"Let us go forth a while, and get better air in our lungs. Let us leave our closed rooms...
The game of ball is glorious."

--Walt Whitman

Thursday, March 17, 2005

Outfield Surplus

It's the same thing every year, isn't it? So many outfielders, only one opening. We've got four outfielders already--Jones in right, Hunter in center, Stewart in left, and Ford as designated hitter and day-off-guy. Mind you, the last two really ought to be switched, given Stewart's history of injury and the vast quantities of cash he's being paid, but that's just not going to happen, so I'll rant about it another day.

So we come to the elusive "fifth outfielder", who is really more of a pinch hitter/insurance policy combo. Jason Kubel, after a short but brilliant callup last season, was a shoe-in before he blew his knee out in the Arizona Fall League. Look for Jason to reappear on the roster in 2005. For this year, the contenders are:

Michael Restovich
After three seasons in AAA, it's fish-or-cut-line time for both Resto and the organization. His lousy numbers last year show that he is not being challenged in the minor leagues, and unless he's brought up and given an opportunity soon, all that lovely talent will likely wither on the vine.
Advantages: Young, inexpensive power hitter. Solid defense. Native Minnesotan; that puts butts in the seats, which the Twins desperately need. Out of options, will have to go through waivers to be sent back to the minors, and if that happens another team will pick him up.
Disadvantages: Strikes out a ton; not unusual in power hitters, but not desireable in rookies of any sort. Has difficulties with certain offspeed pitches (I want to say the curve is his biggest problem, but it's been so long since I saw him face major-league pitching I'm not entirely sure I'm remembering correctly).

Michael Ryan
Ryan made the club out of spring training last year, but had his season with the Twins cut short by injury and finished the year in AAA, where he underperformed. He's another one who has been up and down the last few years and needs to find himself a role soon.
Advantages: Left-swinging clutch hitter. Good bat off the bench. Good fielder with a wide range. Speedy for his size, can steal a few bases and cover ground in the field. Will run out of options soon. Wears his socks like a ballplayer should.
Disadvantages: Seems slow to recover from injury. Shows promise of being a high-average hitter in the majors but unlikely to see enough regular playing time to realize that promise with the Twins. May serve the organization better as trade bait?

Armando Rios
The journeyman outfielder signed a minor-league contract with the Twins in the offseason, including an invite to spring training.
Advantages: Experienced and inexpensive. Bats from the left. His career numbers indicate he's a good enough hitter and fielder for a backup role. One also assumes the Twins wouldn't be looking at him if he didn't have a history of hitting well off the bench.
Disadvantages: He's 33 years old, vying for a spot on a team built largely on younger talent. He doesn't bring much to the table that Ryan and/or Restovich can't offer.

Todd Dunwoody
Dunwoody looks a lot like Rios, except younger (29).
Advantages: Left-handed hitter, good fielding numbers.
Disadvantages: Career .233 hitter who hasn't seen the majors since 2002.

Jason Tyner
Another minor-league signing, Tyner is as much a longshot as Dunwoody.
Advantages: Left-handed hitter, good fielding numbers. Stole 31 bases in 105 games for Tampa in 2001.
Disadvantages: No home runs in 778 career major-league at-bats.

If Restovich can emerge from spring training batting over the Mendoza line with a decrease (however small) in his strikeout rate, I can't imagine him not making the cut, simply because he's out of options. Ryan would then find himself in AAA or packaged in a trade for an ML-ready reliever who could provide another layer of security against the vicissitudes of Balfour's injuries and Romero's meltdowns.

0 rejoinders: