• Position Battle: Designated Hitter

    In Josh Willingham, Oswaldo Arcia and Jason Kubel, the Twins have three players who are projected to be on the 25-man roster and are all probably best suited for designated hitter duty.

    Each is likely to see some time in that role, but determining which player should be the true "designated DH" is essentially a matter of judging who provides the least defensive value.

    Of course, the go-to designated hitter also has to hit enough to justify playing a position that puts sole emphasis on offense. That was a problem last year, when Ryan Doumit batted .220/.273/.351 as a DH while leading the club in at-bats there.

    It's no wonder the Twins shook things up during the offseason and shipped Doumit out.

    Kubel, whose signing paved the way for Doumit's exit, will largely serve the same function in the lineup -- a potent bat against righties that can be slotted in the middle of the order if he's going good. But Kubel doesn't strike me as the most logical choice to take over as DH.

    That would be Willingham. He turned 35 a month ago, his last season was ruined by knee problems, and he wasn't particularly good in left field before all that.

    Admittedly, I haven't seen Kubel play a whole lot since he left Minnesota in 2011, but he's three years younger than Willingham and -- despite lacking great mobility -- he struck me as a surprisingly decent outfielder when he was here.

    Arcia was already bulky and cumbersome as a 22-year-old rookie and that's only likely to worsen as he gets older and grows, but hopefully he'll smooth out some of his rough edges with experience.

    Neither Kubel nor Arcia is ideal as a regular outfielder, but I think both make more sense than Willingham, who is likely the worst defensive option of the three even before taking into account the protection of his aging knees.

    On the offensive side, all three are going to strike out a lot. Last year both Kubel and Arcia fanned in more than 30 percent of their plate appearances, placing them among the most K-prone hitters in the majors. Willingham, at 27 percent, was not far behind.

    A high volume of whiffs isn't too unusual for power hitters, but when you strike out in nearly a third of your trips to the plate, production tends to be stifled.

    Then again, while each has his dangers, I see solid offensive upside in all three players being discussed. Willingham has a long track record of success, Arcia possesses the strength to become dominant if his approach improves, and Kubel will be more motivated than ever knowing his career (along with several million bucks) is on the line.

    There's going to be a lot of mixing and matching involved with the designated hitter position this year. Ron Gardenhire will be put to the test strategically by juggling numerous considerations, such as keeping Willingham's legs rested, giving Arcia the occasional mental break, preventing Kubel from matching up against any southpaws, and above all fielding a competent defense.

    In that respect, it's easy to see why the Twins chose to maintain flexibility at DH rather than signing a bopper to plug in there. That doesn't mean they're not expecting plenty of bop from the position.
    This article was originally published in blog: Position Battle: Designated Hitter started by Nick Nelson
    Comments 44 Comments
    1. gil4's Avatar
      gil4 -
      Quote Originally Posted by Don't Feed the Greed Guy View Post
      The problem with this logic is that it's based on long term strategy. It's the difference between strategy and tactics. Winning the war requires strategy, but winning a battle requires the proper tactics. Strategy is big picture, like wanting to be competitive in 2015. This is Terry Ryan's job.

      Ron Gardenhire's job is to fill out a lineup every day, based upon tactics: pitching matchups, who's healthy, who needs a day off, who's hot, etc... I hope the Twins make day-to-day tactical decisions in order to win ballgames, rather than whether or not Willingham can be dealt by the trading deadline.

      One would hope the SecDef (GM) would share the strategy with the CJCS (Manager) to allow the tactics to support the strategy. That said, I'm not sure that playing Willingham in the field on a consistent basis is sound strategically or tactically. Nick had the money quote: "I don't think other teams are going to get excited about the possibility of him in left from watching him out there."
    1. jokin's Avatar
      jokin -
      Quote Originally Posted by Reginald Maudling's Shin View Post
      I don't know that having Willingham play left for another few months is going to prove anything. Any potential trade parter will have done their homework and scouted him enough to know he's not a good fielder.

