Remember Cris Carter? Before he became a superstar receiver for the Vikings, Carter was a troubled young player trying to make it with the Philadelphia Eagles. In 1989 he only caught 45 passes (for you non-football fans, 45 is not a lot), but 11 of them were touchdowns (that is a lot). This led coach Buddy Ryan to quip, “all he does is catch touchdowns.”
Fast forward to 2012, and the Twins may have found the baseball version of Carter in third baseman Trevor Plouffe. All he does is hit home runs.
Plouffe is hitting just .240 on the season, but he now owns the team lead with 14 homers. He has homered in four consecutive games, including two last night versus Milwaukee, and six of his past seven. It is getting to the point where every time Plouffe comes up to bat, we are expecting the ball to fall in the left field seats. He has almost certainly sewn up the AL Player of the Week award with two games left to play, since he is now 7/17 (.412) with five homers and seven RBI. And he is getting a big jump on the competition for AL Player of the Month. Plouffe has a .396/.420/1.024 line since June 1, with nine home runs. This season, 40% of his hits (14 or 35) have been home runs. For a little comparison, when Barry Bonds set the MLB record with 73 homers, 46.8% of his hits were homers. Plouffe is in Bonds-territory (aside from the substance abuse allegations, of course), so it truly is appropriate to say that All He Does is Hit Home Runs.
Plenty of other sources have written about Plouffe in the last week, and even Puckett’s Pond got into the action with a piece on Plouffe, Ben Revere, and Scott Diamond. But his performance has been so unbelievable that it was impossible not to write about him again. I have previously compared Plouffe to Ben Zobrist, and I hoped that he could eventually develop into a Zobrist type player. Now I’m thinking that he might have more potential than that. What if Plouffe is the next Gary Gaetti?
Gaetti is a Twins legend who helped carry the team to a World Series victory in 1987 and socked 360 homers in his long career as a third baseman. Plouffe is a 26 year old who has never played a full season and has only started 21 games at third in his career. There are some similarities, though. Look at Gaetti’s hitting line as a 25 year old in 1983: .245/.309/.414 and compare it to the .240/.311/.575 mark Plouffe has put up so far. Plouffe’s line is similar, except that he has hit for much more power. If that power surge continues, Plouffe might well develop into a similar player to Gaetti, a guy who won’t usually hit for a high average and probably won’t take too many walks, but can pound the ball out of the park on a regular basis.
One area where Plouffe probably will not rival Gaetti is his fielding at third base. Gaetti won four Gold Gloves with the Twins (1986 through 1989). Plouffe has been a net negative in the field so far, with a -6.7 UZR/150, albeit in very limited playing time. He is not making a fool of himself at third, but he surely has a long way to go before he gets Gold Glove consideration.
Cris Carter, Ben Zobrist, Gary Gaetti – it’s difficult to resist trying to compare Plouffe to other players, because comparisons are one way we try to understand what to expect out of a player. There’s also the possibility that Plouffe’s career will not resemble any of those, that he’ll carve out a unique path. Hopefully that path will result in more home runs for years to come.