• Position Analysis: Third Base

    Trevor Plouffe homers for the Minnesota TwinsLikely Starter: Trevor Plouffe
    2012 Stats: .235/.301/.455, 24 HR, 55 RBI, 56 R

    Potential Backups: Eduardo Escobar, Jamie Carroll


    Identifying a solution at the hot corner has turned into a game of hot potato for the Twins. Since Corey Koskie’s departure, the list of players who have had a hand on the gig is lengthy: Tony Batista, Mike Lamb, Joe Crede, Nick Punto, Brian Buscher, Brendan Harris, Danny Valencia and more. Unfortunately, in each case, the assignment has proven too hot to handle.

    Trevor Plouffe is the latest in this long line of contenders and represents the best hope for a long-term solution in the group. His bat, slow to develop in the early minors, has game has elevated dramatically over the past three years. As a 26-year-old on the rise and entering his prime, Plouffe is an intriguing commodity with offensive upside left in the tank even after erupting for 24 homers last year.

    Of course, hitting isn’t the make-or-break factor for Plouffe at this point. He needs to prove to the Twins that he can consistently make all the plays at third and remain in the infield after fizzling out at shortstop with a poor showing in 2011. Plouffe has all the tools to be an above-average third baseman, with a strong arm and good lateral reflexes, but his mechanics and his focus have sometimes come into question.

    Without a doubt, his fielding will be under heavy scrutiny from the coaching staff. To his benefit, Plouffe has now had an entire offseason to concentrate on preparing for one specific position, whereas the last few years have seen him slide all over the diamond. Hopefully this, along with the security of a guaranteed regular job, will help him take the steps needed to satisfy the defensive expectations that come along with manning third.

    Plouffe has already met the offensive expectations, even in a 2012 season that had its ups and downs. He started the year as a part-time infielder, scuffling at the plate with sporadic playing time, but eventually Danny Valencia’s departure created an opening at third and Plouffe settled in. He went on an insane midseason tear, piling up 18 homers in 39 games before a thumb injury cut down his playing time and production in the second half.

    Plouffe’s power surge was abrupt, but the concentrated distribution of his home runs does not diminish the accomplishment of launching 24 of them in 119 games as a 25-year-old with little major-league experience. And while it may have seemed this way to some, Plouffe’s long-ball proclivity didn’t come out of nowhere. Between Triple-A and the majors, he had gone deep 17 times in 2010 and 23 times in 2011. As he has matured and grown and adjusted, he has developed into a legitimate power hitter. As long as he can stay off the trainer's table, there is no reason to expect that to change this year.

    Clearly, Plouffe needs to put his health issues behind him. The thumb problem nagged him throughout the final months last year and he has already dealt with a recurring calf injury this spring. But if he can get past these afflictions, I have high hopes. My expectation is that he will hit at least 25 home runs, perhaps 30 or more, and that as he gets more comfortable at third base his skills – which enabled him to stick at shortstop throughout the minors – will start to shine through and he’ll become a quality defender there.

    Hopefully my optimism isn’t misplaced, because if Plouffe doesn’t work out there isn’t a whole lot to fall back on. If he does, the middle of this lineup could be truly formidable.
    This article was originally published in blog: Position Analysis: Third Base started by Nick Nelson
    Comments 27 Comments
    1. Seth Stohs's Avatar
      Seth Stohs -
      It's interesting that Ryan talked about bringing in competition for Plouffe this spring, but if he were hurt or get time off, it'll be Jamey Carroll and/or Eduardo Escobar. Deibinson Romero's issues regarding receipt of his visa still has not been resolved. Mark Sobolewski had a nice showing in big league camp, and he's ready for AAA, but he wasn't really competition for the job.

