Warne: Don't be surprised if Trevor Plouffe ends up at first base in 2014
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MINNEAPOLIS -- The following is a series of predictions regarding events that may take place with the Minnesota Twins between now and the 2014 opener.
So don't be surprised if ...
Trevor Plouffe ends up as the regular first baseman: The basic concept here is just that Miguel Sano is going to force his way into the third base job next season, and the Twins likely aren't ready to move on from the former first-round pick in Plouffe.
Plouffe's defense also still leaves something to be desired at the hot corner. Among the 21 third basemen who have played 800 innings this year, Plouffe ranks dead last with 21 out of zone plays and is 17th in Ultimate Zone Rating.
And if the Twins decide that Plouffe, with that torrid streak in 2012 looking more and more like an outlier, is nothing more than a platoon bat (.304/.375/.478 versus lefties in 2013), then he can share the job with Chris Parmelee if the Twins don't ultimately just put Joe Mauer at first.
Ryan Doumit no longer catches: Doumit already won't catch the rest of this season, barring an emergency. But after multiple concussions -- including one this year and one in 2010 -- and at least one instance of missing games after taking a foul tip to the mask in 2011, it's worth wondering if the otherwise oft-injured backstop might consider moving out from behind the plate in order to prolong his career.
A source who knows Doumit opined to 1500 ESPN that it "wouldn't surprise them" if the switch hitter were to give up catching full-time. With Mauer in the same boat, it isn't completely off the radar that the Twins catching corps could look completely different in 2014.
Eddie Rosario returns to the outfield: The Twins, and general manager Terry Ryan specifically, maintain that Rosario's actions at second base make him look like someone "you'd never believe wasn't a natural second baseman." But with the emergence of Brian Dozier at second this season, Rosario might have to move around to find his way into the Twins lineup in the next calendar year.
Rosario will head to the Fall League ostensibly as a second baseman, but Ryan said he'll move around in winter ball while acknowledging that Dozier has fancied himself as a bit of a roadblock at this point.
Rosario doesn't have the traditional offensive profile of a left fielder, and one scouting contact told 1500 ESPN that Rosario "wasn't a good defensive outfielder, but could be." But a future outfield of Rosario, Byron Buxton, and Aaron Hicks has the potential to cover a ton of ground at Target Field in the years to come. It could happen.
Casey Fien doesn't get a long-term contract extension: In a lot of ways, Fien has been the Jared Burton of 2013. Both were signed to minor league deals as bullpen fliers in the 2011-12 offseason, and both have proven to be key late inning cogs in a better-than-advertised bullpen.
And while Fien has been downright terrific (3.92 ERA, 10.2 K/9, 6.5 K/BB), there remains one key difference between him and Burton, who received a two-year, $5.5 million extension with a 2015 option following the 2012 season. That difference is service time, as Burton had accrued just over four years of service time with the Reds, while Fien had next to no service time before joining the Twins.
As a result, the Twins can pay Fien the big-league minimum salary for another two seasons, according to Baseball Reference. With reliever volatility being what it is, and Fien turning 30 next month, the Twins may just take their next two cheap years from Fien and run, even though he has absolutely pitched well enough to merit an extension in the traditional sense.
Fine young arms
The Oakland A's lone trip to Minneapolis will provide Twins fans with an opportunity to see some of the better young starting pitching in the American League.
Former top-30 prospect Jarrod Parker pitched for the A's on Tuesday night. Parker, who appeared in Baseball America's top-100 listing for five consecutive years, has a solid three-pitch mix featuring a good two-seam fastball, a solid changeup and a workable slider.
On Tuesday, Parker gave up two runs and seven hits in six innings. He walked three and stuck out four.
The Twins will face 23-year-old right-hander Sonny Gray on Wednesday. Gray, a top-100 prospect in multiple publications before 2012, has a slight build at 5-foot-10 but brings the heat at an average of 93.0 miles per hour (via PITCHf/x).
It's worth noting that PITCHf/x measurements often read lower than stadium guns, so a guy that routinely throws 95 on a stadium gun is probably closer to 92-93. To that end, Gray throws rather hard.
Finally, the A's will counter Scott Diamond with A.J. Griffin on Thursday afternoon. Griffin is the least-regarded of the trio -- at least potential-wise -- but is simply another very good arm like those the A's system has grown accustomed to developing.
And it should say something for both Griffin and the system that the right-hander is 13-9 with a 3.91 ERA and 7.4 strikeouts per 9 innings. This is a team that knows how to develop pitching.