Friday, June 03, 2011

Give Plouffe a Chance

One opportunity that a team gains in a lost season is being able to take an extended look at young players without fear of meaningful damage from rookie hiccups. Yet, despite the total lack of shortstop depth within their system, the Twins seem to have no interest in giving Trevor Plouffe a legitimate shot.

Plouffe had a streak of six straight games started at shortstop in mid-May end with a remarkably poor performance against the Mariners. In the contest, a 10-inning loss at Target Field, the young infielder went 0-for-5 and made several ugly plays in the field, heavily contributing to his team's demise.

Ron Gardenhire berated Plouffe after the game and then buried him on the bench. The shortstop started only two of the next nine games (looking rattled when on the field) and last night he was optioned to Triple-A so the Twins could call up Brian Dinkelman, whose upside is about as exciting as his name.

To be clear, I'm no huge Plouffe fan. That's a big part of the reason I was baffled by the Twins leaving him as their only legitimate backup behind Alexi Casilla entering the season. He's nothing special as a hitter and obviously he's got some accuracy issues with his arm.

But he's also a former first-round pick, and a guy who was really tearing it up in Triple-A before being called up. While he batted only .210 in his 71 plate appearances with the Twins, he did hit three homers, and his .383 slugging percentage was the best of any player on the active roster. Yes, he looked shaky at times, but he's a 24-year-old playing in the bigs and desperate to impress a coaching staff he let down in spring training. Danny Valencia was struggling to adjust to Triple-A when he was the same age.

Plouffe might not be a major-league shortstop, but he probably resembles one more closely than anybody else the Twins can trot out there at this point. He's already played close to three seasons in Rochester. It's time to see what he's got.

I simply don't see the harm in saying, "Trevor is our starting shortstop and we're going to let him battle through the yips," as opposed to banishing him and giving playing time to guys like Alexi Casilla and Matt Tolbert, who have had far more opportunity to prove they are not MLB shortstops.


SadPanda said...

I'm assuming Plouffe will be playing shortstop in Rochester and I doubt this will be the last we see of him. I don't really have a big issue with sending him to Rochester so he can play everyday and hopefully get his head straight.

Call him back up again in a month or two when he is more at ease. He did look pretty rattled out there on the big stage.

Then again if this is the last we see of Plouffe I'll be disappointed. He should be given another extended chance since we are so awful this year.

cy1time said...

I have to think that he's shown more glove in the minors that he has with the Twins, or he wouldn't still be playing SS. I hope that you are right and that it is the "yips", but he has to be better than that to play every day in the bigs. That being said, his .693 OPS dwarfs that of Gardy's middle infield triumvirate of Casilla, Hughes, and Tolbert. Add the punchless Revere filling in for Kubel and it seems we could use whatever pop Plouffe provides in the lineup.

Anonymous said...

Problem with this analysis is that it ignores factors that may explain this move. You can't say how much (or how little?) his defenses lapses have undermined his confidence because you're not close enough to Plouffe to make that kind of reading. Nor do you know how well or how poorly he is handling criticism of his play. If we're dealing with a player whose confidence is shot but who also is not taking well to constructive criticism, and if by "giving Plouffe a chance" you mean do what is required to best manage his potential, then isn't it possible the Twins are giving him his best chance by sending him down as a confidence building and attitude-adjustment exercise?

I don't know if the player I've described is Plouffe. But you don't know either. Seems to me that's someone should know before passing judgment on the move.

Anonymous said...

Have you watched a game Nick? His defense has been horrid and not just the one game against the Mariners. He makes Alexi Casilla look like Ozzie Smith. His track record in the minors hitting AND defense is poor. The guy isn't a prospect. He was given a chance because he has hit well THIS year in AAA ball in a small sample size. I'm fine with his hitting in the majors actually compared to what the Twins have. It was way below average but his fielding doesn't translate to the majors at short and his poor hitting places him nowhere else. It's not just his total inability to throw the ball to first base but he also has no range at the position. He isn't aggressive and also upset everybody complaining to Gardy about the media and also to why he wasn't starting. Brian Dinkleman also isn't a prospect but he has hit in the minors. His fielding is also poor though. He has hit well, why not give him a chance? The guy has played well this year and in past seasons. If he sucks like Plouffe you send him down as well. There is no loss with letting Plouffe not play everyday to see if he has a future because the answer is that he does not. Not even at a utility spot. Dinks only chance is utility. He may be a better Tolbert. The only AAA fielding guy the Twins should be playing regularly is Ben Revere as he is a propsect and could start/4th outfielder for next year. There is nothing else for hitters in AAA that need to be looked at. Kyle Gibson, Cole DeVries, Anthony Slama, Carlos G and others on the pitching end are a different story. It appears Slama will finally get a good chance which is good to see.

