Minnesota Twins Whatnot 5/21

MLB, AL Central, Minnesota Twins, Boof Bonser, Delmon Young, Preview/Prediction

This weeks Whatnot will focus on the recent struggle of the Minnesota Twins. Don't you worry, you don't have to do anything. Just sit back, relax, and check out what the Twins experts say this week.

When, if ever, will Delmon Young get his first home run? What is he doing wrong?

Marty Andrade: Young has the reputation of a free swinger the likes of Vlad Guerrero, and based on pitch/swing data (available from fangraphs) he clearly is a free swinger.  But things are getting better for him.  He's swinging at fewer pitches outside the strike zone, he's making more contact with balls in the strike zone, he's averaging more pitches per at bat than he ever has and he's even getting more walks. 

This has resulted in a higher OBP this year and an improved walk/strikeout ratio and K%.  Despite the better plate discipline, Young's OPS is down significantly from his career mark.  Taking a peak at how he's hitting the ball I see two huge differences between the Delmon we saw playing for the Rays and the one in the Twins uniform, his Line Drive Percentage (LD%) is down substantially and his Ground Ball Percentage (GB%) is up ridiculously high. 

It appears as though something has changed which has lowered the number of line drives and long fly balls Delmon has hit.  Looking at his swing it appears as though it's flatter now than in the past, and he doesn't have a violent follow-through like he did in the minors.  My guess, the Twins are trying to get him to learn the strike zone and be a better hitter but it has made him tentative at the plate.  Growing pains.  In any case, I think his "slump" will be short lived. 

See, even with the low LD% and high GB%, he should still be hitting better than he is.  It won't be long before some flyballs are going to start finding their ways over fences.

Kelsey Hakes: Delmon Young is not exactly having his career season, but he is starting to find his groove. Just in the current Rockies series he has a lot of hits. He is becoming comfortable at the plate and I expect any day now a one will be in the home run column. Young is not the only Twins starter without a home run. Joe Mauer, Mike Lamb, and Adam Everett. Young is not doing anything wrong its just the matter of swinging the right way on the right pitches.

Jon Grilz: Probably... well, hopefully. I mean, if Rondell White could do it, I'm sure Young can, too. I would think that the first thing that he is doing wrong is not swinging like a male athlete. Even Gomez has hit a home run. He just needs to relax and swing like he's got a pair.

Dan Wade: If Jason Tyner can do it, Delmon certainly can and will. He’s a self-admitted slow starter, but if he doesn’t have one by June 14, I’ll be shocked.

I haven’t a clue what he’s doing wrong (the curse of living outside FSNs viewing area and being too insolvent for, but I think the larger problem is that Joe Vavra doesn’t seem to have an idea either. Delmon’s dad has been giving him hitting advice and it seems to be working. His XBH total doubled over the weekend, so that’s a good sign. I’d still like to see more hard hit line drives than we’ve seen to date.

Andrew Kneeland: I haven't had the opportunity to watch Delmon play, so I don't know if he has a huge swing flaw (not that I could catch it anyway). He has one of highest ground ball percentages in the MLB, but is a very disciplined hitter.

That being the case, he does hit quite a few fly balls as well. I'm sure he will connect on a few dingers. He won't be known as a home run hitter this year, though.

Fans are turning on Boof Bonser left and right. Why is he struggling, and what should Minnesota do with him?

Andrade: Let's see, WHIP, better than last year, Slugging Percentage Allowed (SLGA) down from last year,  walks and home runs per game, all better than last year.  Boof's expected-Fielding Independent ERA (xFIP) and his Fielding Independent Pitching (FIP) are 4.46 and 3.91 respectively (average to above average) and are both better than last year.  So why panic?  Yeah, so the guy's a #3 starter instead of the Cy Young winner we thought we saw in 2006, big deal.  He's still an average (or better) major league starter.

Hakes: Boof Bonser has the stuff to be in the major leagues, but I don't know if he can handle the pressure. Fans can be quick to judge, but they might be getting at something. Boof would be a lot better off if he could control his pitches in the first inning. It's hard to be working off a big deficit that early in the game. Minnesota should try and give him more chances. Just have faith.

Grilz: I would say that we need to feed him more. Somewhere in that weight that he lost was some talent as well. Perhaps he will be able to find it again in line at Old Country Buffet. For now, there isn't much we can do without him. We just need to deal with him and hope that he gets some run support. And if not, cut our losses and get rid of him. We are turning into the Land of 10,000 2nd chances.

Wade: Fans seem to think Boof is struggling for two major reasons. First, his control and consistency are on the blink. He comes and goes, a great start here and there followed by two absolute shellings. He probably isn’t pitching as poorly as people think he is, but such is life. If he can lock in his fastball and curve earlier in games, he’ll be a much better pitcher and will resume his status as fan favorite (due almost solely to his excellent name)Second, Bonser just isn’t that good a pitcher. People seem to think he is way better than he is. He’s a decent 3-4 guy, but he’s being asked to be a 2 behind the only Ace who is also the designated innings eater in the majors. Bonser will never be an ace, and probably won’t be even a number two on a good team. That said, once Baker and Liriano get back, Bonser might be one of the best number four guys in the Show.

