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  • Twins Need Plouffe's Strength

    "You want to work on your weaknesses, but you can't forget to work on your strengths."

    Wise words from Trevor Plouffe, and ones that can be forgotten amidst all the spring talk of ironing out wrinkles and fixing flaws.

    Plouffe knows the weaknesses that he needs to work on, but he's not forgetting about the strengths that have made him the Twins' principal third baseman for two years running. And the greatest of those strengths is… well, strength.

    He's a well-built specimen at 6'2" with muscular arms that become much more noticeable when he's standing by the batting practice shell in a spandex shirt.

    His cannon arm kept him at shortstop throughout the minors and is the main reason the Twins still believe in him at third base despite frequent frustrations with his reactions and footwork.

    His powerful bat famously helped him produce 18 homers over a 39-game stretch in the summer of 2012.

    That's a strength that the Twins would really like to see shine through this year, because there are serious questions about where the right-handed power in this lineup is going to come from.

    Josh Willingham is trying to bounce back from a tough knee injury at age 35, and I've heard multiple people down here comment that he's really looking his age. Aaron Hicks and Josmil Pinto have the potential to provide punch from the right side, but both are mostly unproven.

    It's Plouffe that looks to be the most reliable source of righty power. But how to recapture the magic that led to that crazy homer binge two years ago?

    "I just think that sometimes you go through streaks like that," he says. "Obviously everyone would like to prolong those and get in those as much as possible."

    "But the big thing for me is just pitch recognition, getting the pitch in my zone. That's something that comes with a good base and a good foundation so that's what we're working on here, getting myself in a good position to see the ball and be able to turn on the ball and also take it the other way."

    Of course, it's going to help if he can improve his overall game, so that's also been a focus for the 27-year-old. He's excited to have Paul Molitor added to the coaching staff and says he's making the most of that opportunity.

    "Coming in this spring I knew I needed to get in here and work with Molitor, because he's a guy that you can pick his brain and learn a lot of different things."

    Plouffe has been attacking some particular areas of his fielding game and feels good about where he's at.

    "Specifically I guess just angles at third base, pre-pitch setup that gets you in a good position to move. I think I've made some big strides there."

    The Twins are hoping so, because their best fallback plan at the hot corner is no longer in the mix. Miguel Sano is gone all year, and his presence in the stands on a minor-league field the other day with a giant cast on his right arm served as a sobering reminder of that.

    Does the delayed arrival of the elite power-hitting prospect, whose immense strength overshadows even Plouffe's, serve to relieve some pressure for the incumbent? He says no.

    "I don't think there was ever really any pressure," Plouffe opines. "I'm going to prepare the same way. I'm not wanting him to be injured, I'm wanting him to do well and come help our team out."

    That's not going to happen this year anymore, so it falls on Plouffe to hold down the position, and to infuse this shaky lineup with some badly needed pop.

    So far this spring, he's hitting just .229/.325/.257, but he's also an example of how the statistics down here can be deceiving. I've seen him hit into several unlucky outs in the games I've watched, including Thursday night when two well struck liners to straightaway center ended up in the fielder's mitt.

    On the bright side, he has drawn five walks in 40 plate appearances, suggesting some improvement in another area of weakness. Last year Plouffe walked only 34 times in 522 trips for a 6.5 percent rate that was nearly identical to, for example, notorious hacker Carlos Gomez.

    Improved patience will certainly help Plouffe round out his offensive game and get him back to seeing the pitches that he can drive over the wall, allowing his greatest strength to carry him once again.
    Comments 25 Comments
    1. tobi0040's Avatar
      tobi0040 -
      It seems needs to be a power hitter if he is going to be in the league in 3-4 years. But I agree, a little more patience and maybe not trying to pull a ball over the LF wall in an 0-2 count are good strategies. More patience at the plate usually means better pitches to hit.
    1. Winston Smith's Avatar
      Winston Smith -
      You take out that 39 game stretch in a now 351 game career and his numbers are really bad!

      Who's the real Plouffe that 39 game guy or the other 312 game guy? I won't mention that 351 games of sub par defense oops just did.

      On the other hand we don't really have an option do we?
    1. Dantes929's Avatar
      Dantes929 -
      I've never really cared for Plouffe as a player. Defensively, its not just the range, its the lack of intensity or ferocity. I have seen hard smashes at him where he turns to the side and tries to field it like a goalie. I have seen in between hoppers where he hops back with two feet as if he is afraid the ball will hurt him somehow. I just believe to play great defense at third you have to be a little accepting of the ball hitting you in the chest. Offensively, he just appears to be able to hit waist high and middle in. However, if we can take his public comments at face value I really like his attitude and am pulling for him to be successful. Down the road if Sano is the real deal that won't necessarily mean there will be no place for Plouffe. DH, 1st base and outfield should all be options.
    1. twinsnorth49's Avatar
      twinsnorth49 -
      Quote Originally Posted by Winston Smith View Post
      You take out that 39 game stretch in a now 351 game career and his numbers are really bad!

      Who's the real Plouffe that 39 game guy or the other 312 game guy? I won't mention that 351 games of sub par defense oops just did.