      Alot of teams with at least a reasonably good-to-great CF won't care, as long as they think Josh can produce somewhere between his career .830 OPS/122 OPS+ and his .890 OPS/143 OPS+ and, particularly in the case of NL teams, at least filed the majority of balls hit in his general direction. Josh playing in the field "minimally successful", helps his potential trade value dramatically, plus, as noted previously, he produces at a much higher rate when playing both ways.
    1. mike wants wins's Avatar
      mike wants wins -
      What is the trade delta worth, in terms of losing more games this year, asusming this is a fly ball staff and he costs them runs (and you have a worse DH too)?

      do they move from a AAAA player to a legit MLB starter? Do they move from an iffy prospect to a sure fire prospect? What is that delta worth? How many runs are you willing to give up in the field, and make your "we spent over 90MM on FA!" pitchers look bad?
    1. ashburyjohn's Avatar
      ashburyjohn -
      Quote Originally Posted by cmathewson View Post
      If Kubel's defense is that much better, swap them out. I'm not convinced that it is.
      I haven't seen Kubel play but if he still can / will dive for balls hit in front of him, that will be his advantage. I believe Hammer just can't risk his back anymore. Aside from that I'd expect their defense to be about the same - lumberingly slow but otherwise sound.
    1. cmathewson's Avatar
      cmathewson -
      Quote Originally Posted by ashburyjohn View Post
      I haven't seen Kubel play but if he still can / will dive for balls hit in front of him, that will be his advantage. I believe Hammer just can't risk his back anymore. Aside from that I'd expect their defense to be about the same - lumberingly slow but otherwise sound.
      That's about what I thought. Also, Kubes has the better arm. Willingham just does not hit as well as a DH historically. All things considered, the team will score more runs with Kubel as the DH than it would prevent with Kubel as the left fielder.
    1. thetank's Avatar
      thetank -
      I'm wondering if Willingham would get released if he is hitting .200 at the end of May? I'm not sure if he is going to bounce back at his age?
    1. TheLeviathan's Avatar
      TheLeviathan -
      Quote Originally Posted by jokin View Post
      Alot of teams with at least a reasonably good-to-great CF won't care, as long as they think Josh can produce somewhere between his career .830 OPS/122 OPS+ and his .890 OPS/143 OPS+ and, particularly in the case of NL teams, at least filed the majority of balls hit in his general direction. Josh playing in the field "minimally successful", helps his potential trade value dramatically, plus, as noted previously, he produces at a much higher rate when playing both ways.
      Nick said it already but I'll try another way: Willingham being in left field is not the same as him being able to play left field. It's not going to fool anyone, in fact, it may actually be illuminating. (In the wrong way for trade value)
    1. Nick Nelson's Avatar
      Nick Nelson -
      I'm just surprised that anyone thinks Willingham will even be serviceable in the outfield at this point. He barely was when he was two years younger with healthy knees.

      I'm not going to draw any conclusions about Hammer's ability to hit at DH because of his numbers in a 450-PA sample at the position, especially when 150 of those plate appearances came last year when he was frequently playing DH because he was hampered by an injury that clearly took a toll on his performance at the plate.
    1. lightfoot789's Avatar
      lightfoot789 -
      With our organizational outfield depth being one of our bright spots:

      Lets fantasize that each prospect and current 25 man roster outfielder reaches their potential. Who are the outfielders of the future? 2017 thru 2022
      Oswaldo Arcia
      Byron Buxton
      Aaron Hicks
      Eddie Rosario
      Chris Parmelee
      Max Kepler
      AB Walker
      JD Williams
      Who provides the best combination (O/D) to win championships?
      PICK 4 & Explain why?
    1. cmathewson's Avatar
      cmathewson -
      Quote Originally Posted by lightfoot789 View Post
      With our organizational outfield depth being one of our bright spots:

      Lets fantasize that each prospect and current 25 man roster outfielder reaches their potential. Who are the outfielders of the future? 2017 thru 2022
      Oswaldo Arcia
      Byron Buxton
      Aaron Hicks
      Eddie Rosario
      Chris Parmelee
      Max Kepler
      AB Walker
      JD Williams
      Who provides the best combination (O/D) to win championships?
      PICK 4 & Explain why?
      This seems like another thread altogether. This thread is about 2014. I assume Hicks and Arcia are part of the mix. Parmelee is a possible dark horse, but his two previous opportunities didn't go that well. Buxton is unlikely to see a major league locker room until September at the earliest. Ditto Rosario, and then only if he moves back to the outfield after what looked like a permanent move to second base. Of the others, Kepler has the best chance of ending up in a major league uni. But that is years away, and then as likely at first base as in the outfield.

