Or at least, I don't blame Terry Ryan. That's because, just before they refused to offer him arbitration, I did a simple 'Sanity Check' of the Twins roster - and promptly ignored it. I had spit out the numbers for 2002 and they looked something like this:
See Ortiz there? 4th on the team in OPS, and third among the everyday starters? I wrote something about how I was shocked to find him that high, because he hadn't had a very good season. And so I ignored the simple evidence, instead writing about how he hadn't hit left-handers, and his injuries, and his positional inflexibility, blah, blah, blah.
The lesson? Sanity checks are only valuable if you're sane. In the hope of reversing my track record, let's do one for the 2008 Twins. Here are the numbers:
OK, let's run through them for the sanity check....
You might have guessed that Jason Kubel was going to be third on that list, but it's actually Denard Span. And just look'it that OBP. Holy cow. So long as he maintains that, he's got enought offense for a corner outfield spot. But those numbers would be all-star material in center field.
There is quite a gap between the first four hitters and the fifth. But that person is Delmon Young, and he wass the best right-handed hitter on this team last year, and it's not particularly close. Oh, and he's 23 years old. You might want to consider that before you start suggesting trade scenarios.
Brian Buscher and Brandon Harris are also in this next group, and that's their overall numbers, not their platoon numbers. I'm feeling more and more optimistic about patching together something at third base next year. Again, the priority is adding a big right-handed bat, not necessarily a third baseman.
Nick Punto outhit Alexi Casilla. Just slightly, but across the board. My perception (and expectations) for Casilla were far inflated from his actual performance. Some of his decline is tied to his injury, hopefully. And he's just 24, so there should be some growth. But he wasn't especially good, and a team needs more offense than that out of second base.
Michael Cuddyer had a terrible year and I'm choosing to chalk that up to injuries.
Randy Ruiz didn't get much opportunity to show much. His value was supposed to be in his ability to hit for power, and he didn't, but that often takes some time. Still, he wasn't an offensive asset. If you're looking for something encouraging about him, you can focus on a pretty nice OBP.
Mike Redmond was not good. So long as his defense stays pretty strong, he's acceptable as a backup catcher. But all of his rate stats declined, and you would expect that, seeing as he's 37. I love him as a ballplayer, but we need to be careful about romanticizing his offensive contributions.
And finally, we get to Carlos Gomez, who was awful with the bat. He was awful compared to other Twins, and he was awful compared to other center fielders. The only improvement he showed was in September, and that was largely because he had four extra hits that month, albeit a couple of them for extra bases.
Which isn't to say that I'm not excited about his future. He's just 22 years old, he plays outstanding defense in center field, and he has the speed/power combination that make superstars. But all the defense in the world doesn't make up for the 160 points of OPS he gave up to Span last year. He wasn't an asset. And with 59K vs 13 BB over the second half of this year, there is very little to suggest that he is going to be an asset next year.
There is no 'glut' of outfielders for the Twins for 2009. Gomez is a raw, incredibly promising youngster who is not ready for the majors. Not only does his major league career suggest as much, so does his minor league career. The place for a raw, incredibly promising youngster who is not ready for the majors is AAA-Rochester, where they are perfectly capapble of feeding him a steady diet of offspeed pitches that are outside and low.
It's a harsh conclusion, but one the sanity check supports. This time, I'll listen to it.
Now is the time to pre-order one of Seth's new books. You have until tomorrow (Thursday). I'm very excited to see this and have already ordered one. Frankly, you are incredibly lucky to have this kind of in-depth reference tool about the Twins minor leagues available to you. It just doesn't happen for other teams. I'm very excited to see how it turns out.