      With the Twins other needs, I was actually fine with giving Plouffe the job and some leeway to see what he can become this year. The power is certainly intriguing.
    1. Brad Swanson's Avatar
      Brad Swanson -
      I agree. I'm very happy that they didn't bring in competition for Plouffe. I want to see what he does with a full, healthy season. As a guy who would be cost-controlled through his entire prime, it makes sense to see if he is someone who can be part of the core of the next good Twins team.
    1. Linus's Avatar
      Linus -
      Not to mention that good 3rd basemen are really hard to find. I don't think it is unreasonable to expect him to be substantially better in the field this year. As mentioned in the article, this is the first year he has been able to prepare for one position. I think his 24 homers may be his career high but can still be a productive hitter, hitting 20 dingers and driving in 80.
    1. Mr. Brooks's Avatar
      Mr. Brooks -
      I dont think his 24 HR's will be a career high, assuming he has a healthy career and is productive enough to stay in the lineup.
      I think his power is legit and still developing, I can see him having comparable power as Willingham as he plays through his prime.
    1. kab21's Avatar
      kab21 -
      I think the HR's will be there but I'm unsure about the BA/OBP and defense part of the equation. I'm cautiously optimistic that the Twins have found a .750+ OPS 3Bman to hold down the fort for awhile.
    1. jm3319's Avatar
      jm3319 -
      I'll set my homerun expectations around 15-20. Teams have more film on him now and should know how to pitch to him better. Anyone know if Plouffe's homers were mostly pulled, or was he doing a good job spraying them all over the field? If he's been deadpulling his homers, teams will likely focus on pitching outside more, etc. I sure hope I'm wrong and he goes off for 30+ though. It'd be nice to have someone productive at 3B for once.
    1. Linus's Avatar
      Linus -
      Quote Originally Posted by jm3319 View Post
      I'll set my homerun expectations around 15-20. Teams have more film on him now and should know how to pitch to him better. Anyone know if Plouffe's homers were mostly pulled, or was he doing a good job spraying them all over the field? If he's been deadpulling his homers, teams will likely focus on pitching outside more, etc. I sure hope I'm wrong and he goes off for 30+ though. It'd be nice to have someone productive at 3B for once.
      This is my thought process as well. I believe he has the innate power to hit a bunch of home runs. I just think he will always be too inconsistent in making contact. Teams will definitely make adjustments this year (they probably already did at the end of last year) as his homeruns are always dead pulls to left.

      I think he has a better chance of being a stand out defender than hitting 30 home runs. I think he will end up being similar to Koskie, which I would take in a heartbeat.
    1. Badsmerf's Avatar
      Badsmerf -
      Quote Originally Posted by jm3319 View Post
      I'll set my homerun expectations around 15-20. Teams have more film on him now and should know how to pitch to him better. Anyone know if Plouffe's homers were mostly pulled, or was he doing a good job spraying them all over the field? If he's been deadpulling his homers, teams will likely focus on pitching outside more, etc. I sure hope I'm wrong and he goes off for 30+ though. It'd be nice to have someone productive at 3B for once.
      Teams did stop throwing him FB's and he hit way less HR's before he got injured. Still, he hit over 300 and had an OPS over 800. He was thrown waaay more sliders and he was adjusting to it... hurt his thumb and the season was a struggle from then on. Parker had some great stuff on Plouffe last season. Thing is, he will need to work counts into his favor to see more FB's again. He has shown some pretty good plate discipline, and I felt got screwed plenty last season. As he matures this will even out and allow him to be more consistent. Also, he had a .244 BABIP with a 16% LD% which is pretty unlucky. He was maintaining a 20% LD% prior to the injury so I don't think that is unreasonable. I believe his advanced stats point to him being able to replicate the success he showed last season.
    1. mike wants wins's Avatar
      mike wants wins -
      Have you guys been reading Fangraphs position by position analysis also? Ugh......in any event, I like that they did not bring in competition for Plouffe. They need to just let him play, and see what he can do. Is this a hole? Is he good/good enough?

      I think he'll be good, slightly above average on offense, about average on defense.
    1. Mr. Brooks's Avatar
      Mr. Brooks -
      Quote Originally Posted by jm3319 View Post
      I'll set my homerun expectations around 15-20. Teams have more film on him now and should know how to pitch to him better. Anyone know if Plouffe's homers were mostly pulled, or was he doing a good job spraying them all over the field? If he's been deadpulling his homers, teams will likely focus on pitching outside more, etc. I sure hope I'm wrong and he goes off for 30+ though. It'd be nice to have someone productive at 3B for once.
      The problem with this is that its not as easy as that to just throw the pitch you want to throw.
      In general, HR hitters are "mistake hitters".
      Just because a pitcher is trying to "pitch him better", that doesnt mean he's going to, not that easy.
      Also, it doesnt concern me if his HR's are dead pull. So are Willinghams, so were Thome's, it doesnt really matter. There are plenty of #3 through #5 pitchers in the league who are always going to leave one over the inner half, no matter how hard they try not to.
    1. Seth Stohs's Avatar
      Seth Stohs -
      Correct. A lot of home run hitters hit those mistakes. Teams have scouting reports on everyone, but good hitters don't miss mistakes too often. That said, I think it's important for Plouffe to be able to do something productive with those outside pitches, meaning hit some line drives to the gap. It'll help drive in some more runs and could take him from a .240 hitter to a .280 hitter. Plus, he certainly has the power to hit some opposite field homers too.
    1. spycake's Avatar
      spycake -
      In Plouffe's favor, his HR surge spanned two seasons, although 2011 was mostly in AAA. In that regard, I'm more optimistic about him than I am Parmelee, who really only has 2012 AAA (plus September 2011) to his credit offensively. I don't expect 30 HR pace again, but even 20 would be nice at 3B. The injury might downgrade my expectations further, though -- those kind of things can even throw off proven vets for awhile. It could be enough to permanently derail a guy who's not established yet.

