Twins prospectus 2009 – fielding

Like the pitching staff, the defense is pretty well set with only one new off-season pickups to absorb.  This is a defense that can chase down more batted balls than the average team and doesn’t give many unnecessary runs.  The Twins are usually challenging for the lead in fielding percentage and this year should follow that example if the youngsters of  last year get their act together.

baseball_011All five positions in the infield (including catcher) include players who have won or will receive votes for gold gloves at their position.  Catcher Joe Mauer is considered by some the heir to Pudge Rodriguez as the best defensive catcher in the American League.  1B Justin Morneau has quietly made himself a fielder who has good range and can save his teammates errors by flagging down the occasional errant throw.  2B Alexi Casilla is a converted shortstop who is still learning to tame his flamboyance, but he can “pick’em” with anyone.  Manager Ron Gardenhire has always described Nick Punto as his best infielder whatever position he plays.  This year Nick will be the starting shortstop – so long as he can have a decent year at the plate, which hasn’t always happened.  New addition Joe Crede was described as gold-glove quality by General Manager Bill Smith when he signed the third baseman.

The outfield has 4 players seriously contending for playing time.  Carlos Gomez appears to be the heir to Torii Hunter in centerfield.  He calls himself the fastest man in baseball – and no one has successfully disputed that yet.  He also has a cannon attached to his right shoulder, but his tools have been over-shadowed by his flamboyance and the fact that he is still learning the nuances of playing centerfield.  Torii credited Twins coach Jerry White with making him a gold glove outfielder, and hopefully White can do the same with Gomez.

30-4168887851Denard Span has the speed and arm to play all three outfield spots (in addition to being the prototypical leadoff batter), Michael Cuddyer has led the league in outfield assists and Delmon Young has good tools for the outfield if he can smooth them out.  It will be interesting to see who plays in the outfield this year, especially since DH is already taken by Jason Kubel.

All in all, the Twins have quality defenders at every position and should put up the kind of defense that bolsters their pitchers’ confidence and holds other teams to station to station baseball, either getting the out from the batter or throwing them out as runners on the basepaths.  If they stay healthy and Gomez and Young can settle in the outfield, the Twins will lead the league in defense again this year.

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