Rick Osentoski-US PRESSWIRE

Twins: Can Plouffe replace Valencia?

On August 5, the Minnesota Twins traded third baseman Danny Valencia to the Boston Red Sox for minor league outfielder Jeremias Pineda.  The move was a vote of confidence for Trevor Plouffe, who was having a breakout summer at the plate.  The move was also an unofficial indication that he could be the Twins third baseman of the future.

The Twins were in need of an upgrade in offense from the guy manning the hot corner.  Plouffe was definitely that, hitting .235/.301/.455 with 24 home runs in 2012, while Valencia hit .188/.199/.299 with 3 home runs in his 2012 major league playing time, which was split between Minnesota and Boston.

Comparing the two players’ third base defense was another story.

According to www.baseball-reference.com, Valencia has put up the following fielding stats as a major league third baseman:

Year Age Games Complete Games Innings Defensive Chances Putouts Errors Double Plays Fielding %
2010 25 81 72 709.1 223 46 6 14 0.973
2011 26 147 143 1280.2 351 73 18 20 0.949
2012 27 44 40 357 113 26 4 9 0.965

The only season Plouffe played third base at the major league level was 2012, and his stats were:

Year Age Games Complete Games Innings Defensive Chances Putouts Errors Double Plays Fielding %
2012 26 95 75 804.2 261 64 17 14 0.935

During Valencia’s third base debut year (2010) and Plouffe’s third base debut year (2012), they each played in a comparable number of games.  However, Plouffe (17) had almost three times as many errors as Valencia (6).  Plouffe did play in almost 100 more innings than Valencia, but the difference in fielding percentage is more than noticeable.  In fact, Plouffe’s 2012 fielding percentage at third base was less than any year Valencia posted, and it was no secret that Valencia’s performance frustrated manager Ron Gardenhire and probably contributed to the Twins trading him away.

However, it’s also an openly discussed point that Valencia’s attitude frustrated Gardenhire as much or more than Valencia’s play.  This might be the chief difference in the Twins’ tacit decision to make Plouffe the everyday third baseman; at this point, Plouffe’s attitude hasn’t been dissected in newspapers, blogs, or radio shows.

While a little less swagger and a little more effort might make Plouffe more likeable than Valencia, it doesn’t inherently translate to being a better player.  The bottom line for performance, rather than likability, is that Plouffe still falls in the “unknown” category and is still surrounded by questions.  Can he repeat and maintain his power hitting during the 2013 season, which did fall off at the end of last season?  Can he learn to play more cleanly at the hot corner?  Will this first round draft pick live up to the high expectations?

Tags: Danny Valencia Minnesota Twins Trevor Plouffe

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