Grading the 2009 Minnesota Twins: OF / DH

I've been meaning to write a series of reviews of the 2009 season, player by player, grading each from "A" to "F". Now that I finally have the time here's the first of four articles, focusing on outfield and DH positions. In future articles between now and spring training, I'll take a look at infield/catcher, starting pitching, and the bullpen. For those of you with ADD, here's how I grade the Twins outfielders in 2009:

  • Denard Span: A-
  • Michael Cuddyer: B+
  • Jason Kubel: B
  • Delmon Young: D-
  • Carlos Gomez: D

First, an explanation of the grades for each player:

  1. I'm not grading on an absolute scale, but rather relative to the player's performance relative to hopes and expectations coming into the season. In other words, an "A" for Joe Mauer is much more difficult than an "A" for Nick Punto
  2. No grade inflation here. A "C" means the player didn't outperform or underperform relative to expectations last year.
  3. Expectations are solely limited to my gut feeling now that the season is done. If nothing else, it will be a good discussion topic!
  4. Any player will only be graded at a single position. In other words, Mauer is only a catcher, not a DH.

Without further ado, here's a review of the Twins outfielders and DH during the 2009 season:


Denard Span

#2 / Left Field / Minnesota Twins

6-0

205

L

L

Feb 27, 1984



G AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB K SB CS AVG OBP SLG
2009 - Denard Span 145 578 97 180 16 10 8 68 70 89 23 10 .311 .392 .415

Grade: A-

After an outstanding 2008 breakout season, in which Span posted a .294 / .387 / .432 line and a solid 2.6 WAR, most of us questioned whether he could follow it up with a solid sophomore season. I, for one, would have been very happy with nothing more than a repeat of Span's rookie season. Span obliged in 2009, posting an offensive line similar to 2008 (.359 wOBA last year, .364 in 2008), except over a full season. As a result, Span posted a 3.8 WAR from the leadoff spot. Defensively, Denard took a slight step backward with a cumulative UZR of +0.4 compared to +2.7 the year before, but most of the difference is due to Span spending nearly half of 2009 at the more difficult defensive center field position.

Denard Span's offensive and defensive contributions noted above by themselves would have earned a B+ grade. Solidifying the Twins leadoff spot with a .392 OBP in front of Joe Mauer, Justin Morneau and the other Twins sluggers pushed Span up to an A- grade. And all of this at a major league minimum salary through 2010!

 


Michael Cuddyer

#5 / Right Field / Minnesota Twins

6-2

215

R

R

Mar 27, 1979



G AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB K SB CS AVG OBP SLG
2009 - Michael Cuddyer 153 588 93 162 34 7 32 94 54 118 6 1 .276 .342 .520

Grade: B+

After a breakout 2006 season in which Michael Cuddyer posted a .284/.362/.504 line with 24 HR and 109 RBI, the Twins right fielder took a step back in 2007 (.276/.356/.433 with a drop in isolated slugging from .221 down to .157) and then spent the 2008 season rotating on and off the disabled list. Coming into 2009, I would have been happy with a healthy, somewhat productive season. And Cuddyer delivered, posting a wOBA of .370, same as in 2006, and hitting a career high 32 home runs. As the Twins primary power threat from the right side, Cuddyer's resurgence was critical between lefties Mauer, Morneau and Kubel. Never the greatest defensive outfielder, Cuddyer took another step backwards in the field, posting a -16.9 UZR. in RF. In total, Cuddyer cost the Twins 17.3 runs compared to the average defensive player, almost canceling out his +22.3 runs above average at the plate. These defensive ratings were by far the worst of his career, as Cuddyer posted -4.8, -3.1 and -4.6 the last three years. Has Cuddyer lost a step and become a major liability in RF? Or was last season's UZR artificially low last year?

In all, Cuddyer's offense was worth an A-, but his defense knocked him back to a B. In the end, the fact that Cuddyer filled in serviceably for Justin Morneau at first base over the last month of the season bumps him up to a B+.

 


Jason Kubel

#16 / Designated Hitter / Minnesota Twins

6-0

220

L

R

May 25, 1982



G AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB K SB CS AVG OBP SLG
2009 - Jason Kubel 146 514 73 154 35 2 28 103 56 106 1 1 .300 .369 .539

 

