Monday, December 03, 2007

The New Players: A First-Hand Perspective

The Twins acquired three new players in last week's trade with Tampa Bay. Most baseball fans are at least familiar with the players' names, but beyond the stats, stories and scouting reports, most of us don't know a whole lot about Delmon Young, Brendan Harris and Jason Pridie. To get a better idea of what types of positives and negatives these players bring with them, I went straight to the source, getting in contact with a Rays blogger to get some hometown perspective.

R.J. Anderson, senior columnist for the blog DRays Bay, was kind enough to get back to me with the following first-hand report on the newest Minnesota Twins:

It’s surreal to see the words “Delmon Young traded,” and not have it written as a rumor; it wasn’t long ago Delmon made his debut, hitting a home run against the White Sox after being pegged in his first at-bat. It felt like a turning point in the franchise’s otherwise pitiful history; this was our golden child – the real one, not Rocco Baldelli or Josh Hamilton or Toe Nash – no this was the real deal. In the past year plus he’d flash his arm – perhaps the best in the league – and his doubles stroke, but also his lack of plate discipline. I know some Twins fans have asked if he can play center, the answer is no! His arm is rendered nearly useless and he doesn’t have the range for it; far too many balls were misplayed by Young in center. He’s got a bit of an attitude issue as well, Joe Maddon benched him for not running out a groundball late in the year, and I believe some reports had him sticking his head into the Twins’ daycare of all places and saying “We just kicked your daddies’ asses!” early on in the season. In the past he infamously threw a bat and stated that he wanted to put in his “six and bolt,” but after that hasn’t had any discipline taken on him. On the field if he just learns to take a better approach at the plate he can become very special, but until he does that Twin fans might get a bit irritated with Delmon coming up against a pitcher who’s walked two straight with the bases loaded and seeing him ground into a double play on the first pitch – something he did quite a bit last year. If he works out the Rays will look like fools.

Harris was a very nice surprise; acquired from the Reds last January for cash he was a dark horse to make the roster but did just that when Jorge Cantu – coincidently with the Reds now – was sent to Durham. He showed some pop in limited action before taking over for the putrid Ben Zobrist at shortstop. Harris is what Joe Magrane referred to as a “trooper”; he doesn’t do anything overly well, but does a lot of stuff decently. I think he was a bit overexposed last year – hence his second half collapse – but otherwise shouldn’t bust next year. Defensively he really shouldn’t be at shortstop, and he’s only slightly better at second; he tries, which is good, but sometimes busting ass doesn’t equate to being good – overall I liked him better than Wigginton and I’d say he’s pretty much a wash with Bartlett with Minny getting the better hitter.

Pridie is a former second round pick with loads of tools, his BABIP for this year seems to indicate he’s not .900 OPS good, but he’s certainly better than Jason Tyner – and I love Jason Tyner – I’ve never seen him field, but all indications are he’s a major league center fielder. I’d like to think he’ll be at least league average and more valuable than putting say Steve Finley in center.

Thanks, R.J.! And everyone should make sure to check out DRays Bay for some good perspective on the trade from the other side.