Mandatory Credit: Jesse Johnson-USA TODAY Sports
In August, I wrote a post about the role that Trevor Plouffe should play in 2014 and beyond (read it here). I argued that Plouffe should play every game in September to see if he could get his swing in order (as he had produced an awful .233/.293/.385 triple split through August 31st) and possibly prove he belonged in the Twins’ future plans. Let’s see what happened.
September (27 Games)
Looking at the stats, Plouffe ended the season on quite a hot streak and collected 11 multi-hit games (something he had only done 16 times in the first 134 games). This consequently raised his September OBP to a pretty nice level, though his strikeout to walk ratio stayed strongly skewed in the wrong direction. His September performance was impressive but it warrants further analysis before starting to carve out a roster spot for him during the Twins’ rebuilding phase. Let’s take a look at his season stats.
Pre All-Star Break
Post All-Star Break
If anything is clear from looking at Plouffe’s full season stats, it’s that he either overachieved during his September run or he is a very streaky hitter that balances out to average stats. There are apparently two sides to his offensive game; hot and cold. Will he give you a strong September 2013 performance or a putrid July 2013 performance (.189/.223/.300)? With similar boom bust cycles in 2012, there is probably enough of a sample size to suggest that Plouffe will always chase a big month or two with a lousy month or two, or vice versa. Sticking with his rollercoaster stats gives the Twins average performance over the course of the season, but to compete in the future, the Twins need more than just average stats.
Miguel Sano is the undisputed third baseman of the future, there is no guesswork about that. There is however intrigue about when he will officially take that mantle from Trevor Plouffe. He just ended the season in Double-A after hitting 35 homeruns combined between High Single-A and AA. His immense power potential will make him a big league player but after seeing the disastrous results of Aaron Hicks’ jump from AA to the Twins, the organization might be more cautious with Sano’s promotions. Other factors like big league service time and possibly fan interest could also influence decisions about when he joins the club. But until he does get promoted, Trevor Plouffe will be the Twins 3B since Sano’s arrival is too imminent for the Twins to shop around for a new player on the hot corner.
Once he loses his starting job though, is it worth keeping Plouffe around as a sort of super-utility player? It’s clear with Ron Gardenhire’s use of Chris Herrmann and Ryan Doumit that he loves having versatile players on his bench that can play multiple positions. Plouffe has seen MLB time at Right and Left Field, and every position around the diamond so he certainly fits the mold of defensive utility player. Offensively though, you would never know which batter would show up if he was given spot starts here and there since it’s hard to generate batting momentum with only a handful of at bats every week. Since his defense isn’t at elite levels, he would need to counter that with good nights at the plate. Plouffe’s 2013 splits against lefties are much better (.300 Avg. and .826 OPS) than against righties (.240 Avg. and .663 OPS) so giving him starts against left-handed starters would give him a much greater chance at succeeding and providing value to the team.
Ultimately though, Trevor Plouffe might prove to be the most valuable to the Minnesota Twins as trade bait. If he can start off 2014 with a few of his stronger months, then he might start to draw interest from other teams at the trade deadline. This path would give Sano a chance to get some experience at the Triple-A level before clearing his way to the majors by trading Plouffe to fill other areas of need.
Whether Plouffe sticks with the team or not, he still can provide value for this rebuilding club. All it takes are some smart baseball decisions that were characteristic of the last batch of successful Twins teams.