• Five Goals For The Second Half

    Technically, the actual halfway point in Minnesota's season came and went back in the first week of July, when the Twins played their 81st game at home against the Yankees. Yet, with the All-Star Game and its requisite four-day break falling in mid-July, it's tidier to simply use the Midsummer Classic as a milestone bisecting the MLB season.

    So, now that we've passed both the official and unofficial halfway points in what is clearly going to be a losing campaign, where do we go from here? The playoffs might be out of the picture, but that doesn't mean there aren't positive things to be accomplished. Here in the final 70 games, winning takes a back seat to the following five priorities:

    1) Limit Joe Mauer's innings behind the plate.

    Two years ago, Mauer's future as a catcher was very much in doubt as he battled mysterious leg problems and exhibited diminished skill defensively. He has authoritatively erased any such concerns since then, setting a career high in plate appearances last year and ramping up his workload behind the dish this year while once again remaining remarkably healthy.

    Mauer is one of the best hitters in the league, and his production is vastly more valuable when he's catching. To give you some idea of how much his offense (.320/.402/.473, 30 doubles, eight homers) stands out at the position, consider that Kansas City's Salvador Perez, with a .711 OPS and four homers in the first half, was one of the American League's two All Star reserves at catcher.

    At some point Mauer will need to transition away from catching duties, but it's in the Twins' best interest to delay that eventuality as long as possible. Therefore, I would recommend drastically reducing his reps behind the plate in the second half. Catching is very hard on the body, and while Mauer's ability to avoid the disabled list while crouching for 500-plus innings this year has been admirable, there's no reason to expose him to much additional wear and tear in the second half of a lost season.

    The best approach: Play Mauer at catcher often enough to keep sharp, and no more. Give him a heavy uptick in playing time at first base and DH, while letting an alternative option (even Drew Butera) handle the punishment of catching. Hopefully, this will improve Mauer's chances of serving as a regular catcher in future years where it might matter more.

    2) Load up on future assets.

    The Twins are in sell mode, and Terry Ryan has made no secret of it. The chief objective for the next couple weeks, and beyond, will be adding as much minor-league talent to the system as possible in exchange for expendable parts. Justin Morneau, Jamey Carroll and other candidates are likely to fetch modest returns, but anything that Ryan is able to acquire would be a bonus when giving up expiring contracts.

    Of course, the only way the Twins are going to be able to add any impact prospects is by trading Glen Perkins, who figures to be one of the hottest names on the trade market. While the general manager is understandably reluctant to part with his elite closer, it's known that he is open to the idea should an offer sufficiently wow him. As should be the case.

    3) Straighten out struggling youngsters.

    Aaron Hicks is hitting .197. Kyle Gibson has a 6.45 ERA. Oswaldo Arcia was recently demoted to the minors amidst a brutal slump.

    No, things haven't gone swimmingly for the group of promising rookies that have been ushered into the major-league fold this year, but that's not particularly surprising nor worrisome. The key in these final months will be doing whatever is necessary to set these individuals up for future success, because the Twins need them to be crucial components in a turnaround going forward. If that means more time in the minors (as in the case of Arcia), so be it. If it means working through it in the big leagues (as in the case of Hicks), all the better. We'll have to trust that the Twins know what's best for the development of these young talents. Hopefully each can finish the year in a good place.

    4) Evaluate borderline talents.

    While the Arcia demotion is justifiable, I have a harder time understanding the decision to send Chris Parmelee to the minors. He has nothing left to prove in the International League, which he completely dominated last year, and the Twins are reaching a point where they need to make a decision on the 25-year-old. They don't want to enter next season in the same position they entered this one -- with Parmelee being an unknown quantity who has crushed Triple-A pitching but struggled in limited time against major-leaguers -- yet that is exactly the situation they're headed toward.


    Fortunately, outcomes have been better for fellow uncertainties Trevor Plouffe and Brian Dozier. Each has shown signs of becoming a solid long-term fixture, albeit with considerably more stability than Parmelee has enjoyed. I'd like to see plenty of all three, as well as Pedro Florimon, in the second half, so as to help inform offseason decisions regarding the positions they play.

    5) Don't be afraid to lose.

    I'm certainly not advocating that the Twins try to lose. That's not how professional sports teams operate, nor should they. But all decisions should be aimed at the betterment of individual young players, not giving the team a better chance to win. At the end of the day, the only real difference between losing 85 games and 95 games is draft position. The Twins have had picks in the top four in each of the past two seasons, and with those picks they have added Byron Buxton -- now viewed as the consensus top prospect in baseball -- and Kohl Stewart -- ranked this week by Keith Law as the game's No. 30 prospect despite being drafted out of high school about a month ago.

