by, 10-29-2012 at 12:10 AM (1037 Views)
At a glance, one would think that Minnesota's power output this year was well above the norm. Josh Willingham launched 35 bombs and fellow newcomer Ryan Doumit chipped in 18. Trevor Plouffe's 24 were a pleasant surprise, as were Justin Morneau's 19. Even Joe Mauer delivered 10 long balls – just his third time reaching double digits.
Despite all of those big power performances, the Twins tied with the Royals for fewest home runs in the American League. While 131 was an improvement over last year's league-worst total of 103, they remained one of the game's least threatening lineups.
The problem is that beyond those aforementioned standout slugging performances, the roster produced no pop. Combined, all other Twins hitters managed 25 homers in 3,390 plate appearances, or one every 136.
It's hard to believe that Willingham, Doumit, Plouffe, Morneau and Mauer will all repeat their power numbers from this season, so finding players with a bit of muscle to round out the roster ought to be a goal for Terry Ryan this winter, unless he wants his club to sink back toward 2011's dismal homer total.
Mauer's unlikely to be a major power threat and Ben Revere will almost surely be starting somewhere in the outfield, so the best approach might be to work around those two spots and maybe try something unconventional.
How about a little power from the shortstop position? Yunel Escobar offers a little – he's gone deep 20 times over the past two years – and might be available in a trade. Otherwise, there's Stephen Drew on the free agent market; he will probably have to take a small deal after back-to-back ugly seasons but posted double-digit homer totals in four straight seasons prior, including 21 in 2008.
What about second base? The Twins got only one home run from the position in the entire 2012 season. Would Ryan be interested in pursuing a player like Kelly Johnson, who strikes out a ton and weakens your infield defense but has hit 63 home runs over the past three years?
Bringing in some backups with the potential to go deep off the bench would also help. There will be several guys in free agency that would fit in that kind of role. Eric Chavez hit 16 homers this year for the Yankees and could platoon with – or challenge – Plouffe. Lefty masher Jonny Gomes would be a nice DH complement to Doumit, who is much better against righties. Scott Hairston is a prolific home run hitter and probably won't cost much.
There are a number of different ways to attack this issue, but what's important is that the Twins acknowledge and address it. I hope they won't let strong performances from a few players cause them to overlook what is, undoubtedly, a problematic lack of power across the roster.