• Gardenhire announces his outfield plans

    After months of expecting Josh Willingham to move from left field, the outfield position he has played the most in his career, across the turf to right field, Ron Gardenhire has switched courses on that plan.

    Back in February, Gardenhire acknowledged that the experiment of moving Willingham to right field might not work but that they would be ready if he would be unable to adapt to the new position:

    "That's what we are going to do. We're going to try to figure this out in Spring Training. We're going to start out this way and if it looks like it's working OK and he's getting used to that, he'll be out in right field. But if it looks like he's not comfortable in right field, I know the other guys can do it for a fact."

    Prior to Sunday's game, the Twins manager said that Willingham would be his left fielder and not his right fielder has was initially intended.

    "Let's call Josh Willingham my left fielder," Gardenhire said before Sunday afternoon's game with the Cardinals at Roger Dean Stadium.

    Those who have watched him play have rated his arm as being below average. According to Fangraphs.com's Fans Scouting Report his Arm Strength has rated a 45 on a scale of 100 and an even slower release (40). This is not exactly ideal for right field play where those individuals have to make the longer throw to third base in addition to home plate making his transfer back to left field a better idea. Of course, voters think little of his range as well. In those categories - First Step and Speed - Willingham rated 34 and 37 respectively. Meanwhile, the BillJamesOnline.net Plus/Minus system says that he has had troubles over his career in left going back on balls, finishing -21 on deep balls dating back to 2008. Perhaps it was one of both of these factors that played a role in Gardenhire's decision to move Willingham back to his more familiar position.

    So who is going to be the starting right fielder? Gardenhire said the race is between the hot-hitting Chris Parmelee, Trevor Plouffe and Ben Revere (who is likely going to wind up the team's fourth outfielder, according to the team's assistant general manager Rob Antony on 1500ESPN.com).

    Parmelee's clearly earned an opportunity to play for this team with both is previous September performance as well as his torrid spring. However, he is fairly raw when it comes to outfield play. In the past two years in the minors, he's played 57 games in right field. His range factor of 1.86 (RF/G) over his full minor league playing time in right suggests that he isn't a significant liability (by comparison Michael Cuddyer's career range factor in right is 1.87) but he's not going to be a coverage guy in the field either. Likewise Plouffe is also green when it comes to the outfield position, having only played 21 games in the outfield in his professional career.

    Revere, who was the early favorite over the winter, had worked hard during the offseason to get his arm strength up to snuff (whereas Willingham's rated a 45 on Arm Strength, Revere was rated a 4) but the organization seems to have cooled on the idea of him being a starter. While he has been an amazing fly-tracker, reports from Fort Myers is that Revere is struggling when he has to charge balls on the ground.

    Although neither Gardenhire nor Antony mentioned this in their discussion of the outfield alignment, Ryan Doumit's name will very likely be mixed in the lineup in the outfield - particularly if Justin Morneau is a DH and Parmelee is shifted to first base. After dishing out $4 million to him, there is little doubt in my mind that they attempt to get him into the lineup more than two times a week to allow Mauer to rest.

    For the more fly-ball oriented pitchers on this staff, this alignment should raise their anxiety levels just a bit. With Revere and Span, the pitchers had some reassurance that more fly balls would find leather. Now, the gaps are going to get a little bigger. The hope, of course, is that with this alignment, the Twins should have a more potent offense that would off-set the defensive liability.
    This article was originally published in blog: Gardenhire announces his outfield plans started by Parker Hageman
    Comments 31 Comments
    1. Jim Crikket's Avatar
      Jim Crikket -
      Late game defense should still be improved. I'd expect to see Span and Revere filling two OF spots for the final inning or two, similarly to how Gomez and Span were used together late in games 3 years ago. I'm going to continue to hope Willingham isn't the liability that Young was, as well.
    1. woolhouse's Avatar
      woolhouse -
      Revere is going to be kept to spell Span once or twice a week. It's my understanding that Span is still complaining of headaches, whether they stem from last season's concussion or are related to his previous vertigo maladies... I think Revere's strength will come in late-inning defensive replacement and pinch-running.
    1. Seth Stohs's Avatar
      Seth Stohs -
      It's my understanding that Span is still complaining of headaches, whether they stem from last season's concussion or are related to his previous vertigo maladies...
      I haven't read anything about that. Hope not. But I do think Revere would get plenty of time in the OF.
    1. woolhouse's Avatar
      woolhouse -
      It was a week ago when Span was sitting out with neck stiffness. He wasn't sure if it was contributing to the occassional headache, or if he was still having residual effects from the concussion. He had said it was nothing he was worried about, but I think Span will sit more in the first weeks of the season to make sure...
    1. John Bonnes's Avatar
      John Bonnes -
      Wow. I gotta say, this is a death knell for Revere's future as a starting outfielder, at least this year. I've been checked out of spring training games for the last week or so. Has he been struggling? In need of an attitude adjustment? I'll also say that Willingham, IMHO, has not looked bad in right field on those few appearances I've seen of him out there.

