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  • Should Luke Hughes Start at 2B for the Twins?

    On Saturday, Luke Hughes went 5-5 with two doubles, a home run and five RBI. On Sunday, he went 2-3 with another home run. That raised his spring training numbers to .385/.429/.795 (1.223) with four doubles, four home runs and 13 RBI.

    When the 2011 season ended, TwinsCentric released its Offseason GM Handbook. In my offseason blueprint, I suggested that Luke Hughes be the Twins second baseman in 2012 with Alexi Casilla moving back to the utility role. I targeted Clint Barmes for shortstop, but the Twins signed Jamey Carroll and Barmes went to the Pirates (and I still really like the Carroll signing).

    Coming into spring training, Hughes was injured. He had a shoulder injury while playing in his hometown, Perth, in the Australian Baseball League. He went from being out of options and a likely bench role to questions about if he could start the season on the DL. Some even asked if he would clear waivers should the Twins decide to remove him from the 40 man roster.

    And now, I have to bring a question back to the Twins Daily readers; Should Luke Hughes be the Twins starting second baseman?

    Do spring training statistics mean anything? Consider that in 2011, Hughes hit .246/.265/.569 with three doubles and six home runs. He was the final cut, but it wasnít long before he was called back up to the Twins where he hit .223/.289/.338 (64-287) with 12 doubles and seven home runs. Spring Training is such a small sample that generally it doesnít offer any suggestion on regular season success. If you are looking for one nugget to believe that his 2012 is different, check out his walk to strikeout rate. Last spring, he walked twice and struck out 17 times. This season, he has three walks and five strikeouts.

    And frankly, if spring training statistics mean something, Casilla is hitting .355/.429/.387.

    When it comes to defense, the assumption is that Casilla is significantly better than Hughes, and for me, it would be hard to argue. Hughes has never been known for his glove, and with Casillaís speed, we assume he has more range. UZR is just one way to look at defense, and frankly, itís probably not the best when comparing a single season. Alexi Casillaís 2011 UZR at 2B was 0.9 and his UZR/150 was 2.2. Luke Hughes 2011 UZR at 2B was 1.3 while his UZR/150 was 4.9.

    When it comes to offense, Casilla and Hughes are like night and day. Casilla is a speedster with little power in his bat. Hughes is not swift-of-foot, but he does have tremendous power. Casilla is a switch-hitter, while Hughes bats right handed. Casilla puts the ball in play 2.5 times more frequently than Hughes.

    Neither has really been a beacon of health in their careers. Because they are such different players, it is not an easy decision.

    So, why would I advocate Luke Hughes as the Twins starting second baseman? Here are a few reasons:

    Casilla has had a lot of opportunities as a starter. Iím not saying that he doesnít deserve to be the starting second baseman in 2012. After a horrible first six weeks to his 2011, he played well the rest of the season. However, Luke Hughes has never been given an opportunity at an every day job. It may prove that he doesnít deserve it, but I would take my chances.

    Secondly, Casillaís best season overall was in 2010 when he was the Twins utility infielder. As the roster sits right now (with Hughes as the utility infielder), there really is not a backup shortstop. In fact, the backup shortstop would probably be Casilla, but that is something Gardy typically does not like to do. Instead of forcing someone like Pedro Florimon onto the roster, Casilla can just be the utility player. From a roster management standpoint, Casilla as utility infielder certainly makes more sense.

    Third, the Twins regular lineup contains Denard Span, Joe Mauer, Justin Morneau, Chris Parmelee, the switch-hitting Ryan Doumit and occasionally Ben Revere. Casilla is a switch hitter, but I think that adding another powerful right-handed bat could help even up the lineup.

    I donít know how Luke Hughes would perform in an everyday role. Then again, I donít know how Alexi Casilla will perform in an everyday role and weíve seen that four or five times already. The best-case scenario would have him hitting 18-20 home runs in 500 plate appearances. If it doesnít go so well, Brian Dozier is waiting in the wings and could be ready to come up by June and Hughes can return to a reserve role.