He has solid value, but he’s also expendable, given the Twins famed pitching depth in the minors. Bonser’s lack of consistency and relative replaceability make him easy for the Twins to see off, but he could be a great back-end starter on the right team. Taken together those two facts may lead to a deal at or near the deadline, once the playoff picture in the Central clears up a bit. Until that point, Bonser should stay in the rotation.

Kneeland: Minnesota doesn't need Bonser, and I don't want Bonser. We've given him too many second chances, and I think it's about time we called up someone like Deunsing.

Bonser should go down to Rochester, where he could either finish his career or improve.

We could also trade Bonser before his stock doesn't hit rock bottom. We could get some left-infielders that are greatly needed.

Matt Tolbert is on the DL, and Howie Clark is being brought up. Is Clark the right guy, and who should be in the middle infield in the future?

Andrade: Between Harris, Everett and Casilla, the Twins had the middle infield covered for the time being.  Bringing in another soft-hitting-mediocre-glove-man is the sort of hysterical panicky behavior the Twins should see a therapist over.  Here are the infielders (minus Redmond and Morneau) that Gardy has at his disposal (with their current OPS in parenthesis)Everett (.514)

Lamb (.636)

Harris (.656)

Casilla (.600 [minors])

Clark (.753 [minors]) 

That's pathetic. 

Here are some players the Twins could have added: 

Denard Span (1.031)

Darnell McDonald (.992)

Brian Buscher (.898)

Steven Tolleson (.915) 

(Luke Hughes would also be mentioned but he's not 100%) 

There are some bats in the system, but it's looking like they're bats in the outfield, which the Twins don't need.  Still, considering the Twins are ranked 12th in the AL in OPS.  I'd start sacrificing defense to start putting some more runs on the board.  Buscher should have been brought up, or Tolleson.  Clark just won't add anything to the Twins team.  I will say this though, nothing about this situation is ideal.

Hakes: Clark is definately the right guy. He deserves to be brought up. Hopefully it'll be his chance to shine. With utility infielders such as Nick Punto and Matt Tolbert on the DL, the injury plagued Twins are having to deal with difficult desicions. Batting averages also have something to do with this. Everett is not producing as the Twins hoped. Howie Clark might give the Twins what they need from an unexpected place.

Grilz: Sorry, but I'm going to say it: Nick Punto. Sure his bat is crap, but so is all but 4 of our starters. His glove is pure gold and we need the added skill to make up for all the mistakes that our team has been making.

Wade: If there is one thing the Twins do better than anyone, it is protecting prospects. They go overboard making sure guys are ready for every aspect of the major leagues to the point of holding some guys back when they are probably ready to go. That’s why it was Clark who got the call-up. He played well enough to help the team and they knew they didn’t have to groom him. Clark isn’t the 3B of the future, he can’t be, he’s in his mid-30s, who knows how much longer he’ll even play. Guys like Romero and Valencia are looking more and more like real prospects, especially Valencia. He’s the guy I’ll tip for 3B of the future, but a lot can happen between now and then.

Kneeland: Clark is the right guy for this year, and possibly next year. He is in his mid-30s, though, and isn't the third baseman of the future. Minnesota's minor league system has a few guys who would fit the hole.

Valencia, Buscher, Romero all would be great options in the next five years. Nick Punto isn't a bad defensive option at all, but his bat stinks.

Once everyone is healthy again, who should be in the starting rotation?

Andrade: I'm assuming this year, so I would have Blackburn, Baker, Slowey, Bonser, Perkins. I would trade Hernandez before the clock strikes midnight, Liriano needs some AAA time and I would consider Duensing my first backup.

Hakes: We all know Scott Baker is a catalyst here in Minnesota. Granted his health track record hasn't been that good this year: from the flu to a pulled groin muscle, Baker just can't keep healthy to get his numbers.

Grilz: I don't think it really matters anymore. I just can't really say that it is our pitching that is the issue. We are just too inconsistent. Either our bats are good or our pitching is good. Or both are good, but we make fielding mistakes. Or our fielding and pitching is good but we can't make contact with the ball. I think that we have turned into one of the few teams in the majors that doesn't have to worry half as much about pitching as they do with just being a consistent, solid team that we have shown we can be.

Wade: Liriano, Baker, Hernandez, Bonser, Mulvey (Unless Slowey continues to improve, then Slowey)

Kneeland: Liriano, Hernandez, Slowey, Baker, Perkins. I would like nothing more than to get rid of Bonser, and Perkins has been solid in the few starts that he has had.

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