Leading up to the 2009 season for the Minnesota Twins, the question was how the team was going to find playing time for their five main outfielders.
Michael Cuddyer, Denard Span, Jason Kubel, Carlos Gomez, and Delmon Young were all candidates to see significant playing time, but Ron Gardenhire was supposed to have a difficult time divvying up the playing time among them.
Well, we are 35 games into the season and the play of the five aforementioned outfielders thus far have dictated their roles.
Span has evolved into one of the best lead-off hitters the Twins have had in years. He has displayed great patience and the ability to consistently get on base in front of Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau.
That, coupled with his solid defensive work in center field has made him a valuable member of the lineup.
Cuddyer started off the season slowly, but has really swung the bat well lately. The fact that he is a solid right-handed bat makes him even more valuable since the Twins need someone to hit in between lefties Mauer, Morneau and Kubel. His strong arm in right field is also a strong asset.
Kubel has taken ownership of the designated hitter position, and with good reason. He had somewhat of a breakout year in 2008 in terms of power, and he has continued that this season.
That leaves Gomez and Young.
Lately, Young has been seeing most of the playing time in left field, while Gomez, the centerpiece of the Johan Santana trade, has been relegated to spot duty as mainly a defensive replacement late in games. And for the immediate future, it looks like Young will continue to be the everyday-third outfielder, while Gomez rides the pine.
This is absolutely the wrong move for the Twins to make if they want to win the division. Gomez, not Young should be starting everyday in the Minnesota outfield.
Gomez critics cite his high- strikeout propensity, low batting average (.214) and on-base percentage (.274), and terrible approach at the plate as reasons why he should be sitting on the bench.
But Young's approach and plate discipline are equally as bad.
The left-fielder may be hitting a respectable .277 as of May 14, but if you dig deeper into the numbers, it's pretty clear that Young's decent batting average isn't really that valuable to the Twins.
First off, Young is tied for the team lead in strikeouts (22), but is dead last in walks (four). Gomez, who doesn't walk very much either, has actually drawn one more walk than Young in almost 30 fewer plate appearances.
Gomez has scored just as many runs as Young, too (10).
In addition, Young, who supposedly has limitless potential as a power hitter, is nothing more than a singles hitter at this point of the season.
In 83 plate appearances, Young has only one home run and even more astonishing: only two extra base hits all year (that single home run included). There are dozens of players in the minor leagues who could hit .270 with little to no power, nothing special.
Then there's Young's defense...or lackthereof. Although he's got a strong arm, the left-fielder's range is only slightly better than a stone statue, and he often looks like he's got nails or glass in his shoes when he's tracking fly balls.
Gomez, on the other hand is one the elite defensive center fielder's in the game. His range is virtually unmatched in all of baseball. He is so much better than Young in the outfield, that that alone should be enough to warrant Gomez starting over him.
Span's versatility and ability to play left-field would allow Gomez and his limitless speed and range to man center field. And actually, Span's defensive ability in center field is only above-average according to many of the metrics geeks, but he was one of the very best defensive left-fielders last season when he played there full-time.
With Cuddyer's cannon in right, the Twins would have the best defensive outfield in the American League. And in baseball, allowing fewer runs is just as good as scoring more.
Gomez also possesses incredible speed on the base paths. He is a dangerous base-stealer and pitchers must always worry about him once he reaches base. And moving from second base to home on virtually any base hit is an incredibly underrated attribute that 'Go-Go' brings to the table.
The problem, obviously, is that Gomez doesn't get on base as much as he should. He must learn to be more patient at the plate so that he can utilize that blazing speed.
Ideally, both Gomez and Young could be sent down to AAA Rochester to hone their skills at the plate, but the fact is, one of them is going to play everyday. And since, I have to choose one of them, I wholehearted prefer Gomez to Young.
Young isn't that much better with the bat, and I will take Gomez's superior defensive range and speed on the base paths if all I have to sacrifice is Young's ability to hit meaningless singles.