    Circling back to the Parmelee example, if the Twins think he was struggling because he was overwhelmed and needed to get things figured out in a lower-pressure environment, fair enough. But if they felt his struggles were affecting the team's ability to win... at this point, who cares?
    This article was originally published in blog: Five Goals For The Second Half started by Nick Nelson
    Comments 50 Comments
    1. snepp's Avatar
      snepp -
      I'm going with.

      1. Win baseball games.

      2-5. Lather, rinse, and repeat.
    1. PseudoSABR's Avatar
      PseudoSABR -
      Quote Originally Posted by TheLeviathan View Post
      could we go the aggressive route and just plant Tonkin in the closers role right away?
      That's what I was hoping when I picked him up in my dynasty league.
    1. Major Leauge Ready's Avatar
      Major Leauge Ready -
      Quote Originally Posted by Kwak View Post
      A better reason to leave Plouffe at 3B is that if he has a solid second half and a strong 2014 those hitting stats are far more valuable as a trading chip if Plouffe is a 3B rather than a 1B.
      I have to agree. Ploufee will be a valuabale trade chip if he continues to improve his defense. His plate discipline has been getting better but still inconsistent. He could be a lot more valuable in a year. If not, he would be valuable as a DH / Utility player once Sano makes the big club.

      How nice would it be in Collabello came up and played well. He could be a good bridge player for the next couple years or a trade chip. I am expecting him to drop-off just like Parmalee did but we can all hope.

      Refining Arcia's approach is really important too. He could really be great or he could be Delmon 2.0. Yuk. Delmon drove me nuts. Arcia will be a stud if he makes pitchers throw it over the plate.

      Next, give Albers a shot and hopefully get Worley in decent form. Let's see if Albers is crafty enough to pitch at the ML level. Now is the time find out.

      #1 goal / hope is that we get something decent for Morneau and a haul for Perkins.
    1. TheLeviathan's Avatar
      TheLeviathan -
      Quote Originally Posted by PseudoSABR View Post
      That's what I was hoping when I picked him up in my dynasty league.
      Its unlikely but a few things to make this team fun to watch wold be nice.
    1. Sssuperdave's Avatar
      Sssuperdave -
      Quote Originally Posted by Major Leauge Ready View Post
      Refining Arcia's approach is really important too. He could really be great or he could be Delmon 2.0.
      When I first read this sentence I thought to myself "that's ridiculous, Arcia is totally going to be better than Delmon." Then, I looked at Young's minor league stats. Based upon things I had read in the past, I had always assumed Young was just rushed through the minors without regard to his actual production, but check this out...

      In 2005 Delmon had 370 plate appearances in AA as a 19 year old (19!) with this slash line: .336/.386/.582 (.968) and 20 homeruns. Yup, 20 homeruns. For comparison, Arcia had 299 plate appearances in AA as a 21 year old with similar stats but a few less homeruns: .328/.398/.557 (.955) and 10 homeruns.

      I'm still excited to watch Aricia and think he will be better than Delmon, but I guess this is example #956 that prospects, even those with great numbers in the high minors, don't always pan out.
    1. cmathewson's Avatar
      cmathewson -
      Quote Originally Posted by Don't Feed the Greed Guy View Post
      Great numbers for Hicks. Are you suggesting that he should stay at the bottom of the order? Since the Twins lack a legitimate lead-off threat, perhaps it would be better to try his hand at leading off again during this testing period (not afraid to lose over the second half) rather than next spring.
      I'd like to see him get on base at a higher rate before moving him back into the pressure cooker. But I also would like to get him some reps there before the end of the year so he can have confidence to do it next year. If his OBP continues on its current trend, maybe the last six weeks of the season would be a good proving ground at lead-off for next year.
    1. jmlease1's Avatar
      jmlease1 -
      Save Hicks' return to the top of the order for Sept, when the other call-ups arrive and the pressure's down a little. He's having some success now where he's at; let him build on it for a while. yes, it blows not having a decent leadoff guy right now, but Hicks' long-term development is more important than a couple of months of bad leadoff issues.

