Third base has been a revolving door of sorts for the Minnesota Twins since the departure of Corey Koskie prior to the 2005 season. Since Koskie left, the Twins have tried numerous players ranging from Joe Crede to Nick Punto to Danny Valencia. Valencia seemed the most likely option to have staying power after he had a solid rookie season in 2010, but he quickly fell into a tailspin in the following seasons and eventually was demoted and traded away.
The Twins then decided to give their utility man Trevor Plouffe a shot at holding down the everyday position at third base. Plouffe had struggled mightily in finding a position he could excel at defensively, failing at shortstop, the outfield and second base. While his offensive numbers weren’t matching the monster output he had delivered in the minor leagues, the Twins showed faith in the youngster and continued to give Plouffe ample playing time to hopefully figure it out and put it together at the Major League level.
He showed signs of breaking out and putting it together last season when he hit 24 HR and 55 RBI, only to have his season derailed by a wrist injury midway through the season. Plouffe returned to the Twins late in the season, but failed to demonstrate the power and consistency that he played with during the first part of the season. This has led to speculation as to whether or not the type of power numbers and production we saw from Plouffe early last season was a trend or a mirage.
I tend to gravitate towards the mirage end of the spectrum just because I have failed to see enough consistency from Plouffe for me to believe he will be a productive, everyday third basemen. I also have engrained in my brain many memories of the former Plouffe who made countless errors and unintelligent decisions that led me to question whether or not he understood the fundamentals and basic strategy of the game of baseball.
These memories surely have clouded my perception and vision of Plouffe, but he definitely has raw power that shows when he makes solid contact with the ball. However, his defense and consistency with making solid contact need improvement. Luckily for Plouffe, the Twins are prepared to give him ample opportunities to prove himself worthy over the next few seasons.
Waiting in the wings is super prospect Miguel Sano at third base, which makes the evaluation of Plouffe over the next few seasons extremely important. I am in the camp believing that Sano will one day become a corner outfielder or first basemen simply because his size and defensive shortcomings will one day be too much to handle at third base. Sano’s bat will need to be placed in the lineup somewhere and thus a move to another positions besides third will be facilitated.
If Plouffe can show enough promise this season by hitting 20 or more homeruns and drive in 75 or more runs while pairing that with strong play defensively, I believe he can solidify himself at third base for the foreseeable future in a Twins uniform. Koskie wasn’t a great defensive third basemen when he first came up to the big leagues either and I believe with time, Plouffe can develop into an above average defensive third basemen.
For this season, the question remains: which Plouffe will show up? Will it be the above average power hitter from early last summer or the injury prone, below average hitter and defensive liability of season’s past? This story—among many others—is sure to make for an interesting season for fans in Twins’ Territory.