So Gardy wants Flexibility... How about the Platoon?
by, 03-23-2014 at 01:48 PM (533 Views)
Recently we have heard beloved leader Ron Gardenhire extol the virtues of "flexibility" when constructing a roster. I agree. In fact, I will go one step further: I think the roster should be constructed to allow for the flexibility of platooning several positions within the lineup.*
Although the Twins have had fewer financial restrictions since the opening of Target Field (at least theoretically) the talent within the system just is not there yet. Besides, let's face facts here, no matter how much the Twins of other mid-market teams spend, the Yankees, Red Sox, Angels et. al. will always have more resources and thus an inherent advantage in talent. So it behooves Twins management to utilize their talent to the utmost extent, and I think it's always a good idea to innovate and use the successes of others as a blueprint for your own future success. Of course I'm referencing the Oakland A's, who never can be considered "behind the curve" when it comes to innovation and exploiting market deficiencies. The A's and GM Billy Beane have brilliantly constructed an efficient roster full of platoon players, and a sprinkling of talented youngsters*and veteran leaders. So in my opinion not only should the Twins be utilizing a platoon system, they should be taking heat for NOT doing it.
So what can be done? Trevor Plouffe had an OPS over 130 points higher vs. left hand pitching than righties in 2013, and over 200 points higher in 2012. As we all know, offensive production from the 3B position has been lacking since before the G-man became born again. This deficiency could be remedied by a platoon of Plouffe and a decent left handed hitting 3B a few times a week, such as Eric Chavez, who had an OPS of .827 vs. RH pitching last year and who resigned with the Diamondbacks for a mere $3 million last December. For an option already on the 40-man roster, folks may appreciate giving Eduardo Escobar some at bats vs RH pitching. Eduardo hit a respectable .276 with 5 home runs in only 268 plate appearances last year in AAA Rochester. EE won't set the world on fire at the plate, but remember we're looking to maximize production from the roster, not field all stars on a shoestring budget.*
Brian Dozier had a breakout season in 2013, but he had a sub-.650 OPS vs. LH pitching. Meanwhile James Beresford hit .336 last year vs. RHP in the minors. Even if the slick fielding Aussie infielder hits an "empty" .300 a few days a week it would be a vast improvement to the overall offensive output. We are talking about (potentially) a 100-point difference in OPS.
If the Twins are serious about keeping Jason Kubel another potential platoon alternative could be Kubel and Josh Willingham. Willingham hasn't had dramatic left/right splits but he's looking a bit long in the tooth these days, and keeping him fresh and healthy by limiting his at bats against strong righties might be beneficial. Of course the Twins do not exactly have a dearth of right handed power bats, so I can understand keeping Willingham's bat in the lineup every day. At this stage in his career Kubel should not start vs. left handed pitching. Although I would say the same thing about Willingham in the outfield. Josh looked like a senior citizen out there this spring.
Other players who could potentially benefit from a platoon role include Chris Colabello, Chris Parmelee, and even Aaron Hicks. While I still believe Hicks is a prospect and needs ABs, he clearly looks more comfortable from the right side and his long term viability may be as a platoon corner outfielder. At this time I would not advocate platooning Aaron Hicks, but it might be sort of a last resort option in a year or two.*
What I have introduced here is nothing new, and I've only offered a cursory look at the potential opportunities being missed utilizing the Twins' own talent or recently available free agents. I am by no means a Gardy "hater" and appreciate what he has done for the Twins through the years. However, the Twins' stubborn refusal to adopt this age-old strategy is frustrating, at a time where innovation and market exploitation has never been more prevalent.*