      Long term, I dream of an outfield of Rosario (7), Buxton (8) and Hicks (9) with Arcia at DH and Kepler at first base.
    1. USAFChief's Avatar
      USAFChief -
      Quote Originally Posted by Nick Nelson View Post
      I'm just surprised that anyone thinks Willingham will even be serviceable in the outfield at this point. He barely was when he was two years younger with healthy knees.I'm not going to draw any coHutunclusions about Hammer's ability to hit at DH because of his numbers in a 450-PA sample at the position, especially when 150 of those plate appearances came last year when he was frequently playing DH because he was hampered by an injury that clearly took a toll on his performance at the plate.
      Thus why you might want to play Willingham in LF if the goal is to trade him midseason. Any potential trade partner is likely going to want to know if he can still play defense at 2012 levels, or if he's gotten worse.
    1. Dantes929's Avatar
      Dantes929 -
      I agree that you should throw away the stats that say Willingham at DH is a bad idea just because his stats as DH haven't been as good. As pointed out earlier he only DHed full time when he was hurt. Blame the injury rather than the position. Personally, I would like to see Willingham DH, Arcia in right full time, Hicks in center and once Sano gets called up have Kubel and Plouffe platoon in left. Kubel and Plouffe have splits that scream platoon and whoever is left still provides a threat on the bench.
    1. tobi0040's Avatar
      tobi0040 -
      Quote Originally Posted by cmathewson View Post
      This seems like another thread altogether. This thread is about 2014. I assume Hicks and Arcia are part of the mix. Parmelee is a possible dark horse, but his two previous opportunities didn't go that well. Buxton is unlikely to see a major league locker room until September at the earliest. Ditto Rosario, and then only if he moves back to the outfield after what looked like a permanent move to second base. Of the others, Kepler has the best chance of ending up in a major league uni. But that is years away, and then as likely at first base as in the outfield.

      Long term, I dream of an outfield of Rosario (7), Buxton (8) and Hicks (9) with Arcia at DH and Kepler at first base.
      I would say Buxton is a near lock at CF, Arcia is a near lock at DH. From there I would like to see Hicks or Rosario, whoever pans out the best in one of the corner spots. The excess traded for pitching or a short stop.

      The idea of 3 CF's in the outfield sounds great defensively, but I would like one masher in one corner. This is a relatively easy place to find guys on the FA market. Think Cruz 1 year $8M. We can hide the defense to an extent with two CF's next to him.
    1. Dantes929's Avatar
      Dantes929 -
      Why are we assuming Willingham goes to the NL? Only a few teams are really strong at DH. Marinez, Butler and Ortiz stand out. Others, not so much.
    1. tobi0040's Avatar
      tobi0040 -
      Quote Originally Posted by Dantes929 View Post
      Why are we assuming Willingham goes to the NL? Only a few teams are really strong at DH. Marinez, Butler and Ortiz stand out. Others, not so much.
      I don't think we are assuming that. But keeping 30 teams in the running versus 15 should help us get a better return.
    1. Dantes929's Avatar
      Dantes929 -
      Hicks, Buxton and Rosario all project to have decent power but just as importantly good OBP. Arcia looks to be a decent power hitter and Sano will be the masher. I would expect Buxton, Arcia, Rosario, Dozier, Mauer, Pinto, and Hicks to hit at least 10 homers each in a full season with an average more like 15. Add Sano with 30, a shortstop with 10 and about 20 more from the bench. That is pretty decent power. The importance of outfield defense coverage is underrated in my opinion. If Buxton, Rosario and Hicks all pan out I would love to keep them. I will take good power, good OBP and great defense over very good power, ok OBP and mediocre defense any day at any position.
    1. tobi0040's Avatar
      tobi0040 -
      Quote Originally Posted by Dantes929 View Post
      Hicks, Buxton and Rosario all project to have decent power but just as importantly good OBP. Arcia looks to be a decent power hitter and Sano will be the masher. I would expect Buxton, Arcia, Rosario, Dozier, Mauer, Pinto, and Hicks to hit at least 10 homers each in a full season with an average more like 15. Add Sano with 30, a shortstop with 10 and about 20 more from the bench. That is pretty decent power. The importance of outfield defense coverage is underrated in my opinion. If Buxton, Rosario and Hicks all pan out I would love to keep them. I will take good power, good OBP and great defense over very good power, ok OBP and mediocre defense any day at any position.
      This lineup does not look like we will hit many HR's. Certainly guys like Buxton or Rosario could develop more power, but the lineup below looks a little HR challenged to me, save Sano and Arcia.