    I think the odds of Hughes being the regular starting second baseman is probably very low. Then again, I have already been surprised several times this spring. Chris Parmelee hit his way onto the Opening Day roster. Maybe Luke Hughes can hit his way into a starting job.


    Bonus Luke Hughes Trivia: Luke Hughes signed with the Twins in July of 2002. Only three players on the Twins 40-man roster have been in the Twins organization longer than Hughes. Who are they?

    This article was originally published in blog: Should Luke Hughes Start at 2B for the Twins? started by Seth Stohs
    Comments 25 Comments
    1. jorgenswest's Avatar
      jorgenswest -
      What if Luke Hughes were to bat against lefties? Is he a better hitter against lefties? The major league sample is not sufficiently large. On the surface, it appears he has been a poor hitter on either side with an edge to hitting against right handed pitching. At the sample size, the K/W ratio may be more telling.

      RHP 55/14 in 217 PA
      LHP 27/10 in 107 PA

      Looks like a poor hitter either way with no apparent platoon advantage. You can look at some minor league data here.


      Luke Hughes may be a late bloomer. He'll need to be because there is no evidence based on past performance to suggest he is anything more than a AAAA player. In fact, I question whether any team would claim him if they tried to send him down at some point this year.

      I would go with Alexi for now and put hope in Dozier for the summer (with Carroll as utility)
    1. jmlease1's Avatar
      jmlease1 -
      Quote Originally Posted by twinswon1991 View Post
      Blacky couldnt crack the rotation on any other AL team. No team would give a bag of balls for him unless the Twins ate his entire contract. You must not watch regular season games if you think Blacky belongs in the Bigs.
      Seriously? I'm not going to pretend that Nick Blackburn is some elite pitcher or anything, and the twins probably made a mistake giving him the long-term deal they did when they did...but if you don't think Nick Blackburn doesn't belong in MLB I just don't know what to tell you. His first 2 full seasons with the Twins he had an ERA+ of 103 and 109 and WAR of 2.2 and 2.8. That's a nice solid number for a back of the rotation guy. Year 3 was awful (75 ERA+ and a negative WAR), but last season was a step back in the right direction, except for the injuries. Healthy, there's no reason to believe Nick Blackburn can't put up an ERA+ of 105-110 and a WAR of 2-3. If you don't think that kind of player doesn't have a place on a big-league roster you're living in fantasyland.

      The same kind of analysis can apply to Luke Hughes: are we expecting him to be Dustin Pedroia? No! But the Twins 2Bs last season were dismal. It wouldn't take a lot for Hughes to be a significant improvement on what we got out of that position last year, and he seems capable of the job. Having competent, reliable, quality MLB players down the roster goes a long way towards making a team a winning ballclub. The twins aren't going anywhere if Mauer, Morneau, and Liriano don't have good, healthy seasons. But even if they do, the team isn't going to be a winning ballclub if they don't get reasonable production at 2B, CF, 3B, and the bench. (the pitching staff is another issue). Hughes can help the production at 2B; the question is, should he be starting? I'm leaning towards yes.
    1. John Bonnes's Avatar
      John Bonnes -
      Luke Hughes is all of 13 days younger than Casilla. I think he has a role on a major league team, and it might even include some time starting in the same way that Jamey Carroll has had a role that includes some time starting. I hope Hughes can eventually replicate his 759 career OPS in AAA, and I'm hopeful they'll find some good moments for him to get at-bats, but I don't bench Casilla for him. ON the other hand, I don't have any problem with him stepping in if there's an injury.
    1. Shane Wahl's Avatar
      Shane Wahl -
      "But then in a lot of games, Casilla doesn't have Casilla's range."-- that's a pretty good summation of Alexi Casilla's defense.
    1. rogrulz30's Avatar
      rogrulz30 -
      I wouldn't be surprised to see Hughes in at 2B, or take over the role at third over Danny Valencia.
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