This was first published on TwinsGeek.com way back on March 16, 2004 during Punto's first spring training with the Twins.
Ron Gardenhire has a chance this year to learn a lesson from his predecessor. In order to do so, I think we all need to step back and take a deep breath concerning Nick Punto....
"Gardenhire said Nick Punto has the ability to be a starting shortstop.
'I've seen this kid enough to know he can play a little,' Gardenhire said. 'He's got skills.'"
- Star Tribune
[Punto] is an aggressive, excitable, peppery player who can cause all sorts of commotion.
- Tom Powers in the Pioneer Press
Over the last few day, it hasn't been a Twins update if it doesn't mention Nick Punto in it at least once. Nick Punto could be a starting shortstop. Nick Punto could play some center field. Nick Punto will motivate Cristian Guzman. Nick Punto WILL play center field this week. Enough already.
Nick Punto is a utility infielder, and that might be optimistic. "Futility" infielder is probably more accurate, because for all his feisty, peppery play, he hasn't shown he can hit in the majors. Or even above A ball:
The 111 at-bats last year in Scranton are the nearest he's looked to a major league regular, and the seven hits he has in spring training this year can't undo the last five years of full season baseball.
This isn't to say that Punto doesn't have his uses. He's supposedly a great fielder, and he'll bring some more speed to the team. He may also provide some roster flexibility, since the Twins can try him in center field. In fact, he seems to be the perfect compliment to Michael Cuddyer in that he could play all the positions Cuddyer can't and his speed compliments Cuddyer's power. He's also a switch hitter, which makes him more valuable on the bench, and his feistiness might well be an attribute.
Hold it. Where have we heard this before? A feisty, switch hitting infielder who is solid defensively. Wanna see something eerie?Denny Hocking was a year older and performed slightly better in his first year at AAA, but the resemblance is spooky. And if a comparison to Hocking runs chills up and down your spine, you're not alone. But it's important to remember that Hocking was also a useful player, in much the same way that Punto is. What caused Twins Geeks to wince every time his name was announced was how much he played.
From 1999 through 2001, Hocking had 1086 at-bats, which is nearly twice as many as a utility infielder (who can't hit much) should get. That's not Hocking's fault - that's Tom Kelly's fault for falling in love with Hocking's feistiness and flexibility.
"He brings electricity, he is a gamer, he's able to play every day and do the job, he can absolutely fly, and he has a cannon for an arm. I've seen enough of this kid to know that he is pretty good."
- Ron GardenhireUh-oh. Uh Ron, there's another quote I'd like to acquaint you with:
"Those who do not understand the past are destined to repeat it."
- George Santayana
If you're posting anything about Nick Punto for Nick Punto Day, make sure to send out a tweet about it with a link and the hashtag #NickPuntoDay. Then it should display over on the right. Have fun exploring what all the other bloggers are saying. We'll see you back here on Monday.