2013 was meant to be a big year for several Twins including Brian Dozier and Chris Parmelee. However, arguably, 2013 was most important for Trevor Plouffe. Was he the sub-.300 on-base percentage guy still looking for a defensive position? Or, could he put up numbers approaching what he did for a month last June?
For the most part, 2013 has been a frustrating season for the Twins third baseman. On May 21, he was kneed in the head as a base runner at second base and ended up on the Disabled List with a concussion. Before he could get back in the lineup, recurring calf tightness put him on the 15 day disabled list. When he returned in mid-June, he had a single, double and home run in his first game and had hits in 13 of 14 games played in the month. Unfortunately, July was a tough month as well as he hit just .189/.223/.300 (.523). Since August 1st, he has hit .237/.298/.404 (.702), though that includes the first two games in Houston when he went 7-9 with two homers.
There are 20 MLB third basemen who qualify for a batting title (3.1 plate appearances per game their team has played). Here are Plouffe's rankings in several categories:
- Batting Average - .243 (15/20)
- On Base Percentage - .301 (17/20)
- Slugging Percentage - .404 (15/20)
- OPS - .705 (18/20)
- WAR - 1.4 (17/20 - only Mike Moustakus, David Freese and Michael Young have lower WAR)
So, now what?
Trevor Plouffe will likely need to show in the final month of the season that he should be the team's Opening Day third baseman. To assume that is a given is not correct on a couple of fronts:
First, there is the Miguel Sano factor. The Twins ultra-talented, immensely powerful prospect finished his 2013 campaign with 35 home runs and will likely be ranked in the top three baseball prospects when the lists come out next spring. He finished the season in AA after spending the first half in Ft. Myers. He will be invited to spring training, but will the Twins be willing to give him the opening day starting job after seeing the struggles of Aaron Hicks coming straight from AA? Sano will be just 21 years old when the 2014 season starts. My assumption is that Sano will start the season in Rochester, but he won't be there for long. No more than two months, most likely.
Second, Trevor Plouffe came into the 2013 season with 1.162 years of service. As he spent the entire season with the Twins, that number will be 2.162 at season's end. He is shy of 3 years of service time, but it is almost guaranteed that Plouffe would be a Super-2 arbitration-eligible player. That means that he will likely go from making just over $500,000 this season to somewhere between $1.8 and $2.8 million in 2014. Could the Twins non-tender Plouffe? I don't think that they would. He is still just 28 and although his defense has, at times, been shaky all around the field, he can play multiple positions even if it is in a super-utility role.
That kind of position flexibility, and the fact that he does have good power, makes the idea that he could be traded at least feasible.
Plouffe has been with the Twins since they drafted him out of high school with the first of five first round picks in 2004. He worked up the system one step at a time, and then was up and down with the Twins for a couple of seasons. He has been on the Twins roster for the last two years.
So, what does the future hold for Trevor Plouffe in a Twins uniform?
In my opinion, he will likely begin the 2014 season as the Twins third baseman. I do expect that Miguel Sano will be up by mid-June, if not by the end of May, and when he does the third base job will be his. I think that Trevor Plouffe can easily shift over to first base where he can split time with Joe Mauer. I think Mauer will continue to do some catching in 2014, but will also play a lot of first base. Plouffe can be a right-handed bat off of the bench, but he can also be a backup in the corner outfield positions, and yes (gasp) in the middle infield as well.
That's how I envision things shaking out in 2014 for Trevor Plouffe. What do you think?