Three-Bagger: Wristy Business, Jason K & Mauer Being Mauer
by, 05-13-2014 at 11:36 PM (441 Views)
* Florida's Jose Fernandez is the latest young star pitcher to be tabbed for Tommy John surgery, so elbow injuries have been the talk of baseball this week. Minnesota has plenty of experience in that department, most recently with first-round picks Kyle Gibson and Alex Wimmers.
But currently, it's the wrist that has emerged as a major pain for young talents in the Twins organization.
Oswaldo Arcia was bothered by a wrist injury last summer, and it has come back to hamper him again this year. After playing just four games for the Twins in April, he went on the disabled list.
He rested for a bit, made it through an eight-game rehab stint, and then -- just when he was seemingly on the verge of returning to the big-league club -- it was revealed that the wrist is still bothering him.
He has returned to playing in Rochester after a couple days off, but the fact that he's still feeling soreness in an area that has affected him dating back to last year is not good.
Even more concerning is the situation that has arisen with Byron Buxton. The top prospect in baseball missed the first month of the season after hurting his wrist on a dive in the outfield during spring training, and then, after five rehab games in Ft. Myers, he aggravated the injury on a slide. He's now slated for an MRI and his prognosis going forward is unclear at best.
Wrist injuries are a bummer for two reasons. For one thing, as Arcia and Josh Willingham have shown, they can be very slow to heal, and can linger for months. Secondly, they can take a real toll on a hitter's performance at the plate, even after he returns. (J.J. Hardy's 2010 season is a good example.)
If either of those scenarios play out for Buxton or Arcia, it's going to be a tough pill to swallow, especially after the turmoil that we've seen with Miguel Sano and Eddie Rosario. This club just cannot catch a break with its young players.
* Back before the start of spring training, I wrote about the trouble with counting on Jason Kubel, pointing out that his growing inability to make contact at the plate signaled ominous things for his 2014 season.
Those concerns were muted in early April when the 32-year-old came out of spring training with a red-hot bat, but he's cooled off considerably in recent weeks and his strikeout issues have risen to the forefront. The veteran is now whiffing at an absolutely outrageous rate.
Since April 20, Kubel has tallied multiple strikeouts in 12 of his 17 games. During that span, he has fanned in 32 of his 71 trips to the plate -- almost 50 percent. That's beyond bad. Overall, his 34 percent K-rate leads all major-leaguers and continues an upward trend we've seen over the past several seasons.
I'd like to believe that there's some injury or correctable mechanical problem at play here, but when you look at the big picture it sure appears as though Kubel has declined to the point where he can't keep up with MLB pitching anymore.
* On the flip side, Joe Mauer's alarming early-season strikeout surge seems to have subsided. The notorious contact hitter caused a lot of puzzlement while ranking among the most K-prone hitters in the league for much of April, but over the last few weeks he has looked more like himself.
Over his past 12 games, Mauer has struck out only five times in 52 plate appearances. During that span, he is hitting .386 with a .462 on-base percentage. Tough to complain about that.