      I'm glad he's getting a chance, though. I like his prospects better than Valencia, even after Valencia's solid debut in 2010.
    1. fairweather's Avatar
      fairweather -
      Anyone who draws high praise from Chili Davis is OK in my book. Count me a Tevor Plouffe supporter. Plouffe and Willingham were the most exciting combo in baseball for about a month last season. If Trevor hadn't have hurt his thumb the Twins would have likely had two guys with over 30 HR's last season. I'm hoping that this season the Twins have 3 guys(Morneau being the third) with over 30 HR's. That would make the terrible pitching easier to stomach. ..Wouldn't it? All that being said the guy was a statue at 3rd base last season and I don't expect him to be better this season.
    1. Steve Penz's Avatar
      Steve Penz -
      Quote Originally Posted by Badsmerf View Post
      Teams did stop throwing him FB's and he hit way less HR's before he got injured. Still, he hit over 300 and had an OPS over 800. He was thrown waaay more sliders and he was adjusting to it... hurt his thumb and the season was a struggle from then on. Parker had some great stuff on Plouffe last season. Thing is, he will need to work counts into his favor to see more FB's again. He has shown some pretty good plate discipline, and I felt got screwed plenty last season. As he matures this will even out and allow him to be more consistent. Also, he had a .244 BABIP with a 16% LD% which is pretty unlucky. He was maintaining a 20% LD% prior to the injury so I don't think that is unreasonable. I believe his advanced stats point to him being able to replicate the success he showed last season.

      I think this topic is the key to his offense in '13. I could not believe how they kept pitching him the same way last year during his tear and he kept killing the ball. Having developed a book on him, I am sure they will come at him differently this year. I hope to see more doubles to the Right-center gap because he will receive that type of pitching. If he keeps his cool, stays disciplined and drives those pitches then we will know we have something special. Valencia never got that concept and now he is exploring other opportunities. I think Trevor is up for the challenge.
    1. Steve Penz's Avatar
      Steve Penz -
      Quote Originally Posted by SRP View Post
      I think this topic is the key to his offense in '13. I could not believe how they kept pitching him the same way last year during his tear and he kept killing the ball. Having developed a book on him, I am sure they will come at him differently this year. I hope to see more doubles to the Right-center gap because he will receive that type of pitching. If he keeps his cool, stays disciplined and drives those pitches then we will know we have something special. Valencia never got that concept and now he is exploring other opportunities. I think Trevor is up for the challenge.

      Parmalee's presence behind Plouffe may protect him a bit more also. Teams may be forced to at him more directly than they want to because there is a little more power behind him in the order than last year.
    1. Badsmerf's Avatar
      Badsmerf -
      Quote Originally Posted by fairweather View Post
      All that being said the guy was a statue at 3rd base last season and I don't expect him to be better this season.
      Completely disagree. His problems defensively have more to do with mental errors than physical. 8 of his 17 errors were throwing errors. He also made some very nice plays. The talent is there.
    1. Badsmerf's Avatar
      Badsmerf -
      Quote Originally Posted by SRP View Post
      Valencia never got that concept and now he is exploring other opportunities.
      Besides being an overall jerk (to say it nicely), Valencia's success in his first season came from a .345 BABIP. While this isn't impossible to do, to put it in perspective Joe Mauer's career BABIP is .345. Valencia was largely unlucky last season sporting a .222 BABIP for all of 2012, and I believe was traded more because of his attitude than his performance. Valencia was also a much better fielder his first season up than his next few. If Valencia would have continued to develop he would have been a quality 3b.
    1. stringer bell's Avatar
      stringer bell -
      Here is the comment I made last night right after I read this:

      Quite the optimistic write up. I think health is a big issue as Plouffe has suffered injuries almost every year. I do believe it will help him to prepare to play just one position. I think that by the end of the season he will be regarded as a better ballplayer and more valuable that his buddy Delmon.
    1. fairweather's Avatar
      fairweather -
      I'm not saying Plouffe can't move laterally I'm saying last season there were many times that I seen a hard hit ball in Trevor's vicinity and it would get by him because he's standing flat footed and straight up and down. Obviously the guy was a SS and he has the ability to move laterally but is more or less being lazy on defense.
    1. 70charger's Avatar
      70charger -
      I'm optimistic on Plouffe. His power surge last year was one the very best bright spots in a dismal season, and I see no reason why he can't hit another 25 or so HRs this year. His positional stability will be pretty key to this, I think.
©2014 TwinsCentric, LLC. All Rights Reserved.
Interested in advertising with Twins Daily? Click here.