Trevor Plouffe was optioned to the Rochester Red Wings – along with Ben Revere and Alex Burnett – on March 19th. But this isn’t as much about the “present” as it is about the past and the future. To that end, Plouffe was the 4th member of the Minnesota Twins to make his major league debut in 2010. But before we get to that, we have to go back several years.
Having completed his high school career in Encino, CA the Twins made Plouffe their 1st round pick (20th overall) in the 2004 draft. At the time he was the 14th player to be selected out of Crespi Carmelite HS, and another 3 players have been drafted since upping the number to 17.
The following spring, Baseball America ranked Trevor Plouffe as the Twins #12 prospect. He was sandwiched between RHP Adam Harben* at #11 and LHP Glen Perkins at #13 in the rankings that season. Harben would eventually become the PTBNL that was sent to the Cubs to complete the August 31st trade that brought Phil Nevin to Minnesota in 2006. Nevin would hit 0.190/.340/.286 in 16 games for the Twins after the trade and then retire. Harben would go on to have Tommy John surgery just 2 months after the trade. He was never to regain his stuff or his control after the surgery. Glen Perkins of course remains a household name among Twins fans and is fighting for a bullpen job this spring.
But back to Trevor …
Part of BA’s 2005 Prospect Handbook profile on him included the following:
"Plouffe has a plus arm and his advanced makeup and work ethic should push him along quickly. However none of his tools blows scouts away. He’s an average runner and his smallish frame is somewhat of a concern."
His ascent was steady through the lower levels was steady but certainly not quick. He finally reached Triple-A about halfway through the 2008 season and spent all of 2009 there as well. Outside of that their 2005 profile has been spot-on including their projection that he would develop 15-20 HR power which came to fruition last season with Rochester. Mixed in with his 15 HR season at Triple-A were several stints with the major league team.
An ailing J.J. Hardy (big shock there) resulted in the Twins calling up Plouffe on May 21st last season. He made his debut as Minnesota’s SS that day and proceeded to go 2-5 with a double in the team’s 15-3 dismantling of the Milwaukee Brewers. Trevor would be up and down several times the rest of the season playing 3 games in May, 4 games in June, 3 games in August and 12 games in September/August. Those final 12 games he was used exclusively as a pinch runner and defensive replacement which certainly didn’t give him much of a chance to get comfortable at the plate. The end result after 22 games of major league action was a line of 0.146/.143/.317 in 44 PA. He managed just 6 hits, but 3 of them were of the extra-base variety (1 2B and 2 HR). If you are a pessimist and the slash stats aren’t enough of a negative for you then you can simply point to the 14-0 SO to BB rate. His Triple-A 0.244/.300/.430 line doesn’t exactly jump off the page either, but I’m giving him a partial pass due to the fact that he was bouncing back and forth during the season. Take it for what it is worth, but at the time he was first called up he was hitting 0.303/.367/.493 for the Red Wings.
Upon making his major league debut, Plouffe became the 3rd player drafted out of his high school to reach the major leagues. The first two – Jeff Suppan and Rick Dempsey – went on to have long and productive careers combining for 40 seasons of major league service. It’s hard to imagine that Trevor will even come close to that type of career. However, after all this time Plouffe is still ranked among the Twins top-30 prospects and is still just 24-years old. He’s been in the Twins top-30 for 7 straight years but after peaking at #9 in 2006 he has slipped to #24 in Baseball America’s 2010 and 2011 rankings. This year’s Prospect Handbook profile stated simply:
"Plouffe remains much the same player he’s been since he was drafted."
There are pros and cons to such a simple statement. On the one hand he hasn’t regressed or flamed out along way which sets him apart from the vast majority of players who get drafted along the way. Unfortunately, on the other hand, he hasn’t really developed beyond holding his own at every level of the minor leagues. It’s a bittersweet reality for the organization. His selection hasn’t been a bust but it hasn’t been a success either.
Plouffe is still plenty young and he has the profile of a solid backup middle-infielder/utility player with good pop in his bat. That does have some value. If he can’t stick with the Twins this season, and perhaps even if he can, 2011 is probably his last with the organization. There is still enough of a skill set there to believe that someone will give him a decent amount of playing time before his career is over and I’d like to see what he could do if given an extended look at the major league level. I just don’t see that happening in Minnesota.