Warne: Now getting regular ABs, Chris Parmelee may finally be clicking
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MINNEAPOLIS -- He may only be hitting .234/.311/.366 entering play Sunday, but Chris Parmelee has done enough in the past few weeks to solidify himself as not only the regular right fielder for the Minnesota Twins, but a middle-of-the-order bat.
Offensively, much of Parmelee's damage has come in the past two weeks, as the left-handed hitter has been on-point since the Atlanta series.
Since that trip, Parmelee has hit .353/.421/.559, socked a pair of home runs, and has steadily found himself creeping up the batting order. He batted fifth in both games over the weekend -- thanks in part to Justin Morneau's illness, perhaps.
"I feel like I've been swinging the bat well the past couple weeks," Parmelee said. "I've been seeing the ball well. The guys ahead of me get hits, and hitting is contagious."
And whether it's coincidental or not, Parmelee's resurgence more or less coincides with the demotion of Oswaldo Arcia. In other words, the regular playing time has been good to Parmelee.
Parmelee's approach would technically be considered pretty patient. His 9.1% walk rate is above league average, and he's certainly in good company with this bunch, as Joe Mauer and Josh Willingham are both noted walk enthusiasts.
But it's not an approach that Parmelee is slavish to. Skipper Ron Gardenhire has recently suggested that he might like to see Parmelee cut it loose a bit more, and Parmelee seems to agree, as long as the situation dictates.
"It depends on who is on base, who is pitching," Parmelee said. "There's always a time and a place to maybe take the first pitch if a guy hasn't shown command of the strike zone, or if the guy is pumping fastballs in there, there's a time and a place to swing at the first pitch."
And while nobody is going to confuse Parmelee with Mauer in terms of approach, he's also sort of playing it by ear. Keep in mind, Parmelee is still under 500 big league plate appearances in his career. So in essence, despite shuttling between the minors and majors the past three seasons, Parmelee still has less than a full season worth of plate appearances under his belt.
"It depends on how the guy is showing command of the strike zone," Parmelee said of his approach. "A lot of these guys I haven't really faced before. If I haven't really faced them, I'll try to see for myself what kind of command they have for the strike zone and what they like to throw for strikes that day, and what they like to get over the plate early in the count."
But Parmelee does rely on the Mauers, Willinghams, and Morneaus of the world to give him an idea of what the opposing starter has. This typically takes place in the first inning, Parmelee noted.
"If I'm hitting fifth, sixth, seventh...I've got a couple of really good guys ahead of me to -- in the first inning -- tell me what the pitcher feels comfortable throwing that day."
But the Twins don't fancy Parmelee as a one-trick pony; his defense has turned some heads.
For as good as Parmelee's offense has been of late, his defense has been much better than advertised. And that's quite a surprise, as many had suggested Parmelee would look the part of a first baseman out in right field.
That hasn't been the case.
While advanced defensive metrics haven't looked all that kindly upon Parmelee -- 1.2 runs below average via Fangraphs UZR/fewest out of zone plays among all right fielders -- that's something the Twins were well aware of when transitioning Parmelee out there.
"Parmelee has done a pretty decent job," general manager Terry Ryan said. "His range isn't Ben Revere, but his arm is better than Revere's. There are trade-offs."
In fact, the Twins have had a pretty long line of right fielders like Parmelee over the past few years -- Jason Kubel and Michael Cuddyer, specifically. Parmelee is sort of a hybrid of the two, as he's not too fleet afoot, but plays the wall extraordinarily well and has a strong, accurate arm.
In fact, Ryan put Parmelee squarely in that conversation, and suspects that most would be surprised by this.
"Kubel didn't have a big arm; he had an accurate arm," Ryan said. "Cuddyer had a big arm. You could put Parmelee in that group, I think that's safe. People would probably be surprised to hear me say that. Going into this year, there's no way they're putting him in that group. He's not as fast as those guys, but there's more to playing outfield than raw speed."
And what all goes into playing outfield beyond raw speed? According to Ryan, there's quite a few attributes to consider.
"There's positioning, reads, jumps, routes, angles, instincts, playing the wall...all that stuff," Ryan said. "Parmelee has done that well. He plays those caroms well. When he throws, it's where it's supposed to be. I'm thinking his reputation is getting around a little bit, and they might not run on him as much going forward. But don't forget, he's played a lot of outfield in A-Ball and Double-A because we always thought Morneau would be in his way. And it's worked out that way."
Parmelee displayed pretty much all of these attributes when he threw out Mariners DH Kendrys Morales in the fourth inning of Sunday's game for his fifth outfield assist, tying him with a horde of others for fourth across the MLB -- including, oddly, former Twin Ben Revere.
Parmelee has also shown a willingness to sacrifice his body in recent days, crashing into the first base camera well on a popup and also running into the right field fence.
Most importantly, he hung onto both of them for outs. And according to him, that's how he plays the game.
"That's kind of how I play the game," Parmelee said. "I try to play the game as hard as I can. The wall has padding on it. So initially it's going to hurt, but in the long run I think I'll be alright."