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2006 Projections, Part I

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Take a look at how currect numbers project through the end of the season on the offensive side of the ball.

Mike Redmond, C

Line   Games  AB  R  H 2B HR RBI  BB  SO  SB   Avg   Obp   Slg
2006     22   85  9 32  6  0  12   0  10   0  .376  .386  .447
Proj     50  193 20 73 14  0  27   0  23   0  .376  .386  .447

Mike Redmond has been about as good of a backup catcher as there can be.  When he plays, he calls a good game behind the plate.  Redmond has always been known for his defensive skills and a decent bat.  This year, that "decent bat" has been on fire, and it comes in handy when you want to give Joe Mauer a day off while not losing much statistically.

As a career .292 hitter, Redmond isn't by any means overmatched when he steps into the box.  The liklihood of him maintaining such high numbers through the end of the season are unlikely, however, as  statistical outliers like Mike's 2006 will gravitate back toward the mean.  Still, this is going to be a good year for our backup catcher.  He's been quite the luxury.

Joe Mauer, C

Line   Games  AB  R   H 2B HR RBI  BB  SO  SB   Avg   Obp   Slg
2006     69  260 43 102 21  5  37  34  27   7  .392  .458  .538
Proj    145  546 90 214 44 11  78  71  57  15  .392  .458  .538

Take a look at those projected numbers, specifically the 44 doubles, 90 runs, 71 walks and 15 stolen bases.  Oh yeah, and the 214 hits.  I have a friend who's fond of saying "That .390 is great, Joe, but where's the other .610?"  But he's crazy.  If Mauer manages this torrid pace through the end of the year, we're not just looking at a "breakout" season for the young cather, we're looking at a "career year".

What's amazing is that, just when you thought it was over, when the average was "down" to .368 and looked like it would continue to dip, the Dodgers came to town.  Thanks, L.A.!  Joe was 11-for-13 against the Boys in Blue, with 4 runs, 2 doubles, a triple, 6 RBI and a walk.  Not too shabby.

What we're witnessing in Mauer is one of the greatest first halves for a Twin since the days of yore.  Those days were a long, long, LONG time ago, if you're wondering.

Justin Morneau, 1B

Line   Games  AB  R   H 2B HR RBI  BB  SO  SB   Avg   Obp   Slg
2006     72  267 39  77 15 19  64  22  56   1  .288  .342  .558
Proj    151  560 82 161 32 40 134  43 117   2  .288  .342  .558

Justin is tied for 9th in the AL in home runs.  He's 3rd in the AL in RBI.  He's 10th in slugging.  All of this has happened because of his last 21 days, dating back to June 9.  Since then Justin has been an absolute monster, and he may deserve some All Star considerations.  Which is exactly what Justin thinks, too.  The only problem with talk of Morneau being an All Star is that all the talk would be based on the last 3 weeks.  An All Star selection needs to be based on more than 3 hot weeks; even weeks as hot as these have been.

Moving past the All Star snubbing (or not), there's no denying what Morneau has meant to the Twins during their resurgence.  If Minnesota is to make any run at postseason chances, Morneau's bat is going to have to be a major part of that.  Going into tonight's game against the Brewers he's on pace for not just the unbreakable 30, but the unthinkable 40-homer barrier.  Here's hoping Justin's breakout season continues.

Luis Castillo, 2B

Line   Games  AB  R   H 2B HR RBI  BB  SO  SB   Avg   Obp   Slg
2006     67  276 43  75 11  2  29  23  22   7  .272  .330  .341
Proj    141  581 90 158 23  4  61  48  46  15  .272  .330  .341

It's fair to say that Castillo's performance, in the field and at the plate, has been something of a disappointment.  After a very hot start (.362/.436/.420 in April), it's been a steady decline over the last two months (.275/.331/.385 May and a .204/.250/.235 June).  Having his worst season since becoming an everyday player with the Marlins in 1999, it made me wonder how much of an effect the artificial turf in having on Castillo's knees and legs.  Then I saw these numbers:

Surface  AB   Avg   Obp   Slg
Grass   126  .190  .271  .198
Turf    150  .340  .381  .460

Guess that puts an end to that debate.

