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  • Four Thoughts From Port Charlotte


    The Twins made the short trip up to Port Charlotte Thursday night to take on the Rays. Scott Diamond, making his case for the fifth spot in the rotation, faced the same team that effectively knocked Vance Worley out of the running two nights earlier.

    The Twins fell 5-4, their third loss in three tries since I arrived in Florida on Monday. There were a few interesting tidbits to be gleaned from the contest so let's dive in.

    * Diamond looked quite good through the first four innings. He was attacking the lower part of the zone and inducing tons of ground balls -- exactly what the Twins are looking for from him.

    Then, in the fifth, he lost his command, walking three batters to load the bases before Ron Gardenhire removed him with one out. Brian Duensing entered in relief and allowed all three runs to score, inflating Diamond's spring ERA to 5.79.

    Was stamina the issue? That would be troubling. Between Diamond, Worley, Samuel Deduno and Kyle Gibson, only Gibson has completed five innings in a spring start. We're 10 days away from the season opener.

    * Tropicana Field, the Rays' regular-season home, is widely viewed as one of the worst stadiums in the majors, but I found no reason to complain about their spring training venue. Charlotte Sports Park is a small but charming facility, offering intimate views from all around the field.

    Following the walkway beyond the outfield walls, you can look over the railing on one side for a close view of the bullpens, and on the other side to find a nice scenic pond.

    The park also hosts the organization's High-A affiliate and is less than an hour and a half away from Tampa. Pretty cool setup for Rays fans.

    * The Twins offense looked stagnant again on Thursday, failing to score for the first seven innings before finally breaking out with a few RBI singles against Jake Odorizzi in the eighth and ninth. It was the third straight day we've seen the Minnesota lineup struggle to put anything together.

    Gardenhire seems exasperated. Although the ride to Port Charlotte isn't a long one (certainly compared to Jupiter) it's rare to see a manager take so many projected regulars on a bus trip.

    He's playing around with his lineup and in this game he tried out Kurt Suzuki in the No. 2 spot. That's an uninspired choice (Suzuki has a .282 OBP over the last two years) but it's not like Gardy has a lot of options at this point.

    * One bright spot in the game offensively was Aaron Hicks, who went 4-for-4. In his first at-bat he cranked a liner over Desmond Jennings' head in center and would have had a double if he hadn't slipped rounding first. In his next at-bat he got his double, sending a one-hopper over the wall down the left field line.

    Both knocks came from the right side, where his swing has always looked quite a bit better. He did add two more singles from the left side.

    Hicks is now hitting .375 this spring, so based on performance he's blowing away Alex Presley (.161). Of course, Hicks also hit .370 last spring.

    One approach that Gardenhire might consider in center, early on, is a timeshare of sorts. Give Hicks all the starts against lefties while getting Presley into the lineup frequently versus righties, against whom he's much stronger. As the season progresses, and Hicks (hopefully) hits and gains confidence, transition him more and more into a full-time role.
    Comments 20 Comments
    1. ashburyjohn's Avatar
      ashburyjohn -
      One approach that Gardenhire might consider in center, early on, is a timeshare of sorts.
      Is this because Gardy is allergic to the word "platoon"?
    1. jokin's Avatar
      jokin -
      How did Mr. Everywhere look in RF for his late-inning appearance? (Had to be better than Arcia, who misplayed yet another fly ball early on- I can understand why you wanted to keep your article to "four thoughts" only, Nick. It's going to suck to be a fly ball pitcher with both Willy and Arcia out there at the same time.)

      Sounds like Diamond is looking to hang on as the second lefty RP on the major league roster? They haven't even given Deduno a chance to go beyond 3 innings. Worley is obviously turned himself into a non-factor for consideration. Is it Gibson by default? To this point, no one has seen that one coming.
    1. AM.'s Avatar
      AM. -
      "Give Hicks all the starts against lefties while getting Presley into the lineup frequently versus righties, against whom he's much stronger."

      What is this magical concept you are talking about, Nick?
    1. cmathewson's Avatar
      cmathewson -
      According to Bernardino, Bartlett handled two chances in RF flawlessly, one was "tricky." In his lone at bat, he worked the count full, fouled off three tough pitches, and then lined and RBI single.
    1. Don't Feed the Greed Guy's Avatar
      Don't Feed the Greed Guy -
      Before booking a timeshare (or resorting off to a platoon) it's always good to look at the numbers.

      Aaron Hicks' MLB & AAA:
      2013 vs. RHP as LHB = .186/.255/.308 in 310 plate appearances.
      2013 vs. LHP as RHB = .236/.317/.444 in 82 plate appearances.
      2013 vs. RHP as RHB = .500/.667/.500 in 3 plate appearances.

