Minnesota Twins: Who's On Third? Nick Punto vs Brendan Harris

Tim ArcandCorrespondent IApril 24, 2010

MINNEAPOLIS, MN - APRIL 12: Nick Punto #8 of the Minnesota Twins bats in the fourth inning against the Boston Red Sox during the Twins home opener at Target Field on April 12, 2010 in Minneapolis, Minnesota. (Photo by Hannah Foslien /Getty Images)
Hannah Foslien/Getty Images

There's the classic Abbott and Costello routine:

Costello: What's the guy's name on first base?

Abbott: What's the guy's name on second base.

Costello: I'm not asking you who's on second base.

Abbott: Who's on first.

Costello: I don't know.

Abbott: I don't know—he's on third.

For the Minnesota Twins the weak link on a squad priming for a championship season appears to be third base.  

Coming out of Spring Training, Brendan Harris appeared to have the edge over Nick Punto after batting .326 with three doubles, a triple, and a home-run. 

Punto ended the exhibition season with a .233 average, one double, and 12 strike-outs. 

For both players their "natural" position is shortstop, where Harris has played 47.9 percent of his career and Punto 39.8 percent.

When the season opened Ron Gardenhire named Punto his starting third baseman and the debate began.

In a lineup salted with power between third and eighth in the order, a strong argument could be made for Harris who has hit 29 career home-runs over seven seasons, compared to only 12 over 10 seasons for Punto.

For their careers Harris' batting average is almost 20 points higher than Punto's—.267 vs .248.

As for defense, their fielding percentage is very close with Punto holding a slight edge at .978 compared to .971 for Harris.

Certainly not enough to offset the batting average and power Harris brings to the plate.

Looking at the intangibles the edge goes to Punto.

This is his seventh season with the Twins and Gardenhire likes the way Punto plays.

He has speed and can steal some bases, provided he can reach first.

He also provides some added flexibility being a switch hitter.

For Harris, he appears to be squandering a great opportunity.

Playing full time over the past seven games, while Punto rested a sore groin, he has hit a mere .200 with no home-runs and only two RBIs. