Saturday, June 10, 2006

Power Outage

Justin Morneau won the game last night for the Twins with a couple home runs. An early three-run shot put the Twins on the board, and a dramatic two-run dinger in the 11th won the game. With the two homers from Morneau, the Twins now have 50 on the season. That ranks them third-to-last in the majors, ahead of only the Cubs (who are missing their best power hitter in Derrek Lee) and the hapless Royals.

There's no question that the long ball tends to be overrated by the media, but as last night's game will attest, it is a powerful weapon that can change the course of any game, particularly if there are runners aboard. The Twins have struggled to hit home runs for the past few decades, and it is a problem that Terry Ryan has seeked to fix on the cheap almost every year, without a whole lot of success. In the past offseason, Ryan looked to address the team's power need with Rondell White and washed-up slugger Tony Batista. The move has been disastrous to this point, as White has yet to hit a home run and Batista has hit only five, which hardly justifies his .237 batting average and his abysmal defense.

Morneau has provided decent power but he's simply too inconsistent as a hitter to be considered real valuable. Joe Mauer is a great hitter, but not a legitimate power threat by any means. Torii Hunter hits the occasional homer, but probably will not reach 30 this year. The Twins don't have any decent power hitters on the horizon in their farm system. The most home runs in the Twins' minor league system belong to Garrett Jones, who has hit nine homers in Rochester while posting an ugly line of .216/.290/.404 and striking out about once per every four at-bats. He doesn't exactly look close to MLB-ready. Perhaps the most promising power hitter in the Twins' system is Erik Lis, who is hitting .335/.427/.565 but is still playing low-A ball in Beloit. The Twins continue to look for home run hitters in the draft, selecting Henry Sanchez in 2005 and potential slugger Chris Parmelee in the first round of last week's draft. If either of these guys are going to make it to the majors, it's going to be several years from now.

So essentially, the only way the Twins are going to be able to address their need for power is through trades or free agency. Judging by Ryan's track record, I'm guessing that it's going to be a while before the Twins will hit a respectable number of homers. Clutch home runs like the ones Morneau hit last night are sweet, but unfortunately they will be far and few between until the Twins can plant a real power threat in the middle of their lineup.

4 comments:

TheBentKangaroo said...

Morneau's stats looks a lot like Brunansky's most years. Of course, times are different now, but I still like him, especially if he sat more often against lefties. I'm holding hope he can improve even further against righties and become a 40 homer threat.

Now if he can just learn how to scoop a ball in the dirt.

Nick M. said...

True, its his defense that gets to me. If you have 13 home runs in June and have as many as A-Rod, Magglio Ordonez, and Eric Chavez, that isn't bad company and I think Morneau is a legitimate power threat. The only problem is that right now those 30-35 homers will be accompanied by a low average and OBP. Morneau drives in runs and does well with runners on (.277/.357/.627), so I think it's more fair to critize his defense and low average (.240) than anything else. If Morneau raises that average to around .260-.270, he'd be great.

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