      AA
      2012 vs. RHP as LHB = .287/.394/.434 in 407 plate appearances.
      2012 vs. LHP as RHB = .283/.359/.522 in 183 plate appearances.

      A+
      2011 vs. RHP as LHB = .230/.358/.356 in 340 plate appearances.
      2011 vs. LHP as RHB = .263/.349/.401 in 190 plate appearances.

      Alex Presley's career MLB splits (2010-2013):
      LHB vs. RHP = .264/.308/.426 in 634 plate appearances.
      LHB vs. LHP = .264/.290/.360 in 187 plate appearances.

      Granted, Hicks' performance against RHP was horrendous last year, but I'm not exactly enamored with Presley's .308 career OBP against righties either. I'm in favor of letting this Hicks kid hit until Presley, Buxton, Rosario or someone else eclipses his future by burning more brightly by the end of 2014-2015.

      If it were all this simple... Circle 3/20/2013 on your calendar and remember Hicks' 4 for 4 performance as the day he heard Rob Anthony's wake up call, "I wish somebody would step up."

      At any rate, it's a great opportunity. Now is the time for Hicks to step up against LHP and RHP.
    1. twinsfan34's Avatar
      twinsfan34 -
      Quote Originally Posted by Old Twins Cap View Post
      Offense is the problem this year, that's been clear for awhile. Gardy has been quoted talking about wanting to keep "the veterans" Kubel and Barlett. Hopefully, Anthony won't allow that kind of stupidity. If you are going to lose games, and offense is the reason, then let young players get a taste of losing, and put together an understanding of how you overcome that in the major leagues. I watched Gaetti, Hrbek, Puckett, Gagne, Lombardozzi, et al, lose, lose, lose, until they won the World Series. But to lose with guys that have no future.... I don't even begin to understand how dumb that is. As a fan, I can say, that's so dumb, I won't spend my money to watch it at Target Field.
      My thinking is along these lines too.

      I think Hicks, Arcia, Meyer, Pinto, etc should start in MLB, assuming they all start.

      I would put Kubel, Bartlett, and any of the poorly performing fringe-make-the-roster types in AAA.

      Why? This seems backwards...

      Well, here me out. Many teams try the veterans out in MLB and if they stink, well honestly you lost good development time for the rookies and just plain put a poor product on the field.

      If the rookies rake in AAA, it's still not MLB. So you haven't really solved anything, A LOT of guys rake AAA, but not MLB. Objective: if a hitter, Hit MLB, or if a pitcher, beat MLB hitters.

      If the rookies don't rake at MLB, well, they have data points to go back to AAA to work on.

      The opposite doesn't really work. Raking at AAA doesn't matter and if the veterans suck at MLB, that's wasted time/opportunity and learning experience (actually facing MLB pitching/hitting) for the young guys.

      It's rather simple logic and I've seen many times where teams tried old/aging veterans for 1-2 months that hit .220 and struck out 40% of the time or pitchers who brought BP to MLB. It's not productive.

      This is especially in Hicks' case. He needs to be the opening day CF and play.

      If he doesn't do well, he can go to AAA.

      But Bartlett, Kubel, etc...they need to rake now (they haven't) to get a MLB spot. Honestly, they've looked awful. I will confess Kubel's ABs have seemed better, but still not 'there'. So if they go to AAA and earn a spot in MLB, great, they need to hit .300 plus. If not, the context of the 2014 team isn't needing guys who are 31 to 34 years old who can hit .265-.275 (or worse) at the MLB level. Not going to put a dent in the old ironsides (aka the Win column) for 2014 and much less beyond (age factor/multiplier will continue to apply).

      I don't think Hicks' service time will be that great big of a factor. I'm not a GM. But 3 years down the year (service year 5) if Hicks is hitting well and playing well, try a long term deal in year 4. There's so many other factors, Buxton's hitting .340 and playing great CF...Arcia is hitting 35 bombs, and little Max Kepler (or whoever) is hitting well and is cheaper, then do what the other small market teams do (A's, Rays) - if Hicks has value and isn't signable for salary that works - he will bring value back in a trade.

      Don't sacrifice a bird in your hand for two in the bush.

      Hicks needs to play now, and the young guys need to see MLB competition. AAA data points/competition won't work out MLB competition issues. MLB competition will. The only time AAA helps is if you're at AA/A+ level and if it's actually a step up. (I consider AA to have better talent than AAA - ask MLB vets, they'll say the same - from David Ortiz to Giancarlos Stanton, etc etc etc. Manny Machado). Especially after June, as at this point AAA prospects who raked and have passed the super 2 date are in MLB and AAA is mostly 26-32 year old AAAA players.

