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  • Bad Days

    Eight months after suffering a concussion in a home plate collision with Royals catcher Brayan Pena, Denard Span still says he has "bad days" in which his head doesn't feel quite right, but he has no way of knowing whether or not those symptoms stem from the incident in Kansas City.

    Span's situation is unique, in that he had dealt with migraines and vertigo back in 2009, long before taking that blow to the head on June 3rd last season. At the time, those issues were linked to an inner-ear condition. His current maladies might be attributable more to that problem than the concussion, but whatever the case, it's concerning that a 27-year-old continues to have as he puts it "days where I don't feel my best and have to find a way to fight through."

    Fighting through has been a buzz word for Span this spring. Clearly, he's a competitor and doesn't want to let this bring him down. But playing through symptoms is not always the best idea, for player or team. We saw that last year when Span went 2-for-35 in a two-week stretch after pushing himself to return, and when Justin Morneau struggled all season before re-triggering concussion symptoms on a diving attempt in the field in August.

    The Twins are hopeful that Span, who was getting on base at a .367 clip last year prior to the concussion, can combine with Jamey Carroll, who has posted a .368 OBP over the past two seasons in Los Angeles, to become a dynamic force at the top of the lineup, creating plenty of opportunities for Morneau, Joe Mauer and Josh Willingham.

    But if the bad days don't go away, the Twins will need to have a contingency plan in place preferably someone with the ability to reach base at a solid clip, as they're looking to distance themselves from a 2011 season in which they got a .319 OBP from the leadoff spot and a .289 OBP from the No. 2 spot.

    This may have factored into the decision to bring Darin Mastroianni into the organization earlier this month. Mastroianni owns a .370 OBP in the minors, though there's plenty of room to doubt whether his on-base skills will translate to the big leagues.

    Joe Benson is another candidate to fill a spot in the outfield and at the top of the lineup should Span be sidelined. Benson got on base at a .388 clip in New Britain last year, drawing 56 walks in 472 plate appearances, but he looked totally overmatched in a late stint in Minnesota, drawing just three walks against 21 strikeouts in 74 plate appearances.

    When healthy and doing his thing, Span is an integral cog at the top of the Twins lineup, and his production is awfully tough to replace. When Mauer won the MVP with 96 RBI in 2009, there was no player he drove in more often than Span, who finished that season with career highs in OBP (.392) and runs (97).

    The success of Mauer and the rest of the lineup's run producers will be largely dependent on the success of the table-setters. If bad days continue to haunt Span this season, someone's going to need to step up and get on base in his stead, otherwise it's going to mean plenty of bad days for the Twins' lineup.
    This article was originally published in blog: Bad Days started by Nick Nelson
    Comments 6 Comments
    1. 2wins87's Avatar
      2wins87 -
      After moving Plouffe to the outfield the Twins actually seem to have too many options in the outfield. You don't even mention Rene Tosoni. He struggled last year and will probably only top out as a fourth outfielder, but he has a .360 OBP in the minors, and if he's hot he could also help fill the hole.

      Obviously a healthy Span would be the best outcome for the Twins, but this is one of the least of my worries coming into this season.
    1. siouxjv's Avatar
      siouxjv -
      It seems like a lot of our young guys are getting towards the end of their available options. Does anyone know where Tosoni is at, as far as options go?
    1. twinsfiend's Avatar
      twinsfiend -
      Great article, Nick. Span is key, I agree, but only so far as Mauer and/or Morneau are healthy.

      Span's health will be one key to the Twins getting 85+ wins versus 70. As much as his effectiveness to get on base is hugely important, it is still secondary to the health of Mauer and Morneau because no matter how good Span's OBP is, if we don't have anyone who can consistently drive him home, it doesn't matter how much he is getting on base.

      It always comes down to the RBI guys being there, but without Span there aren't as many RBIs to get.
    1. sam.ekstrom's Avatar
      sam.ekstrom -
      Quote Originally Posted by siouxjv View Post
      It seems like a lot of our young guys are getting towards the end of their available options. Does anyone know where Tosoni is at, as far as options go?
      Tosoni didn't make his major league debut until last year, so he should have two options remaining.
    1. Seth Stohs's Avatar
      Seth Stohs -
      Yeah, Tosoni was only added to the 40 man roster after the 2010 season (same as Benson and Parmelee), so he has two options remaining.
    1. woolhouse's Avatar
      woolhouse -
      Chris Parmalee is another option for one of the corner outfield spots. As far as center field goes, Ben Revere is the only one that can fill that hole on a consistent basis.
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