Minnesota Twins manager, Ron Gardenhire has determined who the starting outfield will be, sort of. In a report from the St. Paul Pioneer Press, Gardenhire announced that new Twin Josh Willingham will be the team's left fielder—a wise decision considering that over eight seasons Willingham has played 662 games in left field, and only 35 in right.
Gardenhire has also indicated that Ben Revere will be the team's fourth outfielder, taking the Twins leading base stealer from last season and putting him on the bench. The move will give Gardenhire a solid base-stealing threat as a pinch runner, but limits the opportunities Revere will have to wreak havoc on the bases.
Revere stole 34 bases playing in 117 games last season filling in for an injured Denard Span. That's the most steals in the fewest games since a 39-year-old Otis Nixon stole 37 bases in 110 games for the Twins in 1998.
One of the few bright spots for Twins fans last season was the play of Revere. Between his stolen bases and spectacular catches, he was the only thing worth watching. He was awarded the Play of the Year for the catch he made off the bat of Vladimir Guerrero.
That leaves Trevor Plouffe and Chris Parmelee battling for the starting right fielder spot on the Twins roster. The advantage has to go to Parmelee based on the fact he has played a total of 286 games in the outfield compared to only 20 for Plouffe.
The problem is that Denard Span is unchallenged for the center field position, where his contribution has been diminishing since 2009 when he battling Carlos Gomez for a position in the Twins starting lineup. That season Span played all three outfield positions and hit a career high .311 with a league leading 10 triples and a team-high 23 stolen bases.
Who should be the Twins opening-day right fielder?
On the bright side, Span is looking fully recovered from the concussion that limited him to only 70 games last season. In 13 Grapefruit League games he is hitting .324 with a triple and three stolen bases.
So far this spring, Revere is matching him in hits and stolen bases, as he is also batting .324 in 14 games.
With the difficulty for the Twins to find power in their lineup it's a fair argument that Plouffe and Parmelee should be fighting it out for right field, but that puts one of the Twins best base stealers in a backup, part-time role.
The strongest lineup for the Twins to open the season in Baltimore would have Span, Revere and Parmelee all in it.
Don't jump to the wrong conclusion—Willingham is still the Twins left fielder.
The Twins would be best served with an outfield of Willingham in left, Revere in center and Span in right. The knock on Revere has been his weak arm, but he more than makes up for it with his speed and the balls that he can track down in center at Target Field.
Having two of the Twins speediest players in the outfield will help to reduce the starting pitchers' ERAs by catching more of the long fly balls given up. It also eliminates the need for Willingham to learn a new position in a new home ballpark.
Parmelee should be the Twins opening day first baseman with Justin Morneau as the Twins designated hitter.
This allows Garndenhire to ease Morneau back into the field and protect him as they assess how well he'll play once the games start count. So far this spring Morneau has struggled, hitting only .154 through Saturday March 24th. The good news is that over the past couple of games he's had his first three extra base hits, including his first two home runs of the spring.
The odd men out would be Plouffe, who would open the season as the fourth outfielder and the extra middle infielder, and Ryan Doumit, who would serve as the backup catcher and part-time designated hitter.
An added benefit for Minnesota would be the hype surrounding the emergence of one of their brightest prospects by playing Parmelee at first.
For a team that lost 99 games last season, they need to do everything possible to make the attraction at Target Field be the product on the field, and not the field itself. A lineup with Revere on the bench doesn't help.