Maximizing Roster Assets 101: Who Should Be Platooned?

Brian Dozier had a breakout year last season, but it doesn't hide the fact that most of his damage came against lefthanded pitching. - Jesse Johnson-USA TODAY Sports

In response to Jesse's piece from earlier, I take a look at the players that could be platooned on the Twins' roster.

Earlier today, Jesse posted an article about how the Twins could become a better team simply by platooning their players. Unfortunately, the Twins haven't had much evidence of doing so (perhaps not since the Bobby Kielty / Dustan Mohr platoon in 2002), instead choosing to set up their position players to fail in the name of having a consistent lineup from one day to the next.

What Jesse didn't realize is that I had an idea about platoons percolating in my head for a while now, but simply did not act on writing about it. Since he sniped it out from under me, I'm not going to take this lying down and I'm going to come with guns a-blazing by writing about whom shall be platooned as a Twin, along with some affordable free agent options. The following will present each player, along with their career OPS vs. righties and then vs. lefties, respectively.

Shortstop: Pedro Florimon (.633 and .515) & Eduardo Escobar (.531 and .739)

I'm going to go on a mini-rant here. It seems like many "athletic" players take up switch-hitting, presumably because batting from the left side gives them a little less distance to make it to first base. Additionally, switch-hitting theoretically always gives you the platoon advantage against the pitcher.

However, some players just aren't cut out for switch-hitting, and it certainly looks like Florimon and Escobar are two of those players. Even though both are just slightly more than Buterian at the plate against lefties and righties, respectively, they have stuck with switch-hitting. Platooning these two would make a ton of sense, even though Florimon still isn't much of a hitter from the left side. An added bonus is that both play shortstop, meaning that you're not really sacrificing much defense when the other is inserted into the lineup.

Second Base: Brian Dozier (.613 and .905) & Skip Schumaker (.752 and .534)

Yes, I get that Dozier had a breakout year last season by hitting 18 home runs, tops for the Twins (and that includes the traded Justin Morneau). No, that OPS against lefties is not a typo. But, those 18 homers were easily a career high for him, regardless of level in his major or minor league career, and thus I am terrified of the type of regression he's likely to see next season.

In his short career, Dozier has absolutely crushed lefthanded pitching, and yet he's Matt Tolbert against righties. That's where you can insert a player like Skip Schumaker, who has been pretty decent against righties but cannot handle lefties at all. Now, I want to make it clear, I DO NOT LIKE SKIP SCHUMAKER AS A PLAYER. He is not good defensively at second base and is the type of player that would receive 500 plate appearances from Ron Gardenhire simply because he battles his tail off like no one else. However, for this exercise of setting up platoons for the Twins, swapping Dozier and Schumaker at second should work out pretty well. Plus, it would allow me to say "Skip Schumaker's Gritty Gutty Grission Putty" more often.

First Base: Trevor Plouffe (.665 and .842) and James Loney (.791 and .669) or Justin Morneau (.893 and .709)

Trevor Plouffe discovered how to hit home runs over the past couple years, and he actually does that fairly often against righties. However, he hits .050 worse against righties, and that helps contribute to an OPS that's nearly .200 less than when he faces a south-sider. Platooning him with a lefty that's even just competent against a righthander would make for a good first base platoon for this team (Note: I'm assuming that Miguel Sano takes over at 3rd base in this scenario). James Loney isn't regarded as a great 1st baseman, but he's held his own against righties and could certainly work as a stopgap. Or, you could go the Justin Morneau route, which actually would be more appealing. Even after his concussion, Morneau has still hit righties well (OPS-ing .819 and .902 against them in the past two seasons) which means he's a prime candidate to platoon with Plouffe.

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From these simple suggestions, all the Twins need to do is sign two players in Schumaker and Loney or Morneau. Thus, I will provide mock lineups below if the Twins were to simply start platooning at 3 positions. I will admit I'm making some assumptions - namely that Joe Mauer is healthy enough to catch and Miguel Sano starts the season as the third baseman - but I don't think these lineups look that absurd outside of those assumptions.

Note: I am having Aaron Hicks and Oswaldo Arcia be in both lineups despite showing platoon splits in 2013 because I felt they should receive more plate appearances before we can make any sort of judgment to the type of hitters they can be. In case you're wondering, Arcia has a .769 OPS against righties and .659 vs. lefties, while Hicks was at .536 and .713, vs. RHP and LHP respectively last year.

Twins vs. Righties

  1. Skip Schumaker, 2B
  2. Joe Mauer, C
  3. Josh Willingham, LF
  4. Justin Morneau, 1B
  5. Miguel Sano, 3B
  6. Oswaldo Arcia, RF
  7. Ryan Doumit, DH
  8. Aaron Hicks, CF
  9. Pedro Florimon, SS
If the Twins had James Loney instead of Morneau, I would then shuffle around the lineup so Loney would hit 6th or so. Perhaps I would move Sano and Arcia up a place to move Loney down.

Twins vs. Lefties
  1. Brian Dozier, 2B
  2. Joe Mauer, C
  3. Josh Willingham, LF
  4. Miguel Sano, 3B
  5. Trevor Plouffe, 1B
  6. Oswaldo Arcia, RF
  7. Ryan Doumit, DH
  8. Aaron Hicks, CF
  9. Eduardo Escobar, SS
Finally, there's the argument of facing situational pitchers late in games. For the lineup against RHP, the lineup goes L-L-R-L-R-L-S-S-S, while the LHP lineup is R-L-R-R-R-L-S-S-S. Yes, opposing teams could possibly take advantage by throwing a LOOGY (Left-handed One Out GuY) against the RHP squad, but the players most affected by the LOOGY are those that are being platooned in the first place. Thus, if Tim Collins of the Royals comes out of the 'pen to face Pedro Florimon and Skip Schumaker in the 8th inning of a tie game, well, you combat that by sending out Eduardo Escobar and Brian Dozier to pinch-hit. Similarly, if Trevor Plouffe has to face a tough righty late in the game, you counter with Morneau/Loney.

Oh, and this would also allow the Twins to keep these 13 position players on the roster: Mauer, Doumit, Morneau/Loney, Plouffe, Dozier, Schumaker, Florimon, Escobar, Sano, Willingham, Hicks, Arcia, and one open spot for a backup outfielder. Doesn't seem too unreasonable, I must say.

What do you think? Are these affordable moves enough to improve the Twins' offense?
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