Saturday, March 29, 2008

2008 Twins Pre-Season Bench

Catcher - Mike Redmond
Redmond has been the best backup backstop in baseball since he joined the Twins in 2005. He's hit .312/.355/.381 during that span, and has thrown out 41% of base stealers while helping to lead solid pitching staffs. He doesn't have much pop off the bench, but he uses the whole field. He'll be 37 in May, so it's uncertain how many good games he has left, but a healthy Joe Mauer should keep his playing time down to around 45 games.
Best case: a repeat of 2006
Worst case: a repeat of 2003
SfC prediction: .290/.340/.360, 1 HR, 20 RBI, 15 R

Outfield - Craig Monroe
Despite his 28 HR in 2006, Monroe has been going the wrong way as a hitter for a few seasons. His walk totals have been waning as his strikeout totals climb, and his OBP shows the corresponding decline. He's been particularly struggling vs. right-handed pitchers, against whom he suffers most of his strikeouts and has a far lower SLG%. After a poor start to 2007, he left the Tigers, and was even worse with the Cubs. I don't think he'll be that bad in 2008, and his solid spring reinforces that hope. He has an opportunity to be particularly effective if he's used almost exclusively against lefties. We'll see if that's the way Gardy plays it.
Best case: Monroe in 2006
Worst case: Monroe in 2007
SfC projection: .260/.310/.490, 12 HR, 40 RBI, 25 R

Infield - Nick Punto
Punto won a starting job in the infield after putting up a .290/.352/.373 line in 2006. He gave it right back by going .210/.291/.271 in 2007, and hitting even worse this spring. He's a much better fielder than either Lamb or Harris, and he's always been a high-percentage base stealer, so he'll have a reasonably high value to the team as a late-inning defensive replacement or pinch runner. The key will be to minimize his ABs, although I suspect he'll revert back to something close to his career averages this year.
Best case: Punto of 2006
Worst case: Punto of 2007
SfC projection: .240/.310/.315, 1 HR, 15 RBI, 30 R

Infield - Matt Tolbert
Tolbert was hitting about .350 for Rochester in the first half of last season before cooling off to finish the year at .293. Like Punto, he's a solid glove at 2B, SS and 3B and a high percentage base-stealer. Unlike Punto, he has enough hitting talent to put up a .750 OPS. He'll allow the Twins to take both Harris and Lamb out of games late, and he'll get the occasional start. He's probably going to be Punto's replacement long-term.
Best case: Merits lots of playing time
Worst case: Blows it and gets sent back to Rochester
SfC projection: .275/.340/.380, 1 HR, 15 RBI, 20 R

Hopefully, at some point, the Twins will feel comfortable enough with their young rotation to add a 5th bench player who's more of a hitting threat. Until then, from an offensive standpoint, the Twins will be relying heavily on their starters.

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