Friday, April 18, 2008

No Cuddy, Mo Problems

Injured right fielder Michael Cuddyer is unlikely to come off the disabled list on Sunday, his first day of eligibility, because he's still unable to properly throw a baseball or grip a bat after dislocating and lacerating his right index finger while sliding into third base on April 4. I'm far from the world's biggest Cuddyer supporter, but I'm certainly not happy to hear that he won't be returning to the Twins any time real soon. With him out of the lineup, Joe Mauer has slid down to the No. 3 slot. I think Mauer was a good fit in the two-hole, and having him and Justin Morneau back-to-back in the lineup makes it much easier for opposing managers to throw lefty relievers at them late in games without much repercussion.

Moreover, Cuddyer's replacement in right field has been wholly uninspiring. Denard Span has started nearly every game in right since being called up to replace Cuddyer on the roster, and his defense out there has ranged between sub par and atrocious. Last night he committed two costly errors in the Twins' 7-3 loss to the Rays, and beyond that, he has consistently taken poor routes and turned routine plays into heart-palpitating adventures. This probably shouldn't be held against Span, as he himself has admitted that he hasn't played right field since high school, but either way, his defense has not been good and his offensive production (.222/.300/.222) has been downright horrendous, particularly for a corner outfield spot.

If Ron Gardenhire truly does feel the need to continue penciling Span into the lineup, it makes absolutely no sense to keep sending him out to right field while leaving Delmon Young, who actually has a good arm as well as experience playing the position, out in left. If you have a weak-armed center fielder with essentially no corner-outfield experience and a natural right fielder with a cannon for an arm on your roster, who do you put in right and who do you put in left? The logic should be simple.

This isn't all meant as some major slight toward Span. To be honest, in spite of fact that I've always been pretty low on the 2002 first-round draft pick as a prospect, I haven't been totally unimpressed with him since his call-up this year. While his offensive numbers are paltry, he has at least shown a good approach at the plate, and has been pretty solid on the base-paths. But really, his major-league upside is as a fourth outfielder; feeding him starts in right field doesn't really make a whole lot of sense.

If Span is going to stay in the lineup, he should certainly swap positions with Young. If not, there are a few other intriguing options who could step in until Cuddyer returns. Despite a slow start, Jason Pridie is now batting .280/.362/.460 in Rochester; he would likely be a much stronger offensive contributor than Span while also playing a more serviceable right field. Another option would be to call up someone like John Knott or Randy Ruiz and stick them in the DH slot while moving Jason Kubel out into the field.

I don't really know what the best option is. All I'm getting at here is that, even with one of the team's key contributors out of the lineup, there are better ways to maximize this roster offensively and defensively than sticking a mediocre minor-league center fielder out in right field. Hopefully last night's game will help Gardenhire realize this fact.

15 comments:

SethSpeaks said...

"Another option would be to call up someone like John Knott or Randy Ruiz and stick them in the DH slot while moving Jason Kubel out into the field."

How are they doing so far for Rochester?

Nick N. said...

Not well, but both have pretty good minor-league track records, and I'm willing to put a little more stock into that than the current three-week sample size.

Dan said...

Garrett Jones was on a tear to start the season. I know he's probably not ideal defensively but he does have some power.

beth said...

I actually prefer leaving Delmon Young in left field, rather than moving him around. I think it's better to leave him there to settle into his new position. If he were a veteran, I'd be less concerned, but he's still young.

brian said...

I would rather see Gardy play Monroe out in right than Span. They are paying him all this money they might as well let him play and if he can produce he would be a good guy to trade at the deadline if the Twins are out of contention.

Nick N. said...

Interesting note: David Zingler over at Bleacher Bums has an interview with Denard Span up today, and I found this exchange particularly amusing:

DZ: I am guessing you probably still think of yourself as a centerfielder.

SPAN: Oh yeah, I am not a rightfielder.


He acknowledges it... why can't Gardy?

David said...

Span is obviously not too good at on-the-job learning. I think we should bring Pridie up and send Span back to AAA where he belongs.

Anonymous said...

other outfielders made the roster ahead of span, yet when there is an opening he gets called up and immediately starts every game in a position he doesn't know how to play. the other guys know how to play corner outfield, not that i think it's that much different playing anywhere in the outfield. him starting in rf makes as much sense as gardy starting redmond in the 3 hole every time he started a year or two back. if he's good enough to ever hit 3 he should be starting every game. just like span, if he is good enough to play every day over monroe, kubel, etc. he should have made the team coming out of spring training.

ubelmann said...

But really, his major-league upside is as a fourth outfielder; feeding him starts in right field doesn't really make a whole lot of sense.

If he's a fourth outfielder, he's going to need to learn how to fill in at all three OF positions at some point. So, he's learning RF now, and he'll learn LF in the minors or when Delmon goes down with an owie. And while Delmon's arm would be marginally more useful in RF, he'll still have runners to throw out from LF. The biggest problem with Span's lack of an arm is that he lacks an arm, not that it's in RF.

If this is all there is to find fault with Gardy, he's doing a pretty good job. From Bill Smith's standpoint, I personally think Pridie would be a better choice than Span, but really, it doesn't make a significant difference. Amongst Gomez, Span, and Pridie, there's maybe a 10-run difference between the best and the worst over the course of a full season. Span gets way too much attention, but he's hardly a major concern at this point.

Nick N. said...

And while Delmon's arm would be marginally more useful in RF, he'll still have runners to throw out from LF. The biggest problem with Span's lack of an arm is that he lacks an arm, not that it's in RF.

But the dynamics of right field make it much more imperative that you have a guy with a strong arm out there, because runners are much more likely to tag from second or go from first to third on balls hit to right.

Also, having played all three outfield spots, I think the transition from center field to left field is much easier than to right field. Left fielders get a lot more pop flies, whereas right fielders get more hard-hit, tailing line drives. I don't know that there's any material evidence to back that up, but it's something I've observed from playing the game myself.

If this is all there is to find fault with Gardy, he's doing a pretty good job. From Bill Smith's standpoint, I personally think Pridie would be a better choice than Span, but really, it doesn't make a significant difference.

I actually do think Gardenhire has generally done a pretty good job this year, but this issue in particular really grinds on me because it is so horribly illogical.

I think that when both offense and defense are taken into account, there is a fairly large difference between Span and Pridie in right field.

Anonymous said...

I thought Gardenhire was clear he wants Young to learn to play left field because that is going to be his position. Given that, Span makes sense in right field. And he really hasn't been that bad defensively nor does he have a weak arm. Its just not Cuddyer or Young's.

Nick N. said...

I thought Gardenhire was clear he wants Young to learn to play left field because that is going to be his position. Given that, Span makes sense in right field. And he really hasn't been that bad defensively nor does he have a weak arm. Its just not Cuddyer or Young's.

That's a huge understatement. Cuddyer and Young have two of the best arms of any outfielders in the league. I believe most scouts grade Span's arm as below-average.

It doesn't seem like Young has had a real tough time adjusting to left field. I don't think it would screw him up that bad to slide back over to right for a couple weeks.

chris tatarek said...

blogger, u seem to be forgetting that the twins aren't going to contend this year or next. whats wrong with FINALLY giving span a chance. knott and ruiz have payed far less dues and proved much less than span. maybe u shouldnt worry about minor roster moves and instead focus on the future. cuddy bear is weak anyway. this article should be called "Cuddy, no problem..setting the career strikeout record in a single season"

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