Warne: Pedro Florimon has proven to be a pleasant surprise at the plate
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MINNEAPOLIS -- It would have taken a rain-soaked win over the Angels in Wednesday night's postponed game to get the Twins to the .500 mark, but by all accounts a 6-7 record through 13 games is better than many expected.
And while it was largely believed the offense would carry the pitching staff, they have been pretty much even to this point. The offense has a collective 97 OPS+; the pitching staff, a 97 ERA+ (both adjusted for home park, 100 = average).
Scanning the roster, one isn't necessarily surprised that Joe Mauer, Josh Willingham, and Justin Morneau are all performing at a high level. But there's one name -- on the offensive side, anyway -- who stands out for his hitting prowess thus far.
That is shortstop Pedro Florimon.
In fact, Florimon's game perhaps has been a bit backward, as the scouting report before him suggested a flashy, but erratic defender whose glove would have to carry the bat. The contrary has been true thus far in 2013, as Florimon has a team-high three errors -- Morneau has saved at least a few more at first base -- but has been an offensive dynamo with a .348/.484/.435 slugging percentage and twice as many walks as strikeouts.
And before heading too far down the road, understand we're talking about 10 games and 30-something plate appearances, or about six percent of 500 plate appearances or 150 games played. Plenty can happen between now and the end of the season; this is just analyzing what has happened thus far.
Florimon's batted-ball profile is off to a good start.
For one, he's hitting line drives at a 30 percent rate, with grounders taking up another 50 percent For a player with Florimon's speed and skillset, those are going to be key. Compared to his time in 2012 with the Twins, Florimon is hitting about as many fly balls as before. He's just trading in a few groundballs for line drives.
It's a fantastic trade-off.
Even though it won't be sustained -- no hitter was even close to a 30 percent rate last season -- adding a few line drives to his profile would be huge, as the league as a whole hit .718/.714/.980 on line drives with a collective batting average on balls in play of .709.
Nevertheless, a profile like Florimon's should carry a pretty nice BABIP because he hits so few fly balls, which resulted in a collective .223/.218/.613 line last year (.131 BABIP).
The batted ball data makes the club's assertion that Florimon should be an adequate hitter an easier pill to swallow, because it certainly could be difficult to see a ton of projection in a .249/.321/.354 minor league hitter with almost three times as many strikeouts as walks.
Not surprisingly, Twins general manager Terry Ryan is at the forefront of those who believe in Florimon.
"His offense has been a pleasant surprise," Ryan said. "He's not only getting on base, but doing it a lot of ways. (Monday) was a good example. He had a drag bunt, and then he drives a double into the gap. He's done a decent job. He's taking pretty good at-bats, finding ways to get on base. He seems to be staying in the zone pretty well. Obviously we've had some offensive problems, but he's not one of them."
When asked specifically if it was a physical projection, or a statistical projection which he saw in Florimon, Ryan replied: "It's both. It's physical and it's mental. There's gotta be a confidence level that you bring. He's what, 26 years old? He's at that point where he's been a pro baseball player for a long time. It's his turn.
"He's got an opportunity here, and you'd like to think he'll do something with it. He's a switch-hitter, he can run, and he's deceptively strong. There's a lot of elements there that are conducive to being a guy who can do something with the bat. If he stays within the zone, and doesn't get himself out, he ought to be a guy who can help you offensively. He's a good worker, and he's been relatively healthy over his career. There's no reason he can't help us. It's just a matter of consistency, and swinging at strikes."
Similarly, Gardenhire thinks there's also potential for Florimon to be an adequate hitter.
"He's confident," Gardenhire said. "He's definitely swinging good. Having quality at bats. Able to take some pitches. He's got a couple of bunt base hits, and he's getting to that point where I think he feels he belongs offensively. He has a lot of confidence going right now, which is something we desperately need at the bottom of the order."
Florimon's double-play partner Brian Dozier sees a hitter with budding confidence, who isn't afraid to do what it takes to be successful at the plate.
"I think if you look back in this first week or two, he's executed well with sacrifice flies, and getting guys over," Dozier said. "The little things that add up over the course of the year. He's been getting on base too, and doing a heck of a job. He's absolutely more confident up there at the plate. He's been doing really well."
Finally, Jamey Carroll -- who according to Gardenhire has been the consummate veteran teammate to these younger middle infielders -- also said he likes what he's seen out of Florimon.
"I think he's finally getting his opportunities," Carroll said. "Early on, he was getting pinch hit for. He kept working hard, and now he's getting those opportunities, and he's coming through with runners on. I don't think that does anything but build confidence. Hitting is all confidence. When you know you can come through in that situation, it definitely helps you out as an individual. It's been good to see. The kid works hard."
Essentially, the real Florimon probably lies in the middle of what we've seen so far -- a .381 BABIP pretty much mandates it. But he's shown some pretty good pop out of his lean, strong frame, as well as pretty good speed and he can also bunt from time to time. If his fielding comes around as many within the organization believe it ought, he should be a pretty good asset out of the No. 9 spot.
For a December waiver claim, that's pretty solid.