      I'm a little stunned about this, to be honest with you. It's a plot twist to be sure.

      But it does make all the puzzle pieces fit together. It protects Morneau. Doumit doesn't have to play first base, which he's said he isn't comfortable with. It rewards Parmelee's torrid spring, and a platoon of Parmelee and Plouffe (or Doumit and plouffe) make nice platoons.
    1. Parker Hageman's Avatar
      Parker Hageman -
      I gotta say, this is a death knell for Revere's future as a starting outfielder, at least this year. I've been checked out of spring training games for the last week or so. Has he been struggling? In need of an attitude adjustment?
      Offensively, no. This spring he's 12-for-37 (.324) with a pair of doubles and three stolen bases. The only comments I've heard is that he is having troubles picking the ball off the ground and that his arm still is not up to snuff (which makes the choice of using him as a RF odd...).

      I'll also say that Willingham, IMHO, has not looked bad in right field on those few appearances I've seen of him out there.
      There was one ball in the Yankees game (I believe...one of the televised ones anyways) in which he made a few steps in and the ball was pounded to the warning track. Happens to everyone but seeing that he rates poorly on making plays behind him, I can see that being more of a trend than a mirage.
    1. Seth Stohs's Avatar
      Seth Stohs -
      The thing is, Willingham is going to be a bad outfielder defensively regardless of which corner spot he takes. Parmelee has played a ton of RF in his minor league career, but none in LF, so that is probably the bigger driver in the decision, in my opinion. Revere sounded resigned to going to Rochester, but I don't think that'll happen. I'm one who believes he should not play in RF because of the arm and the 1st to 3rd plays. Plouffe, Parmelee, Doumit can play RF... Revere can backup in LF and CF.
    1. Parker Hageman's Avatar
      Parker Hageman -
      Parmelee has played a ton of RF in his minor league career, but none in LF
      I don't know if we should say a ton -- especially in the past two years where it was 57 games (and who knows how many actual innings out there). He played a lot more at the lower levels. It will be interesting to see where he is at now a few years removed from playing there regularly. As the range factor indicates, I don't think he can be any worse than Cuddyer out there.
    1. Bark's Lounge's Avatar
      Bark's Lounge -
      If Parmelee is the starting RF that is great! He was the bright spot of last season with his September call up and he has continued swinging the bat with the best of them this spring. Although I was interested to see what Revere could do in the starting role as far as SB's and Avg. are concerned, I view him as no better than a 4th OF. As we all know he has no arm and can hit a little bit with no punch and does not walk much. This offense concerns me and we need more fire power. I know that Parmelee's Minor League stats are not the stuff dreams are made of, but the age of 23 seems to be around the time individuals start figuring some things out. He looks solid and I think you have to let him have a go of it. It might not be the best case scenario defensively, but we need offense. Plouffe will get his share of time jumping around the OF and IF and Doumit has had his share of injuries, he is no guarantee. I hope that the writing on the wall is true and Parmelee is in the starting line-up on Opening Day.
    1. Jim Crikket's Avatar
      Jim Crikket -
      I hadn't heard that Willingham had done too bad in RF either, but during one of the rain delays today, Gladden made an allusion to Willingham not looking at all good in RF and that this move reflected the Twins accepting that. Granted, you have to consider the source.

      Revere clearly isn't going to be a starting MLB right fielder, so you may be right about this being a death knell for his chances. I figured that, realistically, he had until Benson could prove he can hit MLB hitting to make his case... but he may not end up having that long.
    1. PeteyD33's Avatar
      PeteyD33 -
      I guess I am a little confused. I will never pretend that I was a good baseball player and you can call me naive, but how difficult is it for a professional left fielder to move to the other side of the outfield. I guess I just don't understand why he would have a hard time with this. Could someone help me understand... Because it seems to me the best situation would be to have Willingham in right.
    1. Jim H's Avatar
      Jim H -
      I don't think anything is set in stone yet. Revere could still end up taking the majority of the starts in LF. If Morneau is completely healthy, he gets a lot of starts at 1B. Willingham could get starts at DH. There is a lot of flexibility this year. I don't think there will be many guys starting over 150 games this year, even if everyone is 100% healthy.

