The Minnesota Twins essentially executed a line shift when they sent down Chris Parmelee, Eduardo Escobar and Oswaldo Arcia and brought up Chris Herrmann, Chris Colabello and Doug Bernier. The move has had a domino effect that could potentially impact eight players fighting for three positions: backup catcher, first baseman and utility infielder.
Keep in mind that there are not necessarily only three roster spots open, but somebody, somewhere, is going to lose his job while another player is making a name for himself.
First, it’s worth noting that Arcia has been called up when Aaron Hicks was sent down, and he should be considered a big part of Minnesota’s future. His defense is suspect at times, and he does have a propensity to strike out, but the power he has displayed makes him one of the team’s top prospects.
Should he figure out major league pitching and improve defensively, he could become a cornerstone player in Minnesota for years to come.
Also, let’s leave the Hicks and Scott Diamond discussion out of this for right now. Hicks has the raw tools to be a leadoff man and center fielder for years to come, and the rotation is a complete mess, so Diamond should get another shot in the big leagues.
The corner outfield spots were omitted as well because there are so many variables. Clete Thomas could move over from center field if he reduces his strikeouts. Josh Willingham has to be factored in, and at his age, it’s hard to know how much longer he will play in Minnesota. Trevor Plouffe could end up in the outfield again if his bat heats up and Miguel Sano tears up the minors next season and takes over at the hot corner.
Parmelee, Herrmann and Arcia all are capable of being corner outfielders as well, so those two positions are really up for grabs, and really, like the Hicks and Diamond roster move, it deserves its own article.
For the time being, let’s focus on backup catcher, first baseman and utility infielder—three positions where the battle is a little more clear and directly impacted by the recent six-player promotion/demotion that recently took place.
Backup catcher: Chris Herrmann vs. Ryan Doumit
Also known as the Make Us Forget About the Wilson Ramos Trade sweepstakes, Twins fans are eager to see who will take over at backup catcher after seeing Ramos, a hard-hitting prospect, dealt for Matt Capps and his subpar relief pitching.
It seems funny at first to put so much emphasis at backup catcher, but with Joe Mauer’s injury history and age eventually moving him to first base, the need for a strong replacement who can come in and spell him for significant stretches of time is amplified, and Herrmann may have made Doumit expendable with his play.
Like Doumit, he serves as both a backup catcher and outfielder and has played both positions well. While he is a potential threat to Parmelee in right field, Parmelee does play the wall better and could split time with him if the Southern Californian is more productive at the plate. That makes Doumit his main competition.
Doumit came over to Minnesota as a free agent after seven years with the Pittsburgh Pirates in 2012 and had a very productive season at the plate. He hit .275/.320/.461 with a career-high 18 home runs and earned a two-year extension as a result.
His numbers have been less impressive this season, with his average dropping to around .240 and his home runs at nine as the team nears the 100-game mark. Manager Ron Gardenhire continues to bat him in the 5-hole, but his offensive numbers hardly scream “middle-of-the-order guy.”
Defensively, Doumit leaves a lot to be desired. He once committed three errors in one game in left field, is outplayed by Parmelee and Herrmann in right, and as Ben Lindbergh pointed out over at Grantland.com, he is notoriously poor at framing pitches.
Herrmann has been a serviceable catcher and right fielder with a cannon for an arm. His accurate, powerful throws can nab players at second base both from the right field wall and from behind the plate.
Offensively, Herrmann has a lot of upside. He packs a little punch and has an OPS+ of 113 this season.
What it comes down to, however, is age. The Twins would be wise to hang on to 25-year-old Herrmann, who has shown significant upside, over 32-year-old Doumit. The latter may have some value on the open market, and even if it isn’t much, Minnesota should look to deal him in the next year and try out Herrmann behind the plate.
First baseman: Chris Colabello vs. Chris Parmelee
Justin Morneau is the first baseman for the time being, and the Twins appear willing to hold on to their former MVP. Morneau has hardly been himself during the team’s lean years and could be playing in another uniform if somebody picks him up on waivers or outbids Minnesota next season.
Both scenarios seem unlikely, but even if the Twins can lock Morneau down to a club-friendly contract, he may turn into more of a bench player as he enters his mid-30s, and there may be an opening at first in the near future.
