Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Minnesota Twins Season Recap and State of the Organization: First Base

This is the second in a series of Twins blog posts.
See Catchers

First Base

Continuing the magical injury tour for the Twins, we have first baseman Justin Morneau.  In 2010, Morneau was cruising in an MVP-type season when complications due to concussion ended his season around the halfway point.  In case you've forgotten, he had a 345/437/618 triple slash and had 18 homers and 56 RBI.

John MacDonald's Flying Knee

In 2011, Morneau worked very hard to get back on the field.  Unfortunately, he battled nagging injuries all year and is still feeling the effects of the concussion.  He reported that diving for a ball caused some of these symptoms to return.  Ouch.  Justin played just 69 games in 2011 and like Mauer, he was extremely hampered.  He hit just 227/285/333 with only 4 home-runs.  While Drew Butera was totally jealous; everyone else considered this season a total loss.  Michael Cuddyer got a lot of the time at 1B with Morneau out and did quite well.  Cuddyer's solid offensive season and multi-positional ability put him in line for a decent pay day as a free agent this off-season.  At age 32, it is unlikely he stays in Minnesota as I expect a deal somewhere in the neighborhood of 4 years, $40-45 million.  Others that saw time at first base this year include Trevor Plouffe, Luke Hughes, Joe Mauer and Chris Parmalee.  Parmalee is the only one with upside as a true first baseman, but he could use a year in Rochester to hone his skills.  Hughes and Plouffe appear to be in the hunt for a utilty role with the team in 2012.

Morneau signed a six-year, $80 million dollar deal in January of 2008.  This means he has one more year left on his deal and will make $14 miillion in 2012.  So, Morneau has all of the incentive in the world to come back and play well.  However, Twins fans may recall Corey Koskie having to retire early due to concussions and it's possible Morneau has the same problem.  After Morneau, the Twins have a couple of options here.  Assuming they don't sign Cuddyer as I mentioned above, Joe Mauer would likely see some time.  It would be unlikely that they would sign free agent that is a full time player with Morneau looming.    However, there's really only Prince Fielder, Albert Pujols and Carlos Pena who are full-season types.  Other options are Russell Branyan, Casey Kotchman, Derrek Lee, Lyle Overbay and Xavier Nady.  Eric Hinske also would be there if the Braves don't pick up his 1.5MM option.  Hinske and Nady may be intriguing as they bring an ability to play some outfield as well as first base and are used to a bench role.  Plus, check out Hinske's tat:

Awesome tats, plus check out the belt!

The Twins should have Chris Parmalee in the minors for 2012; although he's hitting very well during his September call up.  Still, he'll be just 24 in February and has not had any time at AAA as of yet.  He's showing good power in September, but posted a 287/366/435 with 13 home-runs in AA. If Morneau succumbs to cranial issues, 2013 could be Parmalee's year.

Aaron Bates, 27, is a veteran minor leaguer that hit .316 this year after being picked up in May.  The Red Sox let him go after spring training.  He doesn't have much pop in his bat, but could be a reserve first base option if they don't sign anyone and aren't ready to go to Parmalee yet.

See:  Middle Infield

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