Deep breath, baseball fans – we are just three weeks away from Spring Training! After recording their first winning season since 2010 last year, Twins Manager Paul Molitor and his group will look to improve on that progress and make the play-offs this year finally! This Spring Training will be intense as some things are still very much up in the air. For one thing, the top four starting pitchers are locked in with a couple of pitchers competing for the fifth slot. However, the biggest situation the Twins need to figure out in late February and March is who are they going to have play the field. Here we go…let us tackle this issue.
During the Winter Meetings in December, Molitor reaffirmed the media that young slugger Miguel Sano will be moved to a corner outfield position. With the Twins avoiding arbitration with third baseman Trevor Plouffe by signing him January 25 to a one-year deal, Molitor’s idea could very well become a reality. On top of that, the Twins plan on keeping Joe Mauer on first, as they are planning on him sharing the role with new Twins player Byung Ho Park. The second-year Manager left me confused for a couple of reasons.
In his five years in the Twins organization, Sano, who batted .269 with 18 home runs and 52 RBIs in 80 games last year with the big league club, has always been a third baseman. Sano is not accustomed to roaming the outfield and is not built for the position. The Twins have said that Sano has been playing the outfield in the Dominican Republic in recent months and has lost some weight. Nevertheless, I am nervous that he will be unprepared and too slow tracking balls. Nobody knows how accurate Sano will throw from as far as the warning track. Moving Sano would also be a potential injury risk since he is not used to it, and is not used to running that far.
Besides from Sano, the Twins could put a couple of other players in the outfield. Last year, Eddie Rosario did a pretty good job in his rookie year, in which he had 16 outfield assists. In recent years, Mauer has played the outfield sporadically. Some fans this off-season brought up a point of making Plouffe an outfielder, which he has some experience in. In addition to those players, the Twins have some youngsters waiting to get their shot roaming the large green field; Max Kepler, Adam Brett Walker III, and the forgotten Oswaldo Arcia. Assuming that Byron Buxton, who had a good end to his first MLB campaign, has the center field position won, the Twins would only have to fill the left and right field positions.
There is a simple solution in figuring all this out. During Spring Training, the Twins should try Plouffe and the up-and-comers in the outfield. If that works, there is the outfielder the Twins are looking for. If that doesn’t work out, the club could platoon some players, which is my preference. When an extra outfielder is in need, Mauer could go out there and let Park and Kennys Vargas handle first base. I would trust Mauer over Sano in the outfield due to the fact that Mauer is more fit for the position. It seems like Vargas, who went on a tear when he first came up in 2014, has evaporated amongst the Twins brass. I know the 25-year-old struggled after his initial call-up, but Vargas has so much potential that should not be overlooked.
This whole kerfuffle could have been averted by trading Plouffe after last season, rather than having the club try to figure out what to do over the next two months. All-in-all, do not be fooled when the Twins say Sano is the only viable option for the outfield. The Twins should do their due diligence this spring and not settle on one fix because fans expect the nine best players to take the field, and they have plenty of options!
Written by: Michael L. Sack