Whatever the reason for his statistical drop-off over the past two months, for Castillo to keep his spot at the top of the order he needs to get back on track.  With Stewart returning soon and Punto providing enough of an offensive presence to warrant batting second, Luis may find himself rounding out the bottom of the order instead of the top.

Nick Punto, 3B

Line   Games  AB  R   H 2B HR RBI  BB  SO  SB   Avg   Obp   Slg
2006     55  139 23  39  6  0  10  21  19   6  .281  .373  .353
Proj    116  293 49  82 13  0  21  44  40  13  .281  .373  .353
Proj Ed 130  329 54  92 14  0  24  50  45  14  .281  .373  .353

If the Twins don't acquire a third baseman to pick up some AB's at the hot corner, Punto will probably get more games in than the straight projection.  This is where the "Prof Ed" line comes in; a personal edited projection.

Punto's athletic and aggressive style of play at third base, combined with some surprisingly consistent offense, has earned him a spot in the everyday lineup.  While none of these numbers are really going to impress anyone, having a .373 OBP is going to make you a starter if you can keep that up over stretches of time.  With Stewart's inevitable return and Castillo in a bit of a free-fall, Punto's spot at the 2-hole appears safe for now.

It's been said before, but the danger in Punto is that he's never been an everyday player.  To become one at this stage in his career, while it doesn't necessitate it happening, makes it more likely that his solid numbers won't hold up.  This has been stated a number of times throughout the bloggosphere, and still, Punto continues to keep his pace.  Little Nicky's been an unexpected bright spot.

Terry Tiffee, 3B, 1B

Line   Games  AB  R   H 2B HR RBI  BB  SO  SB   Avg   Obp   Slg
2006     14   30  3   8  0  1   4   4   6   0  .267  .353  .367
Proj     29   62  6  17  0  2   8   8  12   0  .267  .353  .367

I've referred to Tiffee as "AAAA" a few times here, and he's done nothing to change that impression.  During his time with the Twins in 2006 he's had a couple of big hits, but in general it's still been the same-old, same-old for him.  He was an Eastern League All Star in 2003, the year he was in AA with New Britain, but had a pretty uninspiring minor league career.  At 27, he's a non-prospect who has a couple things going for him that the Twins like.  He can play the corner infield spots.  He's a switch-hitter.  A lack of true positional backups at first and third have earned Tiffee one more shot with the Twins this year; you never know if this will be it for him.

Luis Rodriguez, 3B, 2B, SS

Line   Games  AB  R   H 2B HR RBI  BB  SO  SB   Avg   Obp   Slg
2006    30    57  7  13  2  2   4   9   8   0  .228  .333  .368
Proj    63   120 15  27  4  4   8  19  17   0  .228  .333  .368

Out of anyone, excluding pitchers, whose futures at the Major League level are uncertain, Rodriguez's is the most so.  On the plus side, he can play second, third and short, but with Punto and Bartlett playing solid, and with Tiffee backing up at third base should Punto need a spell, time for Luis has been cut.  He's played only 7 games in June, collecting a mere 10 at-bats.

Should Rodriguez be sent down, the Twins would lose some flexibility.  While Tiffee can backup third base, should Bartlett or Castillo exit the game, this would leave only Punto to back them up.  And what happens if Punto is already out of the game?  Emergency situation, Cuddyer can play second or third, Tiffee third, but if Punto is out of the game and Bartlett goes down, you'll have quite a suspect shortstop.  Personally, I'd rather send down Tiffee, but recent playing time suggests the Twins would do otherwise.

Jason Bartlett, SS

Line    Games  AB  R   H 2B HR RBI  BB  SO  SB   Avg   Obp   Slg
2006      14   48  6  18  4  0   5   5  12   1  .375  .464  .458
Proj      30  103 13  39  9  0  11  11  26   2  .375  .464  .458
Proj Ed   86  295 37 111 25  0  31  31  74   6  .375  .464  .458

Bartlett hit the ground running upon his call from Rochester, and has been everything we could have asked for on both sides of the ball.  He doesn't have the home run pull, but the gap power is there, just as expected.  His range in the field has been fun to watch, making back-handed stops, diving catches behind second base, and throws from deep in the gap have nailed runners who were sure of infield hits.