      On the other hand we don't really have an option do we?
      Agreed, Plouffe just doesn't have the track record or pedigree for us to believe this is any more than blind hope.
    1. Steve_h's Avatar
      Steve_h -
      I'm not sure I'm ready to give up on Plouffe. Sure there's areas of his game I'm not crazy about. Defensive lapses are concerning and so is his inability to drive in runs. In 2012, his 24 HRs had to drive in the fewest runs had to be as inconsequential as anyone with 24 HRs could have. However, I like that his OPS has climbed in each year, except for 2013. Maybe that has to do with decreasing walks as much as anything. With no Sano this year, I'm ok with another heavy dose of him at 3B in 2014, but we need to see the OPS climb again.
    1. Willihammer's Avatar
      Willihammer -
      I wonder if Plouffe should take a page out of the Dozier playbook and do something about the leg kick. Seems kinda big and kinda late.
    1. drock2190's Avatar
      drock2190 -
      Its a shame he got hurt when he was on that hot streak.

      He was beasting for the Twins and my fantasy team. Ever since he came back, hes been mediocre at best.
    1. tobi0040's Avatar
      tobi0040 -
      Quote Originally Posted by drock2190 View Post
      Its a shame he got hurt when he was on that hot streak.

      He was beasting for the Twins and my fantasy team. Ever since he came back, hes been mediocre at best.
      I wonder if he would not have some trade value. His career .711 OPS would have been 16th among 3B last year.

      http://espn.go.com/mlb/stats/batting...OPS/order/true
    1. ashburyjohn's Avatar
      ashburyjohn -
      Quote Originally Posted by tobi0040 View Post
      I wonder if he would not have some trade value. His career .711 OPS would have been 16th among 3B last year.

      http://espn.go.com/mlb/stats/batting...OPS/order/true
      Without going through the work of looking at the teams lacking a player higher on the list, I would guess that most have part-timers or near-ready prospects they like as well as or better than acquiring our guy. I wouldn't see anyone offering much for Plouffe, a fringe prospect at most.
    1. DAM DC Twins Fans's Avatar
      DAM DC Twins Fans -
      I still think long-term Plouffe is the RF (like Cuddyer). When Sano is ready, move Trevor to RF unless Parmalee or somebody else has grabbed it. I would try it a few times this year.
    1. diehardtwinsfan's Avatar
      diehardtwinsfan -
      While I consider it faint, I do think Plouffe should get one more chance... I hope something clicks and he can break the .800 OPS mark for the season and earn the DH/spare OF job for the next few years... I have the same hope for Parmelee... One of those guys figuring it out would go a long way towards being competitive in the latter part of this decade.
    1. TheLeviathan's Avatar
      TheLeviathan -
      This guy was a one month fluke. I'm going to be thrilled when he's in the role he belongs in- valuable reserve - and not everyday starter.
    1. Halsey Hall's Avatar
      Halsey Hall -
      I call him the luckiest man in the world. 39 games worth of hitting a pitch in a 5" circle made him 2.3 million. LMITW. Nobody throws it there anymore, so he is just filler. I wanted him to be the first move this off season, but he's here on the Hope Ticket still. But there is zero hope from me for him.
    1. lee_the_twins_fan's Avatar
      lee_the_twins_fan -
      Trade Plouffe for whatever you can get. Move Mauer to 3B; They said on one of the Twins games that Mauer was taking grounders at 3B at one of the back fields. If he can throw runners out from home to 2B, he can throw runners out from 3B to 1B. Then put Colabello at 1B. Problem solved.
    1. Bark's Lounge's Avatar
      Bark's Lounge -
      Plouffe will be the starting 3B this season... at least for the first month or so. This is his make or break year. No one knows what kind of player he is.

      He is certainly a substandard defensive player, but does he have a HR juggernaut season in him? We have seen his hot streak and glimpses of something worthwhile, but everything else has been a snore.

      Plouffe needs to "rock it" this year, there are no replacements. Romero is not the answer.
    1. Bark's Lounge's Avatar
      Bark's Lounge -
      Also, Plouffe has no trade value.
    1. ashburyjohn's Avatar
      ashburyjohn -
      Quote Originally Posted by Bark's Lounge View Post
      but does he have a HR juggernaut season in him?
      He can hit homers if the pitch is in a certain place, but when the pitchers stopped pitching there a while back he has been unable to adjust in a way to punish their adjustment. If he did find such an adjustment, it probably wouldn't lead directly to home runs, but (say) beaucoup singles hit the opposite way plus a ton of walks. Only at that point would the pitchers come in again to give him what he actually wants. That would be an equilibrium that I don't think would approach the power numbers we saw in that one magical time period; but it would be highly valuable, either to this team or in trade to another. The question is whether or when he will find the adjustment, but it's been the question for a season and a half now.
    1. jokin's Avatar
      jokin -
      Quote Originally Posted by lee_the_twins_fan View Post
      Trade Plouffe for whatever you can get. Move Mauer to 3B; They said on one of the Twins games that Mauer was taking grounders at 3B at one of the back fields. If he can throw runners out from home to 2B, he can throw runners out from 3B to 1B. Then put Colabello at 1B. Problem solved.
      And new problems created?

      Quote Originally Posted by Bark's Lounge View Post
      Also, Plouffe has no trade value.
      One thing for certain, Plouffe's split against LHP has always been stellar, major and minor league, and he can play all of the corners. Maybe the Orioles?
    1. ashburyjohn's Avatar
      ashburyjohn -
      Quote Originally Posted by jokin View Post
      One thing for certain, Plouffe's split against LHP has always been stellar
      Good point, and my kindergarten batting analysis above would probably pertain only against righties.

      I went and looked up his splits, and in 2013 his BABIP against lefties was just shy of astronomical, .373. Is that at all worrisome? Against lefties it's always SSS, and his 2012 split went the other way for BABIP, so I guess it's not much of an issue - still, I am not sure if his L/R split can be trusted implicitly.
    1. Bark's Lounge's Avatar
      Bark's Lounge -
      Lets ride this horse one more time and see what we have!
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