Thursday, March 24, 2011

Position Analysis: Right Field

Likely Starter: Michael Cuddyer

Paul Battaglia, AP
Potential Backups: Jason Kubel, Jason Repko, Ben Revere

Right field is Michael Cuddyer's position.

Well, sort of.

Over the past two years, Cuddyer has frequently been asked to move away from his established home, taking over first base after Justin Morneau went down in September of 2009 and last year bouncing around the infield before again settling at first in place of a sidelined Morneau.

Cuddyer has received more than his fair share of adulation from coaches, teammates and media for his willingness and ability to shift around the field, but lost in that praise is the fact that he's not terribly adept at fielding any of these positions and last year he was extremely disappointing offensively.

The average right fielder in the American League hit .276/.350/.441 in 2010. The average first baseman hit .259/.345/.443. Cuddyer, despite being an $8.5 million player who was labeled team MVP by his manager, posted a .271/.336/.417 line while splitting time mostly between those two positions. He made 25 more plate appearances than he did in 2009 and yet hit less than half as many home runs. He grounded into 26 double plays, a total that led the team and ranked second in the AL.

Despite the dismal performance, Cuddyer will be paid $10.5 million this season because of a ridiculous contract stipulation that forced the team to activate his 2011 option before the 2010 season. I'm not entirely convinced the Twins would have declined the lucrative option even if it had been triggered this past winter, but there's really no reasonable case to be made that Cuddyer is worth his hefty salary for this season based on last year's performance so he has much to prove, especially with free agency looming.

Cuddyer was one of a number of Twins players to undergo surgery during the offseason, an arthroscopic procedure on his right knee to alleviate soreness that, he told reporters at the time, had bothered him all season. This is a likely culprit for the hugely underwhelming numbers at the plate, and presuming that the issue (along with a foot wart removal that held him out of early spring training) is now fixed, we should expect much more from the right fielder this year.

Will Cuddyer actually stick in right all year long? That's obviously the hope, but if anything should go wrong with Morneau, Cuddy will be breaking out the first baseman's mitt and taking his act to the infield. In that event, Jason Kubel would once again take over regular duties in right. Cuddyer's better suited for right field than first base and Kubel's certainly better suited for DH than the outfield, so it's in the best interests of everyone that Morneau stay healthy and on the field this year.

Predicted 2011 Hitting Line for Cuddyer: .275/.340/.470, 20 HR, 90 RBI


Kopy said...

This is random, and dumb, but I wish you would have written Cuddyer would be taking his "talents" to the infield instead of "act".

Anonymous said...

But Cuddyer is a magician!

Dean said...

I'm not convinced that Cuddyer is the automatic option at 1B any longer. No reason we can't bring up Luke Hughes or Jeff Bailey if Morneau needs a spell. If those options fail, then Cuddyer makes sense (short of making space on the roster for an acquisition).

But your analysis of Cuddyer's situation is spot on, Nick.

Kelly said...

Cuddy developed a nasty habit last year of throwing a feeble swing at 2 strike pitches low and outside, some as much as 6 inches out of the strike zone.

It was hard to watch.

But he was pressing because he knew his average was off and I think that was also due to his having to field a different position. Hopefuly he corrects this and has a bounce back year

Kelly said...

Hughes has made the team, unless Gardy is blind.

6 HRs in ST....He can back up the corner infield spots and will have to play SS or 2B in a pinch

Nick N. said...

Cuddy developed a nasty habit last year of throwing a feeble swing at 2 strike pitches low and outside, some as much as 6 inches out of the strike zone.

I wouldn't say he developed that last year...

Ed Bast said...

"I wouldn't say he developed that last year..."

Yeah Cuddy's been remarkably consistent in his vulnerability to right handed curves/sliders way way out of the zone. I don't understand why righties would even entertain another pitch once they get 1 or 2 strikes on the guy.

This is strikingly (bad pun) similar to Jacque Jones' susceptability to curveballs from LH pitching.

Matt said...

Cuddy developed a nasty habit last year of throwing a feeble swing at 2 strike pitches low and outside, some as much as 6 inches out of the strike zone.
He had kind of moved away from that in 2006 and 2009, but went back to the Cuddy of old last year.
Remember before Mauer came to the Twins, all the chicks had Cuddyer jerseys on. If you're a Pohlad, you need a guy like that on your team. Jus sayin...