Just like Punto, I've edited Bartlett's projection, allowing for him to play 85% of the remaining 85 games.  Unlike Punto, but like Redmond, Bartlett is unlikely to maintain the numbers he's put up so far.  All the same, he's been such an improvement over Juan Castro, I can barely believe both players fielded the same position.  Even though he won't hit .375 all year, whatever those averages end up being, the Twins are better for having Jason Bartlett in uniform.

Michael Cuddyer, RF

Line    Games  AB  R   H 2B HR RBI  BB  SO  SB   Avg   Obp   Slg
2006      65  224 41  61 17 11  44  33  54   3  .272  .373  .513
Proj     137  472 86 129 36 23  93  70 114   6  .272  .373  .513

Cuddyer has stepped into the shoes of the player more like the player the Twins saw when they drafted him.  While his power hasn't been as visible over the last couple weeks (only 1 homer since June 8), he's still reaching base, whether it's by hit or walk.  In spite of the 1 home run in the last 17 games, he's still on pace for 23.

Sandwiched in between two of the hottest players in baseball, Cuddyer's right-handed bat rounds out an effective if not intimidating 3-4-5.  While he may not be an "ideal" clean-up hitter, he's done well in the spot as a Twin, and he's only getting more comfortable.  I look for Cuddyer to heat up again as the summer wears on.

Torii Hunter, CF

Line    Games  AB  R   H 2B HR RBI  BB  SO  SB   Avg   Obp   Slg
2006      76  283 45  75 11 12  46  35  53   6  .265  .343  .431
Proj     160  596 95 158 23 25  97  74 112  13  .265  .343  .431

The subject of many debates, Hunter is once again putting up Hunter-esque numbers.  On pace for 25 homers and nearly 100 RBI, the largest difference between Torii and his career numbers are the changes in OBP and SLG.  His .431 SLG is 25 points below those career averages; his .343 OBP is a career-high and 21 points above career averages.

After missing the last half of 2005, Hunter's knee appears to have little effect on his current performance, although the future is still to be seen.  But, as for now, he'll contend for a sixth consecutive Gold Glove, even if his range is diminishing, and he'll continue to make highlight catches for Web Gems.  He's still a great center fielder.

The best part of the emergence of Mauer, Cuddyer and Morneau for Hunter, is that he no longer needs to hit clean-up.  Or third.  Torii is a classic 6-hole kind of hitter, and now that he's in this position his strike-zone liabilities aren't as glaring.  Having a .265/.343 guy with 25-homer and 90 RBI potential out of the six spot is a great thing, and it's a luxury the Twins aren't used to having.

Jason Kubel, LF, RF

Line    Games  AB  R   H 2B HR RBI  BB  SO  SB   Avg   Obp   Slg
2006      34  110 14  32  4  6  19   5  23   2  .291  .319  .491
Proj      72  233 30  68  8 13  40  11  49   4  .291  .319  .491
Proj Ed  102  330 42  96 12 18  57  15  69   6  .291  .319  .491

Kubel has been solid since his recall from Rochester.  He homered in three straight games, and he's come up with a few clutch hits.  Kubel's edited projection him allows for playing 80% of the Twins remaining 85 games.

The problem with Kubel is the scary walk-to-strikeout ratio.  If Kubel doesn't learn to take more pitches, or at least lay off more bad ones, they'll stop throwing quality pitches in the zone and his numbers will plummet.  His .319 OBP isn't even 30 points over his batting average, and while Kubel's sample size isn't the largest, it's not a promising beginning.

I have no doubts that Kubel will develop a more consistent home run stroke as well as better gap power.  He should be able to hit 25-30 doubles when playing full time.  If he can continue to work on plate discipline and strike zone judgement, he has the tools to be a very solid hitter.  Right now he has the tools, but tools alone can't keep a player productive when you don't walk.

