Saturday, March 18, 2006

Position Analysis: Right Field

Likely Starter: Michael Cuddyer
2005 stats: .263/.330/.428, 12 HR, 42 RBI


Potential Backups: Lew Ford, Jason Kubel

Last year, at this time, we were writing about Cuddyer being the starting third baseman, replacing Corey Koskie. This year, we are talking about his last chance as a Twin.

Cuddyer's start last year was atrocious after a hot spring, as he hit was his usual inept self in April. In April last year, Cuddyer hit .205 with only one homer. Since Cuddyer has always gotten off to a late start, as he is much better post-All Star break, you have to wonder if he can hold on to any job.

However, the likely scenario is that he'll get the job and lose it. When, in May, Gardy can't take his terrible batting and ability to hit into double plays, his likely replacement will be Jason Kubel.

I say this for two reasons. For one, it appears that Lew Ford will be the fourth outfielder this season. That makes sense. Lew may be a better option than Cuddyer in right, as he has so far proven to be a better hitter in the big leagues and is a better defender. However, since he can play all the outfield positions, he's a very useful bench player, especially if Torii Hunter gets hurt.

Secondly, it appears that Kubel is getting seriously consideration for the spot in right field. Recently, in both the Star Tribune and Pioneer Press, this was noted. LaVelle quoted Gardy as saying, "He got that second base hit with a man on third, and I said right away, 'This young man is really going to make it interesting as we go along here in spring. Your thought is on the cautious side, but let me tell you what, he's swinging pretty good, and he's moving pretty good, and if he's the best player out there, that's who will be playing out there."

He notes that, however, the competition will likely remain between Ford and Cuddyer. This will likely prevail, if only because Kubel is still working his way back from major knee surgery. The predicted scenario will have him going back to the minors for a little bit to get his swing fully back and then to bring him up. That makes sense, just because he need not sit on the bench for all of April only to get rusty.

All in all, the predictions for stats are a little hard to say. To me, this is Cuddyer's last chance with the organizaton that has given him so many chances since he was choosen in the first round back in 1997. I just don't believe that he'll make it past April. If he isn't traded, he'll become a utility guy, which seems the most suitable role for him anyways. With that in mind, I see Cuddyer with a .245/.325/.430 line at the end of the year with around 8 HRs and 30 RBI in about 200 ABs. Kubel, getting the job around May, should hit around .280/.350/.440 with 10 HRs and 50 RBI while Ford, possibly getting more time with the injury concerns surrounding Hunter and Stewart and the likely caution Gardy will show with Kubel, will produce a .270/.345/.425 line with 7 HRs and 40 RBI.

Overall, I still say it would be better to start the year with Kubel in right or even Ford. However, this is Cuddyer's last hurrah. In a way, I'd love to see him finally produce up to his potential, but I just do not see it happening. Because of that, I'll still look forward to seeing what Kubel can do out there when the job is finally his.

4 comments:

Anonymous said...

Just discovered your blog this evening and enjoyed reading all the position analyses and the "Know when to hold 'em..." post. I'm a Bostonian and a lifelong Red Sox fan, but I became interested in the Twins during the magical '87 postseason, stayed with them, and was thrilled when they repeated in '91. Kirby was a favorite (I had that "Wrecking Ball" poster in my room forever), and he'll be missed. As an avid fantasy baseball player, I'm always looking for good blogs that cover teams from other parts of the country, and I thought you fellas did a nice job with your reviews. I'll definitely check in to see what you have to say about Rondell White at DH, the pitching staff (curious what you think of Jesse Crain's future), and the farm system (seems as though the future Twins -- Liriano notwithstanding -- have gotten less online publicity than most organizations' kids have gotten). Keep up the good work!

Nick N. said...

Thanks for the kind words. As for the future of Twins pitching... they quietly have some of the best organizational pitching depth in the league. A lot of good prospects whose names you probably would not recognize that are going to have good Major League careers. As for the Red Sox, I'm not sure about their pitching staff this year (a lot of question marks), but I like their future. Papelbon and Lester are going to be special.

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