There's a story over at the Strib on Trevor Plouffe by LEN III, condensing Plouffe's off-season into a few paragraphs. Plouffe was at Pepperdine over the winter, shagging fly balls and essentially going back to school (literally) to get used to the outfield, and comes off as a guy who is willing to do everything he can to help put the team in the best position possible. Terry Ryan expresses confidence in Plouffe's abilities, and also compares the situation to Michael Cuddyer's; Jerry White says Plouffe looks pretty good but just needs a little work tracking low line drives.
Plouffe's effort isn't going to be a question. This summer will mark the eight year anniversary of his draft, where the Twins took him 20th overall; he's going to do what it takes to give himself the best opportunity to play in The Show. If that means a shift to the outfield, so be it.
The big question will instead be whether or not Plouffe can A) adapt to Major League pitching enough to be a productive hitter, and B) adjust to a new position at age-26 at the highest level of competition. Certainly at least two of Plouffe's tools should play, in his power and his arm, but if he's going to be the role player the Twins need him to be he'll have to show that he can turn those abilities into production.
In the outfield, what White talks about in La Velle's article is probably one of the more difficult aspects of adjustment. Plouffe has decent enough speed to patrol a corner outfield spot and we don't worry about the arm strength, it'll be more about reading balls off the bat, taking good angles, and then after that knowing where to throw the ball and how to plant his feet. We had a conversation recently about the difference in foot and body work during the throwing process between the infield and the outfield, and that's going to be important for Plouffe to get the most out of his plus arm.
Similarly, to get the most out of his bat (and his power), Plouffe will have to make adjustments. He chases balls out of the strike zone way too often (32.5% in 364 MLB plate appearances), and has been particularly vulnerable to balls high and to balls inside. The good news, again at least in terms of power, is that Plouffe is a pull hitter which will help him get the most out of that tool at Target Field.
His lack of discipline and his pull rates have everything to do with each other, the trick will be to understand counts a bit better and to recognize which pitches to go after and which pitches to lay off of. Curveballs, sliders, changeups, even fastballs: Plouffe's batting average against on all of these offerings is short of encouraging, with the exception of fastballs off of southpaws (.395 batting average against). Pitch recognition, in conjunction with discipline, will go a long way in helping Plouffe reach his potential.
The Twins are in a big transition year, and Plouffe is going to be earning his stripes in a new position. But when you look up and down the lineup and you look at some of the less experienced position players who will be making the team, he's the one who has the ability to make a true impact. Can he be the player the Twins need him to be? Absolutely. He needs to make some strides on both sides of the ball, but he's definitely capable.