This spring training, a big question for the Minnesota Twins was who is going to step up and provide more offense for a team that ranked 25th in runs scored last season.
The answer to that question is simple, it is Luke Hughes.
Hughes is having a monster spring, leading the Twins in home runs, runs batted in, slugging percentage and is tied for the team lead in doubles. He is also third in batting average, but he does have more than twice as many at bats as the two players in front of him.
Here are five reasons why Hughes should be the starting second baseman for the Twins to start the season.
The most logical situation that involves Hughes in the starting lineup is to move Alexi Casilla to shortstop and use Jamey Carroll in the utility infielder role. This works for a few reasons, most notably that Carroll has more experience as a utility man and he has more experience playing all three positions.
He can also be used in the outfield in a pinch. It also takes a guy with 12 career home runs in 2,974 at bats out of the starting lineup. Given that the Twins seem to be shifting to a lineup that has more power, it makes sense to do it throughout the lineup where possible.
Many would argue that this switch would make the Twins less defensively responsible. That is simply not true. It is taking Carroll, who has limited range as a shortstop, and replacing him with Casilla, who has great range at short.
Hughes has two career errors at second for a .989 fielding percentage. Carroll, on the other hand, has 20 career errors for a .991 fielding percentage. The difference between the two there is so small that it really shouldn't make a difference.
There is also the fact that Casilla and Carroll have been unable to do much together defensively, turning only one double play up to this point in spring training.
Is Casilla and Hughes a better option than Casilla and Carroll?
With as many as four players who can play first base going to make the team having a utility infielder who lacks experience at shortstop, but has experience at first base simply doesn't make sense.
By putting Hughes into the starting lineup it will mean less shuffling of positions when a player needs a day off. It will bring consistency to the lineup, something a pitching staff that relies on good defense can surely use.
This is a make-or-break season for Hughes. Hughes has no options left and if the Twins ever hope for him to become a full-time player, he needs to be given that chance to start the season this year.
If the Twins are going to want to re-sign him in the offseason next year he will need to prove himself and if the Twins want to be able to move him at the trade deadline he needs to show some value. Either way, he needs the playing time much more than Carroll.
There is almost no chance the Twins under-perform like they did last year. It is certainly possible, but considering how everything fell apart all at once last season, it is highly unlikely.
Given the fact that Mauer and Morneau both appear to be healthy, it is much less important for the role players to be great. They just need to take advantage of opportunities, and because of Hughes' contract status, he does as well. It makes sense that he is finally given a true shot at starting for this team.
While Carroll was signed to be the starting shortstop, he has done little this spring to keep the job. His stat line reads .239/.340/.326. That is simply not good enough to be hitting second in the lineup in front of Mauer and Morneau. Casilla has had a good spring and can fill that spot, while placing Hughes at the bottom of the lineup adds another power threat.