roster out of Spring Training because of Jose Morales' injury, and has been pretty much as advertised. He hasn't hit a lick, even considering his clutch pinch-hit homer on Saturday, but he has been solid on defense, throwing out half of ten attempted base stealers. His batting average is below the Mendoza Line, his wOBA is an atrocious .220, and he's walked just once in 43 plate appearances. All of that results in a below replacement level performance, but I have a hard time being disappointed when that's pretty much what I expected from Butera as Joe Mauer's backup.

Alex Burnett- Burnett was a slight shock to make the team out of Spring Training, as it took an injury to Joe Nathan and Clay Condrey to get him on the roster. And even then many fans, myself included, wanted to see Anthony Slama instead. Burnett, however, has quickly become a fixture in the bullpen, pitching both in long relief and in some high-leverage situations. His ERA is very good (2.70), his FIP is solid (3.22), but his xFIP is only so-so thanks to a very low HR/FB rate of 3.0 %.

Danny Valencia- Valencia, who many wanted to see start the year in Minnesota as the regular third baseman, made his debut in early June after Alexi Casilla underwent elbow surgery. Through 43 plate appearances Valencia has exhibited the characteristics that had others questioning his viability as the long-term answer at the hot corner. He's drawn just 2 walks, has a strikeout rate of 22 %, and has just one extra base hit, leaving his .317 average a very empty one. Of course, it's still very early in his career and we may yet see him make the adjustments to become a future big-league starter.

Wilson Ramos- Ramos burst onto the scene with a 7-9 performance in his first two games that also included 3 doubles. After that, however, Ramos slumped to the tune of one hit in 20 at bats to go with no extra base hits and no walks. At that point, Mauer returned from his injury, forcing Ramos back to AAA. Ramos, a consensus top-5 prospect for the Twins, still has some work to do, particularly in regard to his plate discipline, but his hot start is an indicator of what may be possible in years to come (just not with the Twins!).

Trevor Plouffe- In need of a shortstop after Casilla and J.J. Hardy hit the DL, Minnesota turned to former first-round pick Trevor Plouffe. The prospect seemed to finally be putting things together in AAA and was deserving of the opportunity. His time in the bigs, however, has been largely unsuccessful, to put it gently. So far he has just 3 hits in 23 at bats, an on-base percentage lower than his batting average, and an OPS under .300. Obviously it's far too soon to make any judgment on Plouffe's true ability, but the early returns are not encouraging.

Luke Hughes- On April 29th Hughes made his first big league appearance and promptly homered in his first plate appearance. He got the very definition of a cup of coffee, though, as he played in only one more game the next day before heading back to Rochester. In all he totaled just 7 at bats, collecting 2 hits and the aforementioned home run.

All in all, the Twins call-ups have exhibited one glaring deficiency: a lack of plate discipline. As a whole they've batted 147 times, drawn exactly 3 walks, and accumulated 33 strikeouts. That's a walk rate of just 2.0 %! Even Carlos Gomez and Delmon Young would be ashamed of that! If I sounded like a broken record going through their performances, that's why.

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