Grade: B

In 2008, Jason Kubel showed signs of the breakout (.272/.335/.471 with 20 HR) we have all been waiting for since his stellar minor league stats and 2004 knee injury. During the offseason, the Twins rewarded Kubel with a 2 year / $7.2M contract with a $5.25M option for 2011. While most Twins fans (including me) were happy with the signing (which locks Kubel up through his first free agency eligible year), other sabermetric experts including Dave Cameron, criticized the signing, citing other cheaper free agent designated hitters like Erik Hinske on the market for a cheaper $1-2M price tag. Dave, how do you like that Hinske option (.242/.348/.432 in 93 games, 0.8 WAR) now? In 2009, Kubel more than earned his $2.75M salary, posting a .300/.369/.539 line with 28 HR, 103 RBI, and a .383 wOBA (about a 40 point improvement over his previous high water mark). Improvements were pretty much across the board, as Kubel improved his walk rate (9.7%), isolated slugging (.239), fly ball percentage (41.7%) and home runs per fly ball (16.3%). The only negatives I see from 2009 were a slight jump in strikeout rate (one point, to 20.6%) and a .336 BABIP that tells me his .300 batting average may not be repeated. But in all, and excellent season at the plate, with a value of +27.3 runs above average. Defensively, Kubel saw most of his time at DH, but in 59 games split between LF and RF, he posted a -5.2 UZR, which projects to -15.5 UZR/150. Not very good, but at least hidden for the most part at DH. In total, Kubel pulled in 2.9 WAR, a very solid performance for a DH, not to mention great value at $2.75M.

Looking forward, hitting against LHP remains Kubel's achilles heel, as he posted a .243/.299/.345 line against lefties (basically turning into Carlos Gomez at the plate). Considering that Kubel has not shown a year to year improvement against LHP (666, 704, 644 OPS in 07, 08 and 09), he's getting closer and closer to platooning for his career. Overall, I graded Kubel at A- offensively, but bumped him down for his defense and down again for the struggles against LHP to end up at "B" for the season.


Delmon Young

#21 / Left Field / Minnesota Twins

6-3

200

R

R

Sep 14, 1985



G AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB K SB CS AVG OBP SLG
2009 - Delmon Young 108 395 50 112 16 2 12 60 12 92 2 5 .284 .308 .425

Grade: D-

Except for Nick Punto, Delmon Young is probably the most criticized Twins player. Whenever fans look at Delmon, the thought of the players it cost to acquire him (Jason Bartlett, Matt Garza) makes us cringe at what could have been. For Young, it's always a matter of the team having enough patience to allow him to reach his "potential". The problem is, how many years are we supposed to wait? Over the past three seasons (one with Tampa, two with Minnesota), Young's offensive lines are strikingly similar: .288/.316/.408, .290/.336/.405 and .284/.308/.425 in 07, 08 and 09. A decent batting average, little to no patience, and a little (but not much) slugging. Will the power ever show? Offensively, two statistics jump out at me for Delmon Young in 2009. First, we saw his already minuscule walk rate (3.8% and 5.6% in 07/08) crater down to 2.9% for a total of 12 walks on the season. An out machine of the highest order. Second, we finally saw a jump in Delmon's power, as his isolated slugging jumped to .142 from .119 and .115 in his first two seasons with the Twins. A promising trend, although Young still has not reached the level (.476 SLG, .159 ISO, 38 doubles) of his final year in Tampa. Defensively, what can I say? After two seasons of above average ratings in RF in Tampa, Young has been stuck in left field by the Twins, and Delmon has responded with identical -16.4 UZR in 2008 and 2009. Any of us who have seen "Skates" in left know that it's an adventure any time a fly ball is hit to left.

Overall, below average offense and horrible defense means Young has provided below replacement level value both of his two seasons, -0.4 WAR in 2008 and -1.1 WAR in 2009. When a player costs his team over one win below replacement level, I have to start with a grade of "F". But Young's ability to pick it up during the second half (.300/.322/.502 after the all star break), as well as the jump in slugging makes me bump his final grade up to a D-. 


Carlos Gomez

#27 / Center Field / Milwaukee Brewers

6-4

215

R

R

Dec 04, 1985



G AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB K SB CS AVG OBP SLG
2009 - Carlos Gomez 137 315 51 72 15 5 3 28 22 72 14 7 .229 .287 .337

Grade: D

The centerpiece of the Johan Santana trade, Carlos Gomez had an up and down 2008 season with the Twins. Offensively, he was not very good (.258/.296/.360), but his stellar defense in center field (+16.5 UZR) made up for it and contributed to a solid +2.3 WAR for the season. Coming into 2009, we hoped to see some improved patience and a bit more slugging from Gomez. An OPS over 700 probably would have made most of us happy last year. Instead, Gomez got off to a poor start, batting .195/.250/.293 in April, and never really hit his stride in May (625 OPS) or June (650) either. In the Twins crowded outfield, Carlos became the odd man out, limited to defensive replacement duty over the final month and a half. And while Gomez played good defense in 2009 (+7.3 UZR, +10.0 UZR/150), it was a slight step back range-wise compared to 2008 and not enough to cancel out his -14.2 runs above average at the plate. 

Overall, Carlos Gomez provided 0.7 WAR in 2009. Definitely a step backwards from the previous season. I would have given Gomez a D- grade, same as Delmon Young, but in the end, my memory of Gomez' 2009 season includes a few amazing clutch late inning catches in center field during the playoff stretch run in September. So I bump Gomez up to a final grade of "D".

 

Next week, I'll focus on the Twins catchers and infielders. Hmmm...I wonder if anyone on the team earned an outright "A"? If someone did, I recommend we sign him to a $150M+ contract immediately. I also wonder if anyone earned an outright "F"? Stay tuned...

 

 

 

 

 

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