Wetmore: 5 thoughts on Sam Fuld, Aaron Hicks and Trevor Plouffe
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The Twins beat the Royals on Sunday, and Phil Hughes picked up his first win since July 2 of last season.
Here are 5 thoughts I had Sunday:
As always, feel free to ask any questions or make any observations in the comments. If you have a unique baseball observation during a game, feel free to share it with me on Twitter (@DerekWetmore).
1. I wrote in Friday's 5 thoughts column the stark contrast of opposing pitchers the Twins would face this weekend. On Friday and Saturday, the Royals started a slop-throwing lefty (Jason Vargas and Bruce Chen), before turning on Sunday to young righthander Yordano Ventura. Entering Sunday, Ventura had the second-fastest average fastball velocity in baseball, at 95.9 mph, according to FanGraphs. The Twins scored four runs off Ventura and chased him after four innings. He's exciting but unrefined.
He's still just a career .242/.305/.411 hitter with questionable defense at third base, but he's having a great start to 2014. After adding muscle in the offseason, Plouffe is batting .286/.395/.413 in 76 plate appearances this year. I've been critical of Plouffe in the past, and we still have plenty of information that says he won't make it long-term, but he's provided reason this year to wonder about his future in a good way.
The Twins are getting good production from him right now, although it's fair to expect his batting average and on-base percentage will go down as the season wears on.
3. The Twins added Sam Fuld, who had a strong defensive season in left field in 2011 for the Rays. In just more than 1,000 innings for his career in left field, Fuld has racked up 16 Defensive Runs Saved, according to FanGraphs. In roughly 500 innings in center, he has a -6 DRS, and in right he's a -6 DRS in just about 300 defensive innings. That makes him a passable defensive outfielder, but outside that 2011 season (+11 DRS), he's never done anything extraordinary. He certainly was added for his glove, though, because he's a career .233/.312/.334 hitter, including .199/.270/.267 in 200 plate appearances last season.
He's a worse hitter than Alex Presley, whom the Twins lost on waivers earlier this year, although Fuld grades as better defensively, according to Defensive Runs Saved.
His outfield flexibility (he can play each outfield position) will give the Twins options and as a fourth outfielder, a team could do worse than Sam Fuld. But the fact that he was designated for assignment by Oakland tells you all you need to know about his value. At age 32, there's not much future upside, either.
Darin Mastroianni was designated for assignment to make room for Fuld. As I wrote at the time Oakland DFA'd Fuld, for the Twins to claim him they likely had to decide which player they'd prefer to have, Fuld or Mastroianni, and it appears they've chosen Fuld.
4. Does adding Sam Fuld mean Aaron Hicks will be cast off?
Almost certainly it doesn't. Hicks was terrible last year and has struggled from both sides of the plate this season. He's also taken some weird routes in the outfield to go with his poor hitting. The Twins won't give up on his potential, though, and I think that's smart. Hicks doesn't turn 25 until October, so he still has considerably more potential than a guy like Fuld.
If he can use his speed and cannon arm, he has the making of a good defensive outfielder. If he can refine his approach at the plate (or, more accurately, develop one), he can be a useful player for the Twins in the future. Right now, he doesn't offer much of anything and despite considerable physical ability is headed from prospect status to bust in two short years.
If the Twins wanted evidence of a former "bust" turned into a useful Major League regular, they got a good look this weekend in Kansas City. At multiple junctures of his career, Alex Gordon went from highly touted prospect to being considered a failure. The Royals were patient with him and moved him around the diamond before he settled in left field. He's been worth more than 15 Wins Above Replacement (FanGraphs) in the past three seasons, so it worked out for them. There's also examples like Michael Cuddyer and Torii Hunter, who took a long time to figure it out and became contributing regulars. These examples, of course, are the exception rather than the norm, and it's entirely possible Hicks won't be a worthwhile Major Leauger.
But it's worth being patient with him and right now the Twins' alternatives aren't really that enticing.
I would guess that Hicks will continue to get regular playing time with Fuld serving as a fourth outfielder. The Twins also could consider sending Hicks to the minors to work on his approach at the plate.
5. The Twins needed a 40-man roster spot for Fuld so they designated for assignment Darin Mastroianni.
Jason Bartlett, who retired Friday, is set to come off the 40-man roster, but according to Fox Sports North color commentator Bert Blyleven, the "paperwork hasn't gone through yet" because of the holiday weekend. The Twins had put a claim in and were awarded Fuld on Sunday, but needed a 40-man spot immediately, so they DFA'd Mastroianni, a limited but potentially useful player.
Mastroianni has an option year left, but simply optioning him to Rochester wouldn't clear a spot on the 40-man. Once the Bartlett retirement is official, the Twins will have an extra spot on the 40-man roster.
They could well lose Mastroianni now, which would be another blunder to go in a series of mistakes made over Bartlett.