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Field of Twins

Near and Far, 1: Positional Analysis (1B)

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This is the first part in a series examining the Twins system, position-by-position in order to get both a near and long-term perspective of Twins' system. With regard to first base, there are a number of question marks, certainly, but it also seems to be the case that there is some hope both in the near future and definitely down the road.

Let's go from top to bottom, starting with the Twins:

Minnesota:

Justin Morneau: LH, DOB: 5-15-81. STATS: .296/.340/.415 (.755), 10 doubles/0 triples/2 homers, 10 bb-22 k, 0-0 sb-cs.

Morneau is in the final year of his contract and will have about $4 million left on his contract at the trade deadline. But I would not count those chickens before they hatch. The Twins may see Morneau as an integral part of the near future which will see some key prospects start to bloom. His injury history may give pause, but there is no doubt that he is starting to really come on this season and is a different player. He is really producing with RISP right now and the lack of homer power shouldn't be a cause for concern. Of course, the expected improvement coming for the rest of the season both makes his resigning with the Twins and his being traded more probable. There is the potential option of trading Morneau for some top 100-200 prospect at the deadline and then signing him in the offseason. That would be potentially ideal, especially given the Chris Parmelee situation.


Chris Parmelee: LH, DOB: 2/24/1988. STATS: .214/.301/.337 (.638), 3/0/3, 11-28, 1-1.

Parmelee has been in RF this year and has been a competent defender out there. People seem to assume that Parmelee is the heir-apparent to Morneau's position, but Parmelee is certainly not really built like a first baseman and may have a future as a platoon player or bench bat. He was dominant in AAA last year and I do believe that he is a competent player, but so was Ron Coomer. Parmelee is a player who I view as having no real long-term future with the Twins and he if does have such a future than it is likely a bad sign for the development of many prospects in the system who would have to basically flame out in order to cement Parmelee on the Twins roster. This isn't a knock on him, but just the reality of the potential future for the Twins. I would like to see Parmelee succeed this year to the point that some team will like his ability enough to trade some mid-level prospect for him.


Rochester:

Chris Colabello: RH, DOB: 10/24/83. STATS: .326/.384/.574 (.958), 11/0/8, 14-32, 0-1.

Colabello is a great story of perseverance, but that is also means that he is in his prime right now. This means he should be looked upon as the next guy to be "a bench bat" if the Twins decide to go with a 11-man pitching staff or if Wilkin Ramirez or someone like Morneau, Parmelee, or Arcia go to the DL. He is almost certainly guaranteed a September spot on the roster at the very least. He has proved all he need to in order to earn a chance. The Twins will be looking to use him as soon as possible.

Jeff Clement: LH, DOB: 8/21/1983. STATS: .179/.243/.255 (.498), 2/0/2, 9-26, 0-0.

Clement may be on his last leg as a contending major league baseball player. On paper he looks like he could be a contributor, but then he plays and it all goes south. Only a series of injuries to two of the three players above him could change his status as AAA-filler. And AAA-filler is not something I particularly like, especially when it is obvious that many prospects could use some AAA time.

Nathan Hanson: RH, DOB: 2/8/87. STATS (AA/AAA): .287/.368/.406 (.773), 3/0/3, 11-18, 0-0.

Hanson has dramatically improved his performance over the rest of his minor league career this year. While he has not been in position to play first base this year, this is the place where he has played the most in his minor league career. He is a potential super-utility option as he has played 3B, 2B, 1B, and LF in significant doses. He is someone to watch as a Chanhassen native looking to crack the big leagues . . . as a better version of Brian Dinkelman.


New Britain:

Reynaldo Rodriguez:, RH, DOB: 2-7-86. STATS: .217/.315./.453 (.767), 9/2/4, 15-27, 2-1.

Rodriguez is true organizational filler, and Deibinson Romero is coming to encroach on his time anyway. This spot in New Britain is a temporary placeholder for a prospect from Fort Myers, most likely Kennys Vargas.


Fort Myers:

Kennys Vargas: SH, DOB: 8-1-90. STATS: .271/.354/.496 (.850), 9/1/6, 16-31, 0-0.

Vargas is almost a luxury. He is a power hitter with massive potential. His ISO numbers for 2013 are pretty much right between his fantastic 2012 season and his good 2011 season. He can certainly hit and seems to be a competent defensive first baseman right now. He's a career .890 OPS guy and is someone to watch the rest of the season and next season. If he continues to produce like this, the Twins are going to have a lot of positional and roster decisions to make.

Lance Ray: LH, DOB: 9-2-89. STATS: .206/.276/.265 (.541), 4/0/0, 7-12, 1-1.

Ray has been injured this year and this accounts for some of his struggles. He has been a decent player in the minors, but nothing too overwhelm. The rest of 2013 in Fort Myers is important for him as his development may either stagnate or warrant continued development in the system. His ability to play both corner OF positions and first base is an asset.

Michael Gonzales: LH, DOB: 6-16-88. STATS: .238/.338/.476 (.814), 1/1/4, 10-17, 0-0.

The big first baseman is injured, but his OPS has jumped 100 points in his second go-around with Fort Myers so far. He is another guy with good power and whose 2013 is a very important season. A healthy rest of the season is going to be vital for his development. I would like to see him see AA pitching this year.


Drew Leachman: RH, DOB: 4-21-89. STATS: .239/.288/.284 (572), 1/1/0, 4-9, 1-1.

Leachman was promoted to Fort Myers after a solid start at Cedar Rapids. He is very similar to Lance Ray, but with less power. He can play the corner OF positions along with 1B. He probably will remain in Fort Myers this year to see if he can handle better pitching.


Cedar Rapids:

Dalton Hicks: LH, DOB: 4-2-90. STATS: .288/.362/.485 (.847), 11/0/5, 15-28, 0-0.

Hicks has emerged this year as a solid middle of the order hitter with good power and decent plate discipline. He is bad against lefties, but great against righties, so the sky may not be the limit for Hicks. That said, he will continue to get better and will likely pass a few of the guys above him over the next year.


EST:

Rory Rhodes: RH, DOB: 7-28-91. STATS (cumulative minor league career): .242/.328/.383 (.711), 46/7/19, 97-269, 11-11.

Rhodes was demoted from low-A back down to E-Town last year. He hit well at the latter destination and should be ready to serve as a replacement in Cedar Rapids once some of those guys get promoted. He has decent power, but strikes out an awful lot. He is still pretty young, though, and may simply have issues with the fact that he is 6'9" and a bit lanky. I imagine long swings may be an issue.

Bryan Haar: RH, DOB: 12-9-89. STATS (2012): .250/.319/.345 (.664), 9/1/1, 13-35, 3-3.

Haar was drafted in the 34th round last year and did not put up very strong numbers. He is receiving instruction right now and should be headed to E-Town once that season starts. He is definitely in a make or break season at age 23 in rookie ball.


Conclusion

The Twins are better stocked at this position than they have been in the recent past. Players like Colabello, Vargas, and Hicks have created nice depth at this position across the board. I have toyed with the idea that the Twins should try to trade both Morneau and Parmelee since there is good value in the former and no real Twins future with the latter. Certainly there could be a movement up for many of these players this year.
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  1. Shane Wahl's Avatar
    I don't do this ever, but I have to say: sheesh, REALLY? This is not worthy of comment? I am finishing up the second base stuff for tomorrow, but damn. should I even bother?
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