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Since the Twins announced that Justin Morneau would not play in the playoffs, we have heard very little about his status. Last week, we heard that there has been little change… and that he didn’t like hitting at Target Field. The concussion that Morneau sustained on July 7th in Toronto ended his season. It was his second concussion during his Major League career. Who knows how many he had sustained previously? Some place blame on Morneau for not playing through it. Some blame the Twins medical staff for not being able to provide a timeline for return, although there is no way they could have known an exact time table for Morneau’s return.
The general thought is that Morneau will be able to rest during the offseason and in doing so, the concussion symptoms will go away and he will be at 100% in spring training. We certainly hope that is the case since he is one of the best players in baseball. At the time of his injury in 2010, he was a leading candidate for his second AL MVP. Who knows how the Twins playoff run would have gone with a healthy Morneau?
But there is also a scary potential outcome, one that we hopefully will not need to worry about. What is Morneau is never fully recovered? What if the headaches and the fogginess do not go away? Consider the case of Corey Koskie. Like Morneau, Koskie’s concussion happened on a play that didn’t look too bad. He dove backwards for a foul pop-up, and the whiplash effect and head to ground contact effectively ended Koskie’s career. He tried to come back a few times and was unable to. He finally called it a career in spring training of 2009 while trying out for the Cubs.
What would happen if Justin Morneau is unable to come back in 2011? There are a lot of free agent 1B on the market. Maybe the Twins could wait until January or February and see if there is a right-handed hitting 1B option still available that would be insurance for Morneau at 1B, and also a DH and pinch-hitting option. Obviously at that point, we are not talking about Paul Konerko or Derrek Lee, but maybe one of the group of Jorge Cantu, Troy Glaus, or Xavier Nady could be available for a one year contract for $1-2 million.
\However, I think another option emerged as the 2010 season went along, and particularly over the past month. 2006 first-round draft pick Chris Parmelee put together a terrific second half of the season at Double-A New Britain. Has he done enough to be ready to take over the Twins 1B position should Morneau not be ready? Could he fill in short-term? Could he be the answer for all of 2011 and beyond?
On May 16, Parmelee was hitting just .186 (19/102), and he was sent back to Ft. Myers. Sometime clicked while working with Miracle hitting coach Jim Dwyer and he hit .338/.430/.463 in 93 plate appearances. On June 9th, he returned to the Rockcats and from that point forward, he hit .282 in June. He hit .343 in July, and he hit .303 in August. One need look no further than his walk and strikeout rates to see where a lot of the improvement lies.
Just a quick analysis of these numbers says that contact was an issue early, and he was likely getting behind in the count and not putting the ball in play. In the shortened June time frame, it would appear that he was likely just swinging early and not being patient at all in an attempt to not strike out. That’s not usually a good strategy either. But when he returned from his one-month sabbatical in Ft. Myers, the walk rate was higher and the strikeout rate was greatly decreased. The improvement shown, and the adjustment that Parmelee made are the types of things that coaches and scouts should be excited about. (note – September was just 26 plate appearances).
Do I think that Chris Parmelee is necessarily ready to contribute to the Twins early in 2011? It’s hard to say. There are things that he still needs to work on. The walk rate/strikeout rate improvement is huge. Despite hitting great in the second half, Parmelee did not show the power yet that he clearly will. Parmelee has incredible power potential that will just need more time to develop. But no matter when he is promoted, the power will likely take time to develop anyway. Defensively, Parmelee is greatly improved at 1B but still needs more reps and more time to get to where he can be. He will not be on the same level as Justin Morneau. Then again, Morneau was not a great 1B when he first came up to the Twins either.
When the season begins, Parmelee will be 23 years old. The left-handed hitter is a certainty to be added to the 40 man roster later this week, so he will go to big league spring training for the first time in February. I found it interesting that the Twins decided to send Parmelee to the Arizona Fall League for the second straight year. They typically don’t do that. Then he went out and hit .340/.398/.476 with 10 doubles and two triples. When I saw that he was heading to the Fall League, it was the first time I started wondering about the possibility of him being needed with the Twins already in 2011. That said, it is not the Twins Way to promote a player from Double-A. It doesn’t happen terribly often. Brad Radke. Joe Mauer. Can you think of any other players promoted from Double-A to start a season over the last 15-20 years?
Obviously this is a difficult discussion because clearly Option Number One is for Morneau to be back at 100% mentally and physically. The MVP certainly makes the Twins better. Also, Parmelee would be able to continue his progression and development on a more ideal schedule. I will say this, Parmelee is close. Probably closer to big-league ready that many might think.
With that in mind, I was able to ask Chris Parmelee three questions last night and he was gracious enough to answer:
SethSpeaks: How much can playing in the AFL help you as you prepare to advance to the big leagues?
Chris Parmelee: The Arizona Fall League is a fantastic league and I feel very fortunate to have been given the opportunity to play in ’09 and ’10. It’s a challenging league with tons of talent, you see guys from high A to some that have big league experience and getting those AB’s off the guys that have big league time under there belt helps out. All the AB’s count because the more AB’s you get the more knowledgeable you become of your own swing and the strike zone.
SethSpeaks: As you head into the offseason, and likely are added to the 40 man roster, what is your mind set looking to 2011?
Chris Parmelee: Heading into the off season I’ll be working hard in the weight room and increasing my foot work. The 2011 season I’m excited for, I’m excited for Spring Training and wherever the Twins place me is where I’ll start.
SethSpeaks: If Justin Morneau is unable to play at the start of the 2011 season, do you think that you are ready to contribute at the big league level for the Twins, offensively and defensively?
Chris Parmelee: Yes, I feel that if the Twins called upon me for that role that I would be prepared.
- On last night’s SethSpeaks.net Weekly Minnesota Twins Podcast, I was joined by Steve Buffum from the Cleveland blog The B-List Indians Blog and Craig Brown from Royals Authority to talk about the offseasons of those two teams. The rest of the show was filled with Twins topics such as the Arizona Fall League, the Australian Winter League, and the winter leagues in the Caribbean. I also discussed the Twins 40 man roster addition options, which should become official on Friday.
- Danny Valencia told me that he will be a guest on my podcast next week. He is on a cruise at the moment and was unable to call in last night from South America. However, yesterday he was in Honduras and still a guest on 1500 ESPN with Patrick Reusse and Phil Mackey. You can listen to it here.
- Ron Gardenhire should be named the AL Manager of the Year today, although Ron Washington could make Gardy a runner-up for the fifth time in his career.
- Yes, I absolutely think that the Twins should bid on Tsuyoshi Nishioka who is expected to be posted by Chiba Lotte in the coming days. It is expected that the winning bid will be in the neighborhood of $15-20 million. And that goes to the team in Japan just for the right to negotiate with Nishioka. The middle infielder is still young and can play either position. Acquiring him would certainly make JJ Hardy expendable. Hopefully they could find a take for him via trade.
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