      Parmelee was sent down for 2 reasons, I think. 1) get him some more consistent ABs, and 2) send him a message that he doesn't have a secured roster spot and he needs to turn it up. Here's my fear with Parmelee: if he doesn't get it going before the Sept call-ups, will we know what he is? My concern is that he's a 4A player without a singular skill that gives him enough value to stick. I'm rooting for him, but he hasn't seized the opportunities.

      Arcia needs the time back in AAA to settle it back down and get his approach at the plate in order. I still think he's going to be just fine; he's awfully young and some early struggles are normal. Hicks' track record and skill set makes him a better candidate to work through his issues at the majors than Arcia, IMHO. I think we'll see Arcia back up in a few weeks or so.

      One of my goals for the twins in the 2nd half is to find out a little more definitely who can be part of the starting rotation going forward and who can't. I want to see the guys who might be here after this season taking their turns through the rotation and the stop-gap guys (Mike Pelfrey, are your ears burning?) be the first choice to be a 5th starter. Let's find out if Diamond can get it straightened out, Deduno can sustain and improve, Gibson can adjust, etc.
    1. jimbo92107's Avatar
      jimbo92107 -
      Chris Parmelee swinging the way he has lately will not dominate any league, much less AAA or the majors. Both he and Oswaldo Arcia are going down for the same reason: Get back the punch in their swing. Arcia and Parmelee both were starting to swing the bat like me waving a garden rake at a bumble bee. Both men need to break their swing down to the basics, get their feet right, their hands right, their stride right, etc.

      This is the result of pitchers screwing up their timing so badly, they started to change their swing.
    1. raindog's Avatar
      raindog -
      I really like the idea of limiting Mauer's innings at catcher. I hope the Twins are smart enough to do that.
      Quote Originally Posted by Sssuperdave View Post
      When I first read this sentence I thought to myself "that's ridiculous, Arcia is totally going to be better than Delmon." Then, I looked at Young's minor league stats. Based upon things I had read in the past, I had always assumed Young was just rushed through the minors without regard to his actual production, but check this out...

      In 2005 Delmon had 370 plate appearances in AA as a 19 year old (19!) with this slash line: .336/.386/.582 (.968) and 20 homeruns. Yup, 20 homeruns. For comparison, Arcia had 299 plate appearances in AA as a 21 year old with similar stats but a few less homeruns: .328/.398/.557 (.955) and 10 homeruns.

      I'm still excited to watch Aricia and think he will be better than Delmon, but I guess this is example #956 that prospects, even those with great numbers in the high minors, don't always pan out.
      Quit scaring me!
    1. ThePuck's Avatar
      ThePuck -
      Quote Originally Posted by Sssuperdave View Post
      ased upon things I had read in the past, I had always assumed Young was just rushed through the minors without regard to his actual production
      I'm sure you probably know this, but Delmon signed a major league contract when he was drafted. He had to be on the 40 man roster right away and only had three option years from the git-go.
    1. THE DFC's Avatar
      THE DFC -
      Quote Originally Posted by jimbo92107 View Post
      Chris Parmelee swinging the way he has lately will not dominate any league, much less AAA or the majors. Both he and Oswaldo Arcia are going down for the same reason: Get back the punch in their swing. Arcia and Parmelee both were starting to swing the bat like me waving a garden rake at a bumble bee. Both men need to break their swing down to the basics, get their feet right, their hands right, their stride right, etc.

      This is the result of pitchers screwing up their timing so badly, they started to change their swing.
      Agreed, and I would take it a step further--Parmelee is in horrific athletic/physical shape. I'd get that guy in the weight room and on a treadmill because he looks more like a softball player than anything at the moment.

      Sure, some players can get away with being productive hitters and looking like a pear, but there's no way it's optimal for peak performance.
    1. Lonestar's Avatar
      Lonestar -
      I appreciate the insight regarding limiting Mauer's innings catching. I still wish the Twins would try him at 3B even with Sano on his way. Of course I wouldn't start Mauer at 3B until the off-season.

      Remember Parmelee has only had 510 MLB at bats. Let him reboot in Rochester, make room for him on the 25-man roster before the July deadline and see how he does. I think he will be better than Colabello or the post-concussion Morneau.