TT said...

Whatever fans may think. I don't think the Twins have completely given up on this season. They are obviously in a very, very deep hole. But until they get Mauer et al back, I don't think they are convinced they can't make a run at it.

The reason given for calling up Dinkelman was that Gardy wanted a left handed bat on the bench. Dinkelman is sort of a poor man's Cuddyer in the field. He can play a corner outfield spot and second base in a pinch. He is not going to take Tolbert's spot. With Plouffe gone, it looks like Tolbert is the shortstop until Nishioka gets back. Unless they move Casilla back to short again.

As for Plouffe's bat, he has 9 home runs in about 150 plate appearances between AAA and the major leagues this season. If those numbers aren't a fluke, they should be trying him out at third base.

Nick N. said...

As for Plouffe's bat, he has 9 home runs in about 150 plate appearances between AAA and the major leagues this season. If those numbers aren't a fluke, they should be trying him out at third base.

Or at shortstop, where -- unlike third base -- they have zero appealing alternatives.

Matt Tolbert as starting SS? Seriously? What does that accomplish?

USAFChief said...

"Matt Tolbert as starting SS? Seriously? What does that accomplish?"

One thing, and that's enough for me: I don't have to watch Alexi Casilla try to play SS.

Anonymous said...

I'm glad you mentioned that Gardenhire berated Plouffe before the benching and the demotion. That's the most noteworthy thing here: Gardy and Anderson have been doing way too much bashing of our young talent. Irrespective of performance, irrespective even of off-the-field behavior, the treatment of Liriano, Slowey, and Plouffe in the media has been unacceptable. Especially in a down year, you need management to defend young players, rather than alienate them. That's doubly true when the players in question are better than their prospective replacements.

lt. col. fletcher prouty, ret. usaf. said...

Gardy's a coward if you ask me. Constantly ripping young or yet to be established players and rarely calling out his sacred cows. Did he say anything about Cuddy's idiotic failed attempt stealing 3rd last night? It's getting old seing him support such stiffs as dinkleman, punto, tolbert, hocking and for the money he makes you can put cuddy on the list too. Even if he can play multiple positions(poorly). He's too stubburn in certain ways and a new look at how to run the field needs to be explored. Fire Gardy! But if they did that the formerly failed hitting and 3rd base coach would probably get the nod because by golly, they're promoting from within, the Twins way. This and the teams "folksie" ways are making it pretty boring to follow them. If they're pathetic playoff and A.L east performances weren't enough already. Watch them get the #1 draft pick next year and go after the most "signable", pitch to contact college pitcher who guys like seth stohs will tout as being on the fast track even though everybody on this green earth knows he wont be up until after super 2 status has expired. They're a joke and completely uninspiring.

Anonymous said...

A coward? I'm sorry, but saying things like "Gardy's a coward" is low. Just ignorant and low. Until you have cold hard facts to suggest that Gardenhire's winning track record somehow warrants his firing, don't accuse him of cowardice. The fact remains that he's taken our team to the playoffs 6 of the last 9 years, a tradition of success most teams don't experience in roughly a decade. It's fine to debate and criticize the finer points of our team, and in many cases encouraged, but no one sits there behind their computer screen and calls you a coward. That's just low. Outrageous and sensationalist claims like "fire Gardenhire!" get you nowhere if there's nothing at all to substantiate it.

Matt said...

Until you have cold hard facts to suggest that Gardenhire's winning track record somehow warrants his firing, don't accuse him of cowardice.
Whether you want to call it cowardice or not, the fact remains that Bill Smith and Gardy have called out guys like Tolbert, Casilla, and Plouffe, while not saying a word about the hapless Cuddyer, Joe "mystery illness/injury" Mauer, or the beleaguered Morneau and Capps's of this squad.

The millionaires should be called out for poor play to the media. Keep the fingers pointed at the little guys behind the scenes.

TT said...

" at shortstop, where -- unlike third base -- they have zero appealing alternatives. "

Valencia is an appealing alternative only if he starts hitting. He hasn't so far this year.

They have both Nishioka and Casilla as potential shortstops. And Casilla has been hitting better than Valencia recently. In fact, he has a better average and on base percentage for the season. Nishioka is an unknown, but the Twins thought he was appealing enough to spend a lot of money on him.

Anonymous said...