Mauer is committed to playing behind the plate, and Plouffe is the third baseman for now, so Colabello and Parmelee have a chance to lock down a role for the near future.
It would have been interesting to see how the Twins would have handled the Morneau situation if Parmelee would have just came in and raked this year. While Parmelee’s best defensive position is in right field—where he plays the ball extremely well and can make long, accurate throws—he had significant time in the minors at first base, and there is a logjam in the outfield to begin with.
It may seem laughable now, but Parmelee hit .355/.443/.592 in a brief stint with the Twins as a 23-year-old in 2011. He is also a .330/.444/.602 hitter with power in Triple-A.
The late-season demotion is a bit peculiar. He had little to prove in Rochester when he was sent down this season, and while his numbers were far from eye-popping (.223/.303/.372 with eight home runs), he did have a few monster games at the plate and was a solid defensive player with a positive WAR.
Parmelee will get another chance next season, but at age 26, it will be do or die. Like Plouffe before him, he has to prove that he is more than a Quad-A player that can eat Triple-A pitchers alive but can’t handle major league stuff. The jury is still out on Plouffe’s potential, but by hitting 24 home runs last year and around .270 this year, at the very least he is a decent major league player with some upside.
Parmelee is a former first-rounder with plenty of natural gifts. He could easily come up and put on a show next season or flame out.
Colabello is a more interesting case. He is a 29-year-old rookie who spent seven years playing independent ball in his hometown of Worcester, Mass., before signing with the Twins in 2012.
It’s hard to really gauge what his potential is. He could become the next Daniel Nava or John Lindsey. Can he play the outfield? How much power does he have? Can he play into his 40s?
Only time will tell.
Colabello has the advantage of experience, something the Twins will be lacking if Morneau leaves next season, and could find a niche role in Minnesota, so he is part of this conversation. Parmelee, however, appears to have more upside, and his power and ability to play right field make him an intriguing player even with his recent struggles at the plate.
If Parmelee earns a spot on the team, he will likely play right field while splitting time at first base with Mauer and Morneau.
Utility infielder: Florimon vs. Bernier vs. Escobar vs. Carroll
Here is where things get crazy.
In what could otherwise be known as the Make Us Forget About the J.J. Hardy Trade competition, the Twins are looking to name a shortstop of the future. There is little happening in the system: Trevor Plouffe and Brian Dozier both got their shot but failed to lock down the position, so the field is wide open.
Florimon looked like a defensive plug until he went on a little early-season tear. His seven home runs indicate he has some offensive value, but his .232/.286/.353 line and 76 OPS+ indicate otherwise.
At the very least, he’s a fallback if all else fails.
Bernier signed with Colorado as an amateur free agent in 2002 and played two games for the Rockies in 2008 but never was considered a blue-chip prospect. At 33, he is unlikely to carve out a long career with the Twins. His defense has been good so far, however, and his bat decent—although Florimon probably has more upside.
Eduardo Escobar was part of the Francisco Liriano trade and went on a tear in April, hitting .378/.395/.541, but scuffled in May, going .095/.170/.190. He possesses more pop than meets the eye and is a decent defender but is unlikely to be a full-time shortstop in the future.
In all likelihood, Escobar will take a job from Jamey Carroll, who at 39 can still play multiple infield positions and hit above the Mendoza Line. Like Colabello and Bernier, he began his career late, making his debut with the Montreal Expos (that’s right) at age 28.
He is by no means part of the Twins' long-term future but still offers value this season.
This is not as cut-and-dry as it seems because many of these players can play multiple positions. Parmelee may become an everyday right fielder, Herrmann can play the outfield as well as catch, and Escobar appears more versatile than Florimon and Bernier.
Still, it is interesting to look into the future in a season like this. At this point, Minnesota is aiming for 70 wins and looking to close the gap on .500 baseball next season.
Barring a borderline miracle, it will not be until 2016 that this team is in the playoff hunt. The team will be lucky to get to .500 this season and would have to really turn things around to have a winning record next season.
The rotation needs the most work, but the play of guys like Parmelee, Escobar and Herrmann could positively impact the Twins in ways that go unnoticed and may be the difference between an overachieving and underachieving team in the near future.
Tom Schreier covers Minnesota sports for Bleacher Report and is a contributor to Yahoo! Sports.
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