Friday, March 21, 2008

Position Analysis: Right Field

Likely Starter: Michael Cuddyer
2007 Stats: .276/.356/.433, 16 HR, 81 RBI

Cuddyer will be one of only a few familiar faces in '08.

Potential Backups: Craig Monroe, Jason Pridie, Jason Kubel, Garrett Jones

Won't the real Michael Cuddyer please stand up? Is it the guy who posted an .866 OPS with 24 home runs and 109 RBI during his first year as a full-time regular in 2006? Or is it the guy who slugged just .433 with 16 home runs last year, and has slugged .450 over the course of his career? The first guy is a legitimate middle-of-the-lineup threat who provides sufficient offense for a corner outfield spot. The second guy isn't.

To be fair, Cudder was hitting .289/.373/.450 through July 18 last year before missing time due to a back injury which probably affected his performance for the remainder of the season. That's not exactly a line you'd want from your cleanup hitter, but a .289 average and .373 OBP are fine numbers for a No. 3 hitter, which is likely where Cuddyer will bat this year with Joe Mauer sliding up to the two-slot.

If Cuddyer can increase his home run and double totals this year while continuing to take walks and reach base at a good rate, he should be a solid contributor to this lineup. Being that he is a 29-year-old (as of March 27) with over 2,000 major-league at-bats, we basically know what we've got with Cuddyer at this point. But if he stays healthy all year and gets good protection in the lineup from Justin Morneau and Delmon Young, it's not out of the question that he put up numbers similar to 2006.

Craig Monroe will likely be Cuddyer's top backup, with Jason Pridie and Garrett Jones serving as options as long as they're on the roster.

Predicted 2008 Hitting Line for Cuddyer: .275/.365/.470, 20 HR, 90 RBI