      1B - Mauer
      2B - Dozier/Polanco
      SS - Draft pick or defensive SS
      3B - Sano
      DH - Arcia
      OF - Hicks
      CF - Buxton
      OF - Rosario
      C - Pinto
    1. Dantes929's Avatar
      Dantes929 -
      "This lineup does not look like we will hit many HR's. Certainly guys like Buxton or Rosario could develop more power, but the lineup below looks a little HR challenged to me, save Sano and Arcia." Home runs were the closest offensive category the Twins got to league average last year. We were 18th but just 4 below the average. That lineup loses Morneau Willingham and Doumit which had a total of 45 homers. Those are the at bats that Sano, Buxton and Rosario would be replacing. Lets assume Sano doesn't hit 55 himself but can pick up 35. If Buxton and Rosario just hit 10 a piece we are still middle of the pack. I guess with the horrible OBP and strikeout stats of the last couple years as well as the fact that that this team would have good speed and great outfield coverage in a pitcher's park I place a little less emphasis on home runs. In fact, from my point of view, contrary to popular belief the 2013 team was swinging for the fences and trying to pull the ball way too much. That is a big reason the power numbers were ok but the rest of it was absolutely horrible. OBP is king with me and if Sano does hit 35 homers it will be the difference between him having 75 RBI to show for it or 100 RBI.
    1. jokin's Avatar
      jokin -
      Quote Originally Posted by TheLeviathan View Post
      Nick said it already but I'll try another way: Willingham being in left field is not the same as him being able to play left field. It's not going to fool anyone, in fact, it may actually be illuminating. (In the wrong way for trade value)
      I don't think anyone is talking about fooling anyone. If someone really needs a bat, it's a question if they would be willing to put up with his obvious inadequacies. Demonstrating his health at this point is more important than demonstrating his competency (or lack thereof).
    1. jimbo92107's Avatar
      jimbo92107 -
      I don't agree with plugging Willingham in at LF until the deadline. Teams already know that he's slow, got an iron glove, but otherwise has an accurate, average velocity throw to second, cutoff and third. That impression won't change at the trade deadline. In fact, potential trade partners might prefer if the Twins don't wear out Hammer's somewhat vulnerable knees by mid-season.

      The best technical outfielder of the three is Kubel, by a good margin. He positions himself well, anticipates well, takes good lines, and his arm is very accurate, tho nothing intimidating to a guy rounding first base. Arcia looks to have good potential, but needs a ton of repetitions and needs to work on his footwork throwing. Otherwise he's got very good velocity, and reasonable accuracy, but not as consistently accurate as the other two.

      I'd go about half and half with Hammer and Kubel at DH, and play Arcia in RF as much as possible. Should be really interesting how things shake out in spring training. If Buxton looks as good then as he did in the minors, why send him down? And if Hicks also has a good spring, then what does that do to the outfield? It would be nice to have two or three legit outfielders for a change. Buxton, Hicks and Arcia. I'd buy a ticket to see that right now.
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