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After looking at the catchers throughout the Twins system yesterday, I’ll be looking at the first basemen today before continuing around the diamond throughout the coming weeks. Again, the purpose is two-fold. First, it’s a look at the depth at or near the big leagues. Second, it’s a glance at the depth at the position throughout the system. You can find out who might be coming up to the Twins if there is a need, and you can find out who the prospects to watch might be.
As I did yesterday, I need to point out that these are my thoughts. I have no insider information to know where players will be playing for certain in 2012. Obviously after spring training, some of these players will be let go. There will be Disabled List players, extended spring training and more.
Justin Morneau, Ryan Doumit (Joe Mauer, Luke Hughes)
As much as I have no worries about Joe Mauer as he comes back in 2012, I am equally concerned about Justin Morneau’s ability to come back and play. Obviously I really hope that I am wrong. I hope he comes back and performs to the MVP-like caliber that we saw from 2006 through 2010. Defensively, he was tremendous and that is a great example of his work ethic. Hopefully by now, fans understand the seriousness of head injuries and concussions. As much as they’re saying that Morneau won’t be just a DH, that has to be considered an option.
We talked quite a bit yesterday about Doumit as a backup catcher, and his ability to hit. He’s not good defensively behind the plate, and frankly, he’s not too great in front of it either. He could play some at 1B, but it may not be pretty.
I wouldn’t be surprised to see Joe Mauer play first base a couple of times a week to keep his bat in the lineup. He played rather well there with the glove a year ago. Luke Hughes showed last year that he could adapt to first base. He had a positive UZR at both 1B and 2B. He also provides a solid right-handed bat off the bench. He’s the only right-handed bat in these four options.
Rochester Red Wings
Chris Parmelee, Aaron Bates, Steve Pearce
Parmelee showed in September what he could be capable of in the big leagues. He has been very solid the past two seasons in New Britain, but no one could have anticipated his strong September performance with the Twins. It’s the beauty of small sample size. That said, Parmelee seems to have figured a couple of things out the last two years. He puts together solid at bats, uses the whole field and hits for power. He needs a half-season at Triple-A to continue to progress, but the Twins’ 1st round pick in 2006 can be a solid contributor to the Twins lineup for years to come.
If the Twins need a 1B option early in the year, or just want a good left-handed bat off the bench, Bates should be considered. The Red Sox third round pick in 2006 debuted with the Sox in 2009. Last year, he joined the Red Wings in early May and was their best, most consistent hitter. He hit .316/.408/.439 with 30 extra base hits. He was invited to big league camp. So was Steve Pearce who burst on the prospect scene in 2007 when he dominated at four levels. Since then, he has not put up big numbers, but he has had over 100 plate appearances in four of the past five years in the big leagues. The Twins drafted him in the 45th round in 2003 out of high school. He didn’t sign. He is kind of a right-handed Aaron Bates.
New Britain Rock Cats
Nate Hanson, Steve Liddle
Hanson is a Minnesota native who played for the Gophers before being drafted by the Twins as a third baseman. During the 2010 season, he played more and more first base, and now he is well respected for his glove and athleticism at first base. He joined the Rock Cats at about the halfway point of last season and held his own. Liddle was hurt much of the 2011 season. He has surgery on his non-throwing shoulder in the offseason. Although he has played more outfield, he played quite a bit of first base as well. After a frustrating 2011 season, it will be interesting to see if he jumps to New Britain.
Ft. Myers Miracle
Michael Gonzales, Lance Ray, Danny Rams
Gonzales returned to Beloit in 2011 about 25 pounds lighter. He came through with a healthier, more productive season. He showed better range at first base. More important, his hands and his bat were much quicker. He increased all of his numbers from 2012 and is certainly ready for the Florida State League. Lance Ray has primarily played in the outfield, but he does a nice job when he plays at 1B as well. Rams will catch at times, but he will play some other positions including outfield and DH. He played quite a bit of 1B in Beloit in 2010.
Rory Rhodes, Kennys Vargas
Rhodes is 6-7, so the natural comparison for him will likely be Richie Sexson, and I think that’s a fair comp. He has a ton of power at such a young age. The Australian needs patience, but he also will need to compete in a full-season league in 2012. Putting the ball in play more often will be a big thing. Defensively, he was a solid defensive third baseman, but with Miguel Sano in the picture, Rhodes primarily played first base at E-Town last year.
Vargas is a big guy, a switch-hitter with a powerful swing from both sides of the plate. He was putting together some solid numbers, hitting in the middle of the E-Town lineup when he was suspended for 50 games for using a banned weight-loss supplement. It cost him the end of the 2011 season and will cost him the first 32 games of the 2012 season. But he has some real potential, so I expect the Twins to stick with him after the suspension is up.
Another Australian, Hendricks was signed as a catcher but was quickly moved to first base. He was very streaky and inconsistent with the bat in 2011, but he does have good size and power potential. He could have a big year in 2012 at E-Town.
TOP THREE PROSPECTS
1.) Chris Parmelee, 2.) Michael Gonzales, 3.) Rory Rhodes
For 2012, Justin Morneau is the question mark. He hasn’t finished a full season in several years. He has the concussion injury, but the wrist surgery is also concerning for a power hitter. If the Twins didn’t have so many other needs and concerns, maybe it would make sense to add a 1B to the mix. However, Chris Parmelee is close and could take over the position for the next half-dozen years. Bates and Pearce are guys that could pinch hit or fill in very temporarily.
If you have any further questions, please feel free to e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org or leave your thoughts in the Comments Section!