Tag: Matt Tolbert

Minnesota Twins: Can Luke Hughes Make the Trip from Down Under to Up North?

For the Minnesota Twins this spring there are only two battles remaining. While Scott Baker and Kevin Slowey are battling for the last spot in the starting rotation, there is also the battle to replace Nick Punto as the utility infielder.

At this point I am not including the bullpen, as there will more than likely be a year-long battle with a revolving door to the bullpen as the Twins tinker with the relief corp.

For the utility infielder role it would appear Luke Hughes is leading that competition. The problem is he still may not make the trip north to Toronto when the Twins open the season April 1st.

Hughes, who has been in the Twins organization since 2002, signing as an amateur free agent when he was 18 years old from Perth, Australia, leads the Twins in at-bats and home runs this spring.

Hughes hit a home run in his first major league at-bat when he made his debut with the Twins on April 28th last season at third base.

He only had seven plate appearances and two hits in a two-game stint with the Twins before being sent back to Triple-A Rochester. The problem for the eight-year veteran of the Twins minor league system is that his main position has been third base, a position that the Twins filled last June with the call-up of Danny Valencia. 

Hughes’ main competition is Matt Tolbert, who has played every position in the infield and even has one appearance in the outfield in parts of three major league seasons with the Twins. 

So far this spring Hughes leads the Twins with 30 at-bats, three home runs and 10 RBI. His .333 batting average is 106 points higher than that of Tolbert, who has five singles in 22 at-bats.

However, Tolbert appears to readily fit the versatile, switch-hitting, lack of power mold that Punto filled for manager Ron Gardenhire and the Twins for the previous seven seasons. 

The downside for Hughes, while he has played over 200 games at both third and second base in the minors, he has not played shortstop at any level since 2006.

Tolbert may also hold an edge because of Gardenhire’s desire to improve the speed of the Twins. Tolbert has 14 stolen bases in 18 attempts for the Twins and was 54 of 75 over seven seasons in the Twins farm system, while Hughes is 31 of 46 over eight seasons and 598 games.

The signing of Tsuyoshi Nishioka and the promotion of Alexi Casilla will provide an upgrade in speed to the starting lineup, the question will be what Gardenhire values more coming off the bench—speed or power.

While Tolbert’s .281 minor-league batting average is better than Hughes’ at .270, Tolbert has hit only .246 for the Twins with just three home runs in 398 at-bats.

Hughes already owns one major-league home run and averaged a home run every 38.7 at-bats. While not great, it is much better than Tolbert’s average of one every 132.7 at-bats for the Twins. 

While I would like to see Hughes get the nod as the utility infielder role, the more likely outcome will be to send him to Triple-A Rochester in order to get more consistent playing time and perhaps some work at shortstop in order to groom him as a potential utility infielder.

His path to the majors took a hit when Valencia emerged at the Twins third baseman, now it will take a change in positions or organizations for him to get a shot. 

Read more MLB news on BleacherReport.com

J.J. Hardy Injury: Minnesota Twins Shortstop Lands on DL

The injuries just keep on coming for the Minnesota Twins.

In March, the club lost All-Star closer Joe Nathan for the year after he underwent Tommy John surgery.

Last week, reigning American League MVP Joe Mauer sat out with a heel injury that threatened to land him on the disabled list.

And just today, the Twins placed shortstop J.J. Hardy on the 15-day disabled list with a left wrist contusion. Hardy initially sustained the injury sliding into third base on a triple a week ago.

The move is retroactive to May 4, meaning that Hardy can be rejoin the big league club next Thursday in Boston for the finale of a two-game set against the Red Sox.

Hardy was acquired from the Milwaukee Brewers last fall for outfielder Carlos Gomez who—ironically enough—also landed on the disabled list today with a with a left rotator cuff strain.

Prior to the injury, Hardy—a notoriously streaky hitter—was off to a less than impressive start at the plate. Through the season’s first 25 games, Hardy posted an uninspiring .250/.299/.400 batting line to go with three home runs, 11 RBI, and four doubles.

In essence, the time off could do Hardy some good as it’s largely believed he’s been pressing at the plate in an effort to prove that his dreadful 2009 was an aberration.

To fill in for the injured Hardy, the club recalled infielder Matt Tolbert from Triple-A Rochester.

Aaron Gleeman of Hardball Talk said it best:

“…the Twins have added to their amazing collection of banjo-hitting utility infielders by calling up Matt Tolbert from Triple-A. Tolbert is anything but deserving after hitting .232 with a .632 OPS and six errors in 27 games at Triple-A, but he’s a poor man’s Nick Punto and so naturally Ron Gardenhire loves him.”

The move is nothing if not disconcerting.

As Gleeman mentions, the club is already stock-piled with prototypical “small ball” style players in Nick Punto, Brendan Harris, and Alexi Casilla.

The club could have used this opportunity to call up the supposed third baseman of the future, Danny Valencia or bring Luke Hughes back for a second go-around with the big club, but neither is doing anything overly inspiring at Rochester.

Additionally, Valencia and Hughes are both third basemen by trade, although Hughes has spent plenty of time at second base as of late, but neither of those positions appear to be open with the big club.

The Twins appear content to leave Nick Punto at third base—his best defensive position, according to UZR —and Orlando Hudson isn’t going to suit up anywhere but second base.

That leaves current Rochester shortstop Trevor Plouffe as the most logical player to call up in this situation.

Plouffe, 24, is off to a solid start with the Red Wings, hitting .278/.344/.452 with two home runs, 13 RBI, and eight doubles through 29 games.

The Twins however, appear to be playing favorites and going with one of manager Ron Gardenhire’s favorites, the “scrappy” Matt Tolbert.

Tolbert will likely split time with Alexi Casilla who isn’t exactly lighting the world on fire with his paltry .261/.292/.304 batting line.

To their credit, UZR rates both Casilla and Tolbert as above average defenders at shortstop, albeit in very small sample sizes.

The Casilla/Tolbert combo isn’t an ideal solution for the Twins, especially with the division rival Chicago White Sox in town and a weekend series with the world champion New York Yankees looming on the horizon, but the duo should serve as an adequate defensive stopgap until Hardy returns next week.

Read more MLB news on BleacherReport.com

Copyright © 1996-2010 Kuzul. All rights reserved.
iDream theme by Templates Next | Powered by WordPress