      Revere is probably too good and too young to get buried on the bench. Even if the Twins wanted to trade him, you won't get much for him till he proves he could be a big league regular.
    1. jimbo92107's Avatar
      jimbo92107 -
      Quote Originally Posted by Seth Stohs View Post
      I haven't read anything about that. Hope not. But I do think Revere would get plenty of time in the OF.
      Especially when Scott Baker is pitching. Then you put Revere in CF, Span in RF and Plouffe in LF, and watch how fast they can run.
    1. Billy Bremner's Avatar
      Billy Bremner -
      Wow, the kool-aid is flowing freely among these Twins faithful. Ben Revere? Really? The rest of the AL Central will be saying (while laughing to themselves), "don't bring a knife to a gunfight."

      The best joke I've seen in a long time is how posters here believe the Twins are relevant this year. Doesn't matter whether they win 63 or 73 games, this is a dead team walking. Show some discernment, fellows, or you're gonna be ridiculed as much as the Twins are.

      That is all.
    1. Neinstein's Avatar
      Neinstein -
      Quote Originally Posted by Billy Bremner View Post
      Wow, the kool-aid is flowing freely among these Twins faithful. Ben Revere? Really? The rest of the AL Central will be saying (while laughing to themselves), "don't bring a knife to a gunfight."

      The best joke I've seen in a long time is how posters here believe the Twins are relevant this year. Doesn't matter whether they win 63 or 73 games, this is a dead team walking. Show some discernment, fellows, or you're gonna be ridiculed as much as the Twins are.

      That is all.
      Okay, I'm curious, how are the Twins irrelevant?
    1. lee_the_twins_fan's Avatar
      lee_the_twins_fan -
      Quote Originally Posted by Billy Bremner View Post
      The best joke I've seen in a long time is how posters here believe the Twins are relevant this year. Doesn't matter whether they win 63 or 73 games, this is a dead team walking. Show some discernment, fellows, or you're gonna be ridiculed as much as the Twins are.

      That is all.
      Don't count the Twins out yet... Yes, you can look at last year and say they lost 99 games. But how much did Mauer play? How much did Morneau play? How much did Span play? M&M appear to be healthier than they have in years. Span is still recovering, but will be an impact player.*

      Yes, there are problems with the starting rotation. But I believe Twins management will be less likely to put up with ineffective players at any level. Changes are coming, probably in the way of promotions, or waiver picks.*

      I hope the naysayers on this post go clear up to AL Central management. If they write off the Twins, maybe they'll keep their tougher pitchers and best players for other teams, and the Twins can take advantage.

      Don't count the Twins out yet. And no, this isn't a "dead team walking."
    1. nicksaviking's Avatar
      nicksaviking -
      That crash we just heard is Ben Revere's trade value jumping out the window. If the team only views him as a fourth outfielder (5th? 6th?) why weren't they shopping him all preseason and trying to sell another club on his youth, years of team control, minor league track record and unmatched range?

      They can't believably claim they want him around to be a defensive replacement or pinch runner, they can call on Mastroianni to do that at any point. What a waisted opportunity to score a decent pitching prospect from another team. Telling the rest of the league how little you value the guy takes away any leverage. Same old MO, see Slowey, Young, Hardy and Lohse.
    1. Billy Bremner's Avatar
      Billy Bremner -
      A little more realistic discourse here, that recognizes the Twins lowly station would be welcome. News alert - Josh Willingham is lead-footed in the outfield - do you want to admit that now, or do you want to reveal your lack of credibility by missing that crucial point and instead pussyfoot about debating whether he is better in RF or LF? There's a whole league of teams out there who are gearing up and strategizing for the upcoming season, and rest assured that their plans, to a team, include not an iota of concern about your Minnesota Twins.
    1. Billy Bremner's Avatar
      Billy Bremner -
      Quote Originally Posted by nicksaviking View Post
      That crash we just heard is Ben Revere's trade value jumping out the window. If the team only views him as a fourth outfielder (5th? 6th?) why weren't they shopping him all preseason and trying to sell another club on his youth, years of team control, minor league track record and unmatched range?

      They can't believably claim they want him around to be a defensive replacement or pinch runner, they can call on Mastroianni to do that at any point. What a waisted opportunity to score a decent pitching prospect from another team. Telling the rest of the league how little you value the guy takes away any leverage. Same old MO, see Slowey, Young, Hardy and Lohse.
      This Nick kid shows some promise. Keep up the good work!
    1. lee_the_twins_fan's Avatar
      lee_the_twins_fan -
      Quote Originally Posted by Billy Bremner View Post
      There's a whole league of teams out there who are gearing up and strategizing for the upcoming season, and rest assured that their plans, to a team, include not an iota of concern about your Minnesota Twins.
      I hope you're right, but I doubt it. No. 1 rule: Never underestimate your opposition.
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