      If the MLB guys rake at AAA...and the rookies need some confidence boosters...then do the switch. But this season, for all intents and purposes, is really trying to make 2015/2016 a better reality.
    1. USAFChief's Avatar
      USAFChief -
      I want Hicks in the big leagues. But if he's not going to play every day, send him to Rochester. I am strongly opposed to a "time share" with Pressley. Especially one where he sits against RH pitching, which would mean he sits 2/3 of the time.

      While I want the Twins to win, now, I don't think Pressley is a way to accomplish that. Nor is playing Pressley going to help the future. The offense is going to struggle, but that's on the front office. At least they should play guys who might help at some point down the road.
    1. Nick Nelson's Avatar
      Nick Nelson -
      Quote Originally Posted by ashburyjohn View Post
      Is this because Gardy is allergic to the word "platoon"?
      Pretty much, but I also didn't use that word because I don't think a strict platoon is the right call. Hicks wouldn't be getting enough ABs under that scenario since most pitchers are righties, and he needs to be swinging from the left side some. Holding him out against tougher RHPs early in the season might not be a bad idea though.
    1. scottz's Avatar
      scottz -
      Presley is a 4th outfielder. If they want him on the roster as a pinch runner and defensive substitute for Willingham/Arcia in the 8th inning, great, keep him for that reason. Give him one start a week against the toughest righthander of those 6-7 games.

      Playing him as a starter instead of a pinch runner/defensive improvement late in games/spot starter to give someone a rest is a little like playing Nick Punto as a starter.
    1. Dantes929's Avatar
      Dantes929 -
      "Is it Gibson by default? To this point, no one has seen that one coming. " I know the place from which this comment comes but it obscures the fact that Deduno has done quite well but hasn't had the chance to go 5 and the fact that, thus far, Gibson has earned the spot.
    1. Dantes929's Avatar
      Dantes929 -
      Water under the bridge but I think the mistake all along was to let Hicks try switch hitting. At best his splits as a lefty against righty are probably similar to what his right vs right would have been. We will never know but I never saw any real benefit to the switch hitting unless it was to work bunting for hits into the equation but we haven't seen any of that anyway.
    1. twinsfan34's Avatar
      twinsfan34 -
      I think there should be some context to 'platoon'...if you're a 88 to 92 Win team or in that 'range', then platoon is maybe something you should consider (Read: You should!).

      If you're a 66 win team, I would think your hope is to try to find guys who can hit both RHP/LHP. There's only so much room for platoon with a team. If MLB had a rule for team with less than .500 records could have say, 40 guys on the MLB traveling team...then platoon away for a competitive advantage. But the Twins, would have to platoon...what...6 positions?

      So, as someone else said up top. Hicks (or anyone else in a similar level) need to hit both sides. Is he a regular or not? that's the question. Find the regulars.

      But platoon in the sense of some day to day matchups...or a 7th innning, put the LH bat in against the lights out RH reliever, absolutely.
    1. birdwatcher's Avatar
      birdwatcher -
      As frustrating as Gardy is about platoons, Please please keep Presley on the bench. And while I'm all in favor of playing the guys with a future (Hicks, Pinto, Arcia, and Tonkin are the only ones that come to mind), I don't see how Kubel or Bartlett are impediments to that, really. Unless one thinks Parmelee, Escobar, or Collabello are part of our future I guess. Still, I'm totally uninspired by the thought of watching Kubel and Bartlett play baseball this summer, and really hate the notion of both Escobar and Bartlett as bench players. More and more, it's looking to be a long summer. Sigh.
    1. ericchri's Avatar
      ericchri -
      Quote Originally Posted by scottz View Post
      Give him one start a week against the toughest righthander of those 6-7 games.
      Part of me immediately agrees with this, and part of me says, "how is that fair?" I understand the goal is to build up Aaron Hicks, not Alex Presley, but how can you look Presley in the face and say, "you only get to play when we're facing Justin Verlander or Felix Hernandez." Presley needs to have a chance to succeed as well, and does only facing the worst right-handers really develop Hicks to be able to succeed long-term?

      This is mostly rhetorical musing, and I don't really have an answer, I just find that a really tough concept to swallow, that Presley only gets the toughest Righties to start against.
    1. JB_Iowa's Avatar
      JB_Iowa -
      Quote Originally Posted by ericchri View Post
      This is mostly rhetorical musing, and I don't really have an answer, I just find that a really tough concept to swallow, that Presley only gets the toughest Righties to start against.
      I don't see any of this as a big problem -- Presley will be the 4th OUTFIELDER not just the backup Centerfielder. Arcia and Willingham aren't going to play in the field every game. The likelihood of Kubel spending a lot of time in the outfield isn't all that high.

