"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

Monday, March 13, 2006

And Rightly So

Although the days when the Twins could field a nine just with their ML-ready outfielders are now past, we still have a three-way contest for the right field starting spot vacated by Jacque Jones.

Michael Cuddyer, the organizational golden boy for reasons which continue to elude this blogger, must be assumed to be the favorite if only because of the creepy, slavish love the management lavishes upon him. His career ML BA/OBP/OPS, compiled over two full seasons and parts of three others, is .260/.330/.758. In 993 major league at-bats he has hit 32 homers, driven in 109 runs, taken 100 walks, struck out 222 times and stolen 12 bases, while being caught stealing 10 times. He also grounds into a lot of double plays.

He has a real gun for an arm, which is great except on those occasions when he lobs a throw into the stands. This was more of a problem when he was at third base, but he can (and has been known to) reach the stands even from the outfield. He's no speedster, and should probably just give up on the whole idea of base-stealing, but he does hit for power.

Lew Ford, on the flip side, is a fan favorite but not so much an organizational one. His career ML BA/OBP/OPS, compiled over two full seasons and part of one other, is .285/.363/.787. In 1164 major league at-bats he has hit 25 homers, driven in 140 runs, taken 120 walks, struck out 169 times and stolen 35 bases, while being caught stealing 8 times. He's definitely not a power hitter, but he drives in runs at a nice clip and is one of the Twins' best base-stealing threats...believe it, or not. I love to watch Lew steal bases because he runs like a duck. You're just convinced that there's no way he's going to get there and then, ta-da! He gets there.

Lew's biggest problem, and it can affect all aspects of his game, is an unfortunate tendency to lose his focus at awkward moments. Most of his few caught-stealings were obviously the result of what we at Casa TBL call a "brain-fart"--a moment of idiocy that bursts from an otherwise rational person without warning and really stinks up the joint. Lew is solid in the field but has aquired a few memorable errors in the same manner.

Jason Kubel is a top prospect and, some say, the best pure hitter in the Twins system. I'm not yet convinced of that, but the kid is good. Really, really good. After a late-season callup in 2004 which was impressive enough to land him a spot on the postseason roster, he trundled off to the Arizona Fall League to work on a few things, and promptly blew out his knee. And when I say "blew out", I'm talking about the Hurricane Katrina of muscular devastation here. There were ligaments flapping in the breeze, folks.

The upshot is, he missed 2005. Didn't so much as get into a rehab assignment with the rookie league team. He says the knee is fine, and he's participating in spring training without a brace, but it's got to take some time to get back into the (ahem) swing of things after a year out of the game. The Twins just love this guy, but I'm betting he'll be eased along at Rochester for a while unless an injury to another leaves the team with a hole that desperately needs filling.

Frankly, any of these three guys could do a decent job in this position. Cuddyer's going to boot the ball around a little in the field, Ford's going to start thinking about D&D every so often and forget how many outs there are, and Kubel's going to need some time to get back in top form, but there are teams out there fielding guys much worse than any of these three.

I personally would rather see the job go to Lew, as I think he is the more complete player, and because he's proven himself to be a run-producer, which is something the Twins shouldn't take lightly after last year.

on deck: DH/bench

0 rejoinders: