For two consecutive years, we hoped that the Twins were right when they trusted Aaron Hicks to take over in center field. It wasn't to be in Year 1, 2013, as Hicks split time with Clete Thomas and Alex Presley and more or less the position was terrible. Sure, Presley hit .283 with a .336 on-base percentage but that was only 27 games and the organization let him walk for nothing the following spring. In Year 2 Hicks was a little better but he still lost his job to a pair of fourth outfielders who were claimed off of waivers.
Minnesota claimed Sam Fuld off of waivers from the Athletics two days after losing Darin Mastroianni in the same way. Fuld was okay in his first couple of weeks with the team, but it wasn't until Hicks was sent down that he took over in center field full time. Fuld struggled in June, but then he caught fire in July by hitting .358/.476/.418 in 23 games. It was enough to turn around and sell him back to Oakland for Tommy Milone.
At that point the Twins, with nothing to lose and nobody to play center field, turned it over to Danny Santana full time. Santana hit .323/.357/.475 in August and September, and he was flanked by another waiver wire pickup in Jordan Schafer. Schafer, picked up in early August, hit .285/.345/.362 for the rest of the season while playing a little center and a lot of left field.
Loving our over-achievers
Loving our over-achievers
The moral of the story is that even after incorrectly trusting Hicks for the second year in a row and not appropriately planning for a backup option, the Twins found a way to succeed with who they plugged into the outfield in 2014. Schafer hit .285 with a .345 on-base percentage, in spite of posting career rates of .226 and .307 respectively. Fuld in total hit .274 with a .370 on-base percentage for Minnesota, even though his career numbers are .238 and .317. Santana hit .319 with a .353 on-base percentage in his Major League debut, but in the minors had managed a .273 batting average and .317 on-base percentage. If that's not the definition of luck, I'm not sure what is.
Fast forward to today. Fuld is still with the A's, while Santana and Schafer have both fallen back to earth hard. Enter: Shane Robinson.
Robinson is a career .240 hitter with a .309 on-base percentage. In 13 games for the Twins this year he's posted respective marks of .355 and .394. Granted this is due entirely to his most recent six games and, either way, we're dealing with a small sample size. But the Twins have, in spite of themselves, lucked into four players who have out-performed expectations by a significant margin in less than 12 months.
That's a fantastic juxtaposition to starting pitching, where between Kenny Rogers in 2003 and Kevin Correia in 2013 the team wasn't able to find a player who could last the entire season with the club. We won't run through those names just to rehash the list of failures. It's just refreshing, and fascinating, that the Twins have managed to find so much success from so many players in such a relatively short period of time.
It seems like just a matter of time until Sugar Shane is shown to be the player he's always been. But if you're an optimist, there's nothing like Sam Fuld and Jordan Schafer to show that in a small enough sample size a player can be more than the sum of his parts. Let's see how long Robinson's hot start can roll.