Spring Training has Sprung Training! Right?
No, wait, keep reading, I’m sorry.
I am going to take a week-long break from discussing organizational depth to focus a bit on Spring Training. If you want to see what I think about the Twins’ infield depth, you can click here. We can explore the outfielders and pitchers in the coming weeks. However, with Spring Training games starting on Saturday, I wanted to share with you my list of things I will be watching for this Spring Training. I didn’t include injuries, but these are big. I saw that Trevor Plouffe is battling a sore calf, and my analysis of that malady can be found here.
I will not be paying much attention to statistics during Spring Training. Remember Luke Hughes? Here is an article about Hughes based on his Spring Training stats. He was released less than a month later. Spring Training stats are fun, because the samples are so small that the numbers can look really impressive, but ultimately mean nothing. Numbers might mean something to the Twins, and that I why I do not ignore them altogether. For instance, if Aaron Hicks hits .400 and Darin Mastroianni hits .210, it may mean nothing in the long-term, but it likely will clinch the center field job for Hicks.
Some will argue that nothing can be learned from Spring Training; small sample size and whatnot. I disagree, there are still things that can be learned from Spring Training. Let’s investigate!
1. The Center Field Battle
Yeah, I’m calling it a battle!
Who is going to emerge as the starter in center field? This is something we will certainly learn from Spring Training. The job seems to be down to three candidates: Darin Mastroianni, Aaron Hicks and Joe Benson. According to a recent report, Mastroianni is the favorite. This makes sense. Mastroianni was productive in a bench role last season and he is the most veteran of the three. He isn’t really a huge part of the long-term plans of the Twins, but he can be effective and productive if pressed into a starting role.
Aaron Hicks is the future. The question is how close we are to that future. Hicks could actually be the internal favorite, as I am sure the Twins would love to see this young, exciting player seize his opportunity and become the next in a long line of great center fielders in Twins’ history. However, Hicks losing the job and getting sent back to AAA might be a good long-term move. It would tack a year onto his free agency clock (I know some fans hate this, but it’s true). In addition, Hicks has never played in AAA and has never adjusted to new levels quickly. All that being said, I’m rooting for Hicks. His defense is ready and his arm is fantastic. I just want to watch him play, even if every sensible bone in my body knows he should probably at least start the year in Rochester.
Benson is the dark horse, and will need to be extremely impressive to win a job. Benson has major contact issues, and is coming off of some serious injuries. He is a good fielder and has a great arm. If Mastroianni wins the center field job, I could see Benson being kept in Minnesota as the fourth outfielder.
2. The Starters’ Health
Due to health concerns, it seems that new fan-favorite Kevin Correia will be the Opening Day starter. If Correia can stay healthy and give the Twins 200 or so innings, I’ll be happy.
Scott Diamond likely earned the Opening Day start, but his health is a question mark right now. While on this topic, I did a pretty detailed breakdown of Diamond’s 2012 season. I looked at a lot of different stats, and my findings are very encouraging. You can read it here.
Mike Pelfrey might need a few weeks, as he is less than a year removed from major elbow surgery. Vance Worley dealt with some injuries at the end of 2012, but should be ready for April. Rich Harden always seems to be dealing with injuries, but should be ready if nothing new pops up. Kyle Gibson will be on an innings limit, and might be destined for AAA, at least to start.
3. Brian Dozier‘s defense
The Twins really want Brian Dozier to claim the second base job. Twins fans should want the same thing. Stability at either middle infield position would be so nice. I have concerns about Dozier. He is a bit of a one-year wonder (2011), but it was a very impressive year. His plate discipline was completely absent last season. However, my biggest worry is his defense. I don’t see a shortstop. I don’t think he has the range or the arm for short. However, he does have good skills for second base. Pay attention to his defense during Spring Training. He doesn’t have a lot of experience, so turning the double play is something specific to keep an eye on. If he looks solid, he could stick and get time in Minnesota to work on that plate discipline.
4. Chris Parmelee‘s defense
Chris Parmelee is slated to be the Opening Day right fielder. I am skeptical. Parmelee doesn’t have great speed and he didn’t take good routes on fly balls when I watched him. Bad combo. His arm isn’t special either. I’d certainly prefer him as a left fielder or at first base, but those spots are taken. If he can work on his defense and become just serviceable, then I’ll be happy. Getting more time in right can only help him improve. Keep an eye on how he tracks fly balls in Spring Training. Watch to see if he is using the cut-off man. If he can play fundamentally sound outfield, he can mask some of his deficiencies.
5. Pedro Florimon‘s offense
Can Pedro Florimon hit? I’m not so sure. However, his glove is great. Brendan Ryan is the prototype of an all-glove, no-bat shortstop. Ryan is so good in the field, that he can hit .220 and still put up a 3 WAR season. Florimon is not on Ryan’s level, so he’ll need to hit a little more than that. .250/.310/.340? That’s about what he posted in about half a season in Rochester last year. If he can approach that and play great defense, he’ll have value. Watch his at-bats in Spring Training. He doesn’t need to walk a lot, but he does need to show that he can take a walk. If he is being patient and using his speed, that will be a good sign. He’ll never have power, and hopefully he understands that as well as anyone.
Obviously, many of these things are going to be hard to watch for. Most Spring Training games are not televised, and that is why we so often scout the Spring Training box scores instead. However, I am going to do my best to watch as much as I can. Follow me at Puckett’s Pond and on Twitter – @bridman77. I’ll give updates on these important items as Spring Training games start.