Why is calling out Plouffe bad? He is terrible. Yes, I want Tolbert at SS because of the fact that Plouffe can't field his position. That's a major problem. I'd take Nishioka, Casilla the little kid in the stands... Anybody. All by himself Plouffe costs games. If I was Gardy i'd tell him he should quit the game and be a used car dealer. Why should Plouffe play 3d? He can't play short. Valencia has been a pretty solid fielder this year. Medicore at best hitting but compared to most Twins right now he is the 3rd or 4th best hitter on the team.

Anonymous said...

I like Plouffe. I think he can work out the "yips". I find it interesting that Gardy dogged on Plouffe for hanging around in left field shagging fly balls during practice. I also find it interesting that Plouffe majorly overthrew balls to Morneau at 1B. Maybe SS is the wrong place for him. Maybe he should try the outfield. Does he have any speed for chasing balls to the warning track? He might be better used in a place where he doesn't have to worry about over throwing in the infield. Just a thought, but I like him and hope he comes back up.

TT said...

"right now he (Valencia) is the 3rd or 4th best hitter on the team."

Of the seven Twins players with enough plate appearances to qualify, Valencia is 6th in AVG and OBP and 5th in SLG. That was going into tonights game. Delmon Young is the only player behind him in all three categories. Casilla was behind him in SLG, but probably won't be after tonight.

Butera, Thome, Tolbert, Hughes and Plouffe don't have enough plate appearances to qualify. Valencia is ahead of Hughes, Butera and Tolbert in all three categories. He's behind Thome in all three. He is behind Plouffe in SLG and OBP, but not AVG.

Valencia isn't getting the job done even by the current low standards of the Twins. With the exception of Delmon Young, he's only hitting better than the defensive specialists and utility players.

Laches said...

"Whether you want to call it cowardice or not, the fact remains that Bill Smith and Gardy have called out guys like Tolbert, Casilla, and Plouffe, while not saying a word about the hapless Cuddyer, Joe "mystery illness/injury" Mauer, or the beleaguered Morneau and Capps's of this squad."

---Oh please. It may be emotionally satisfying to you to see Gardy rip on highly-paid, underperforming players in the press, but that's unrealistic and unhelpful. It would be one thing if these guys weren't trying, there's no evidence of that. Cuddyer's production has been disappointing, but the effort has been there. Same with Morneau who is fighting his way back from one serious injury while dealing with others. Though he declines to use that as an excuse, and even refused a trip to the DL, opting to fight through it instead. A public scolding by Gardy would accomplish nothing but create resentment. said...

I hope that with the way Casilla has been paying lately this entire post becomes moot. From the 4-some of Casilla, Plouffe, Tolbert and Hughes it is Cassila with the most upside.
When a team struggles this is the kind of posts we read. It's OK, we forgot how to hate the Twins -- from top-to-bottom -- in while.

Matt said...

A public scolding by Gardy would accomplish nothing but create resentment.
My point was that ripping little guy players to the press while not calling out the team leaders is wrong. It should all be behind closed doors.

Dan Gausman said...

"One opportunity that a team gains in a lost season"

I understand that you are saying this in a broad sense, relating to any team, not just the 2011 Minnesota Twins. But correct me if I'm wrong, this is a blog following the 2011 Twins and about a player on the 2011 Twins so I can only assume you believe that the season is over for the 2011 Twins.

I'm sorry, but I refuse to believe that you can declare any AL Central teams season as lost before the All-Star break. Especially a team that has as much talent on offense as the Twins. Poor plate appearances and injuries have certainly damaged the offense, but 2/3rds of the season remain. In 2006 Justin Morneau's batting average was worse than this years at this point, and we all know about the second half tear he went on.

Our starting pitching has been, not dominant, but respectful and I don't see that changing as the season goes on, just too many games blown up by the bullpen and a total lack of offense to this point. Our bullpen is a sore and it isn't going to get much better talent wise, I admit, but it can be managed better and that's on Gardenhire. I think he's starting to figure it out.

If Joe Mauer comes back 100% healthy and they appear to be taking their sweet time to insure just that, and he comes out swinging like he can, motivating the rest of the clubhouse, then calculate in all of our games still to be played against division rivalries, factor in that we are nearly done with AL East match-ups, I then fail to see the 2011 Twins as lost because of being 13.5 games behind the Cleveland Indians on June 5th. Things have been bad, sure, but it's not too late to get better and make a post season run.

Jay Hamilton said...

The fellow who seems to be hitting the DL every 5 minutes is the Untouchable Jim Thome. Sets a bad example for the other guys; gives them permission to not play hurt. I am not a Thome hater, but he IS a rental, and my heart will not break if he doesn't hit number 600 as a Twin. He would be way valuable to a contender ... just saying. Then Revere could play every day and Kubs could DH. Lets give those precious at bats to kids who we know will be with us next year.