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Donuts, Cheesedip and Southpaw Mashin'

Matthew LeCroy has returned to the Minnesota Twins, signing a minor-league contract which would pay $500,000 for a spot on the big league club.

I'll take Things I Didn't See Coming for $500K, Alex.

Last year was a little rough for Boom Boom.  Where once he was used as a lefty-masher and designated hitter, he was asked not only to catch but to catch quite least through May.  By the time Frank Robinson was reduced to tears, the Nationals had learned what the Twins had known for quite awhile:  Matty LeCroy is not an every day player.  Not that there's anything wrong with that.  Platoon and role players have their strengths, but when the deficiencies in the player's game are ignored you neutralize any advantage that player can provide.  LeCroy knocks the shit out of left-handed pitchers.  It's what he does.  He doesn't catch.  Or run.

When all was said and done, the 31-year old's 2006 line goes .239/.350/.373 in 67 at-bats, with 2 homers and a 20:1 stolen base to gun-em-down ratio.

Yet as ugly as things were in 2006, there's some optimism to be had here.  In an offense that saw, for the large part, career numbers flaring up throughout the lineup, there's bound to be a bit of bounceback.  Statistical outliers will meander back toward the mean, and chances are that Tyner, Bartlett, Punto, Mauer, Cuddyer, Morneau, Hunter and Redmond won't all duplicate the numbers from last season's offensive coup.  I do believe that Rondell White will perform better, which will offset some of the fall off, but I also believe that Matt LeCroy can still find a role on a Twins team with a real, live, potent lineup.

Matthew LeCroy vs LHP
Year   AB   Avg   Obp   Slg  HR
2002   90  .289  .347  .522   5
2003  131  .298  .370  .504   7
2004   90  .322  .367  .533   4
2005  124  .306  .404  .621  13
2006   35  .229  .386  .343   1

Speaking of statistical outliers, my money is on those same splits for 2007 improving drastically.  If you're looking for reasons for LeCroy's miserable southpaw numbers last year, take your pick.  He was put into a role he was unaccustomed to, into a role he could not play, in his first change-of-scenery as a major league player.  His lack of prowess behind the plate was exposed, a source of massive ridicule.  It's also quite a small sample size, even in comparison with his part-time numbers from his years with the Twins.

As a scenario, it's a perfect fit for the Twins and for LeCroy.  The major league roster's only true corner infield backup option is fresh-faced Jeff Cirillo, but he's 37.  Terry Tiffee was useless and is no longer a part of the organization, Garrett Jones has shown no signs that he's ready to take the next step and Michael Cuddyer is an outfielder.  For Matty, he's in a place he knows with people who know him and fans who love him, he won't be asked to catch, and teams can always use an offensive specialist.

In 2007 LeCroy is only 31.  Those skills which could be diminishing for a player of his age--speed and some agility--don't play against him because he's never had them in the first place.  The advantage in signing Matthew LeCroy is the same as it's always been:  destroying left-handed pitching.

If there is a concern over how realistic of a chance he has to make the 25-man roster, and I believe it's a legitimate concern, it's that the Twins value versatility on the bench.  With Cirillo and Redmond taking up two spots, is there room for LeCroy?  On a team that will carry at least 11 pitchers, probably not.  Assuming 11 pitchers, two of the last three bench spots will probably be used for guys like Alexi Casilla and Luis Rodriguez, players who can sub at second, short and third.  That last spot could go Jason Tyner, Jason Kubel, Denard Span or Lew Ford, depending on who gets the left field and designated hitter jobs.

Signing Matthew LeCroy is a low-risk, moderate-reward acquisition in a best case scenario.  If you want to be optimistic, maybe he wins the DH spot versus left-handed pitchers.  All cheeseburger, donut and buffet jokes aside, LeCroy is a loveable guy and was one of my favorite Twins in past years.  I wish him the best in his return, and here's hoping he can make a positive impact in the 2007 campaign.