Lew Ford, OF

Line  Games  AB  R   H 2B HR RBI  BB  SO  SB   Avg   Obp   Slg
2006    60  176 30  38  6  2  11  15  33   8  .216  .292  .295  
Proj   126  370 63  80 13  4  23  32  69  17  .216  .292  .295

How many players can hit .216 while the crowd still adores them?  Only one on the Minnesota roster, and that's Lew Ford.  Whether it's because they like cheering "LLLEEEEEEEWWWWWWW!!!", because Lew has a bit of character to him, or because the ladies are crushin' on Lew, I really don't know.  What I do know is that I'm much more tolerant of Ford's .216 than White's.  Although, to be fair, White would have to go on quite a tear to reach .216...

Ford is valuable because he can play all three outfield spots.  He's the outfield utility guy...with personality.  At the plate he has a good eye, as evidenced by his walk totals.  The problem is that he rarely seems to get good swings on the ball, and it's not just that he hits the ball on the ground.  His 1.60 groundball to flyball ratio is better than his 1.68 career average, and definitely much better than the 1.85 ratio he posted in 2005.

It's hard to say what the cause of Ford's offensive ineptitude may be.  Whatever it is, I hope he finds the answer.  If he doesn't, he may not be a Twin in 2007.

Rondell White, DH

Line    Games  AB  R   H 2B HR RBI  BB  SO  SB   Avg   Obp   Slg
2006      54  181 15  33  6  0  15   5  30   1  .182  .209  .215
Proj     114  382 32  70 13  0  32  11  63   2  .182  .209  .215
Proj Ed   70  235 19  43  8  0  19   6  39   1  .182  .209  .215

Obviously, I don't expect the Twins to invest enough at-bats in Rondell White to vest his contract for 2007.  Bad shoulder or not, DL or not, the Twins will have a better option at the DH position once Shannon Stewart returns to the team.  Rondell wasn't a bad decision, he was just a decision that turned out poorly for everyone invloved.  If he manages to come back and play well, I'll be happy for him, and definitely happy for the Twins.  But with quality at-bats and results coming from elsewhere, how much time do you need to give White if his shoulder issues are solved?  How much time is needed to prove whether it was the injury or the hitter creating those horrendous statistics and disappointing at-bats?

Shannon Stewart, LF, DH

Line    Games  AB  R   H 2B HR RBI  BB  SO  SB   Avg   Obp   Slg
2006      35  141 19  42  3  2  17  12  14   3  .298  .355  .376
Proj      74  298 40  89  6  4  36  25  30   6  .298  .355  .376
Proj Ed   95  383 52 114  8  5  46  33  43   8  .298  .355  .376

Shannon Stewart can't run as well anymore.  He doesn't have the ability to hit 15 home runs, either.  What he does still possess are the skills required to get on base.  Stewart had a nice walk rate before he hit the DL, and he's still a good contact hitter.  With his return tot the top of the lineup, he will displace Luis Castillo, and hopefully will be hitting as a DH.

Should the Twins stumble in July, Stewart will be on the list of players available.  He's no longer a great hitter, but he's still a good one, and he's professional.  His return to the Twins should only make us stronger.

Conclusions

There's been lots of dead weight removed from the roster, and additional moves may be close at hand.  Until then, we're playing like a contender, and the Twins are loads of fun to watch.  Imagine if the lineup at the end of the year looked like this...

Player   Pos   AB   R    H  2B  HR  RBI  BB  SO  SB   Avg   Obp   Slg
Stewart   DH  383  52  114   8   5   46  33  43   8  .298  .355  .376
Punto     3B  329  54   92  14   0   24  50  45  14  .281  .373  .353
Mauer     C   546  90  214  44  11   78  71  57  15  .392  .458  .538
Cuddyer   RF  472  86  129  36  23   93  70 114   6  .272  .373  .513
Morneau   1B  560  82  161  32  40  134  43 117   2  .288  .342  .558
Hunter    CF  596  95  158  23  25   97  74 112  13  .265  .343  .431
Kubel     LF  330  42   96  12  18   57  15  69   6  .291  .319  .491
Bartlett  SS  295  37  111  25   0   31  31  74   6  .375  .464  .458
Castillo  2B  581  90  158  23   4   61  48  46  15  .272  .330  .341

Doesn't look too bad to me.