      I think that both Hicks and Presley will get a chance to play.
    1. ashburyjohn's Avatar
      ashburyjohn -
      Quote Originally Posted by ericchri View Post
      "you only get to play when we're facing Justin Verlander or Felix Hernandez."
      If this is a time-share, it's like getting the condo in Florida only when there's a hurricane in the forecast.
    1. jimbo92107's Avatar
      jimbo92107 -
      Quote Originally Posted by twinsfan34 View Post
      My thinking is along these lines too.

      I think Hicks, Arcia, Meyer, Pinto, etc should start in MLB, assuming they all start.

      I would put Kubel, Bartlett, and any of the poorly performing fringe-make-the-roster types in AAA.

      Why? This seems backwards...
      Not backwards at all. From a developmental standpoint this seems completely logical, assuming the team wants to bring along young players and possibly help older veterans regain their previous form.

      I agree completely with your take on this stuff. Older vets like Kubel should go down to AAA and see if they can dominate, like well over .300 against minor league pitchers. Meanwhile, guys like Hicks should be given extended chances to see if they can find a groove against MLB competition.

      I would say the same thing about marginal guys like Scott Diamond. He should be able to dominate AAA before he gets another shot at starting here. And he should dominate for at least seven innings, not four or five. There's not much point keeping around "starters" that can't finish six innings without getting pounded.
    1. ericchri's Avatar
      ericchri -
      Quote Originally Posted by JB_Iowa View Post
      I don't see any of this as a big problem -- Presley will be the 4th OUTFIELDER not just the backup Centerfielder. Arcia and Willingham aren't going to play in the field every game. The likelihood of Kubel spending a lot of time in the outfield isn't all that high.

      I think that both Hicks and Presley will get a chance to play.
      You're right, of course. I overlooked that he'd get occasional starts in left or right. But I still don't see the logic in always sitting Hicks when a tough righty is pitching. Is Presley more likely to get hits than Hicks against Verlander? Give Presley occasional starts in CF, and pretty much only against righties? Sure, that makes sense. Cherry-picking only the best righties, though?
    1. JB_Iowa's Avatar
      JB_Iowa -
      Quote Originally Posted by ericchri View Post
      Sure, that makes sense. Cherry-picking only the best righties, though?
      Despite what is posted here, I doubt that is going to happen. It will depend on who is hot (like always) and who has played recently and whether someone is hurting and whether they are trying to build someone's trade value, etc.
    1. cmathewson's Avatar
      cmathewson -
      Quote Originally Posted by Don't Feed the Greed Guy View Post
      Before booking a timeshare (or resorting off to a platoon) it's always good to look at the numbers.

      Aaron Hicks' MLB & AAA:
      2013 vs. RHP as LHB = .186/.255/.308 in 310 plate appearances.
      2013 vs. LHP as RHB = .236/.317/.444 in 82 plate appearances.
      2013 vs. RHP as RHB = .500/.667/.500 in 3 plate appearances.

      AA
      2012 vs. RHP as LHB = .287/.394/.434 in 407 plate appearances.
      2012 vs. LHP as RHB = .283/.359/.522 in 183 plate appearances.

      A+
      2011 vs. RHP as LHB = .230/.358/.356 in 340 plate appearances.
      2011 vs. LHP as RHB = .263/.349/.401 in 190 plate appearances.

      Alex Presley's career MLB splits (2010-2013):
      LHB vs. RHP = .264/.308/.426 in 634 plate appearances.
      LHB vs. LHP = .264/.290/.360 in 187 plate appearances.

      Granted, Hicks' performance against RHP was horrendous last year, but I'm not exactly enamored with Presley's .308 career OBP against righties either. I'm in favor of letting this Hicks kid hit until Presley, Buxton, Rosario or someone else eclipses his future by burning more brightly by the end of 2014-2015.

      If it were all this simple... Circle 3/20/2013 on your calendar and remember Hicks' 4 for 4 performance as the day he heard Rob Anthony's wake up call, "I wish somebody would step up."

      At any rate, it's a great opportunity. Now is the time for Hicks to step up against LHP and RHP.
      This. But I wouldn't put too much stock in the correlation between Antony's motivational speech and Hicks 4-4 night. Hicks missed the first week of Spring Training and was playing catch up in the second week, but still putting good at bats together while getting about a hit a game with a few walks mixed in. When Antony made those comments, he was in the middle of a 6 for 7 streak, which should continue for a while, if his past streaks are any indication.

      On the greater issues, Hicks is a better left-handed hitter than Presley. He's a much better right-handed hitter, especially in the power dimension. And a much better fielder. It's really no competition.
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