      BJB, I don't think Sano can play in the AFL because he is Dominican.
    1. cmb0252's Avatar
      cmb0252 -
      Fantastic article Mr.Nelson. I hope the Twins front office would read this and use it as a blue print. If you make smart baseball moves for the future, which in turn increases the chance of losing in a lost year, it isn't tanking. Just smart business.
    1. beckmt's Avatar
      beckmt -
      Parmelee does not look like a winner. Twins still need to see if he can cut if, but he is looking to me like a AAAA player, there have been plenty of those. Maybe he needs a change of scenery or a new manager. If Morneau is traded he needs to be played 6 days a week in August and then see how he fares. My feeling is that he either is not a major league player or he cannot stand the pressure and will never make it as he will be fine if the Twins are out of it, but not at the start of the season.
    1. Otwins's Avatar
      Otwins -
      Parmelee had 274 plate appearances before the all star break. I am not sure why people feel he is not getting a chance. I was glad when they said there were no more scholarships. He hit .233 which is horrible for a corner OF/ 1B. It is up to him to force his way into the lineup. Not be given a spot no matter how bad he is. If Colabello plays well Parmelee is not needed.
    1. drjim's Avatar
      drjim -
      Quote Originally Posted by Otwins View Post
      Parmelee had 274 plate appearances before the all star break. I am not sure why people feel he is not getting a chance. I was glad when they said there were no more scholarships. He hit .233 which is horrible for a corner OF/ 1B. It is up to him to force his way into the lineup. Not be given a spot no matter how bad he is. If Colabello plays well Parmelee is not needed.
      Yes.

      I fear the Twins know exactly what they have with Parmelee but they want to give him one more chance to sort it out. He has not lacked for opportunities the last two seasons, he just hasn't done anything with them.
    1. Top Gun's Avatar
      Top Gun -
      All the Twins need to do is win 10 in a row, pretty easy to do. Trade Justin and they will score no runs at all The future is now, not in the year 2525!
    1. h2oface's Avatar
      h2oface -
      When one plays for "all future", the future never comes. Deny the "now", and the future is but a concept, like tomorrow, and once it is there, it immediately is again in the future.
    1. Riverbrian's Avatar
      Riverbrian -
      Most of us are waiting for the young players to arrive and save us.

      Yet we have a group with the mindset that feels that 25 year old 500 MLB AB Chris Parmelee has been given every chance and is ready to toss aside Chris Parmelee.

      Personally... In my opinion... If you feel that way about Parmelee... I wonder if you will have the patience for what is coming down the road when these young guys show up to actually save us.

      Parmelee is 25 years old... Same age as Domonic Brown.

      I'm really not trying to compare the two of them. I wouldn't do that because every ball player is different. Brown was considered a bigger prospect at one time. Brown made his debut in the majors a year younger. Different skill sets. So I'm not comparing them.

      But I will compare them this way.

      Phillies Fans were also thinking that it was time to toss a side Domonic Brown.

      When players stop swinging at crap... They improve... Some players get it quicker and some players get it later and some never get it at all.

      None of us... Including the Twins Front Office and Coaches and including Chris Parmelee himself know when or if he will figure it out.

      If anyone thinks that they know what Parmelee will become at this point in his career. I hold up the example of Domonic Brown!!!

      If you have the Power to hit one out of the park (Parmelee Does) you also have the power to hit a double in the gap or a single through the infield.

      If you have that skill... All you have to do is stop swinging at crap. I think the Twins are gonna patiently wait for him to stop doing that.

      Young players do this... Should the Jays toss aside Brett Lawrie. Should the Royals give up on Moustakas... Should the White Sox be tossing aside Viciedo... Should the Mariners toss aside Michael Saunders or how about Dustin Ackley.

      Pedro Alverez looked like a complete mess in 2011 after 500 at bats. The Pirates are probably happy right now that they didn't over react and give up on a young struggling player like we did with Carlos Gomez.

      I strongly believe that one of the goals for the rest of the year... Is help Parmelee hone his abilities to be ready for 2014 and beyond... Or at least a role of backup in the future.
    1. diehardtwinsfan's Avatar
      diehardtwinsfan -
      I think with Parm he might be a tad too patient. The one thing he does do quite well is take a walk. But I suspect his problem is that he lets too many hitable pitches go by. I'm not saying he should turn into Delmon Young, but I think his cure might simply be to ratchet up his aggressiveness. I really wish the Twins had called him back up when set AAA on fire last year. I think it would have done wonders for his confidence and development had he been able to return to MN later in the year. For all the talk of handling prospects, I think Parm has been handled poorly to date. He spent way too much time on the bench in MN last season and way too much time this year too. A player shouldn't get a two week trial and then get replaced by the next hot prospect as Parm did, and then get another 2-3 week trial when Arcia went back down. That's horrible for their development.
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