Twins’ Playing Time Battles: Hitters

After last week’s gigantic breakdown of the Twins’ position battle breakdown pitching-wise, the offensive one is going to be brief, and probably a bit of a letdown. Despite having a glut of similar players returning from a middle-of-the-pack offense — they finished eighth among 15 AL teams in runs scored — there aren’t many position battles after a pretty quiet offseason as far as the Twins of 2016 are concerned.

Catcher

Despite coming off a poor season in 2015, Kurt Suzuki basically enters this season as the starter behind the plate. However, a wrinkle has been added, as the club added John Ryan Murphy from the Yankees in an offseason deal for centerfielder Aaron Hicks. It has the chance to be a signature move from Twins GM Terry Ryan, as Murphy is coming off a .277/.327/.406 line in part-time duty with the Yankees behind Brian McCann. If he can come anywhere close to replicating that, he’ll take a big chunk of playing time from Suzuki and probably quickly. My immediate vision is that it’ll be a timeshare of a 5-2 or 4-3 platoon with the Twins giving Murphy as much as he can handle provided he hits at least at the league average — not a high standard behind the plate — and handle a staff that for some reason raves about Suzuki’s receiving. The Twins also have to keep Suzuki under 485 plate appearances — he didn’t reach that mark even last year with Eric Fryer and Chris Herrmann behind him — to keep his 2017 option of $6 million from vesting. Odds are, he won’t come close.

Corners/DH

The corners are pretty much locked down for the Twins, though it might be a bit of a shuffle as to who goes where. It sounds as though it’ll be Byung-Ho Park at DH, Joe Mauer at first base, Trevor Plouffe at third, and Eddie Rosario and Miguel Sano in each outfield corner. Most likely, that’ll be Sano in left and Rosario in right, but spring training will probably the final decider. A slimmed-down Kennys Vargas or a beefed up Oswaldo Arcia — who has trained all offseason at the club’s facility down in Fort Myers — could steal some playing time here, as could prospect Max Kepler, but for now this is pretty much set. Sano is a great fantasy value assuming he gets 3B/OF eligibility quickly in whatever format your league uses, at least as long as he can find a way to keep the BABIP and strikeout demons away. Nothing about watching him seems like he’s bound for a huge regression, but he will have to deal with pitchers game-planning specifically for him. Yours truly is quite confident he’ll be up to the challenge.

This is probably the last possible year that Mauer can have any sort of return to form; he’ll be 33 in April and is now two full seasons removed from being an asset. Another weak season and he’ll be ticketed for a bench role probably as soon as 2017, if not upon the emergence of Kepler as a big leaguer. Don’t sleep on Arcia resurrecting himself; Rosario is no bet to ward off any sort of meaningful regression, and if the former has worked as hard as reports suggest, he’s a man on a mission to return to his pre-2015 form. That’s plenty of power, and as a possible option at least against right-handed pitchers in fantasy lineups. Park is going to be a fascinating development, as he’s projected to do some real damage and likely won’t be relied upon to hit very high in the lineup from the start. If he can acclimate in any way like Jung-Ho Kang before him, the Twins did well. Plouffe does a fine job at third base, but it pretty much strictly a middle- to lower-tier fantasy option. He’ll help you in power, but hurt you in OBP and batting average. Pick your spots.

Bench Bats

There’s a possibility that the bench bats of Arcia, Vargas or even Danny Santana could be intriguing, but it’s not terribly likely. Vargas isn’t even likely to make the team — the glut of corner types on the team hurts — but he’s lost roughly 25 pounds and is killing it this winter in the Puerto Rico league. If Santana can split the difference between his 2014 and 2015 numbers, he’ll be a nice super utility that could steal some playing time across the board, and some bases besides. Ultimately, this isn’t a bad offense that does have potential to sneak into the upper half.

Also, but briefly, keep an eye on Byron Buxton in spring training. There’s almost no chance they’ll break camp without him, but if they do, center probably falls in the hands of Santana or Rosario, with Arcia sneaking into the everyday lineup. That’s not ideal for a lot of reasons — especially if you for some reason decide to own a Twins pitcher — but Buxton’s development is going to supercede most anything else that happens this year. They need this kid to succeed.





In addition to Rotographs, Warne writes about the Minnesota Twins for The Athletic and is a sportswriter for Sportradar U.S. in downtown Minneapolis. Follow him on Twitter @Brandon_Warne, or feel free to email him to do podcasts or for any old reason at brandon.r.warne@gmail-dot-com

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vandyguy
Guest
vandyguy

Why did Danny Santana stink so badly in 2015 after a solid breakout in 2014. Really burned me in Nfbc

Slappytheclown
Member
Slappytheclown

BABIP and ISO. Both clearly unsustainable at 2014 lvls. Santana is a .250-260 hitter with below average power and some speed. He’ll hang around as a 5th OF, but that’s it. Move on.

wily mo
Member
Member

there’s some thought that his swing got out of whack

http://twinsdaily.com/articles.html/_/minnesota-twins-news/what-will-the-twins-do-with-danny-santana-r4242

reality for him is probably somewhere in between 2014 and 2015, as the article suggests. exactly where in between is the question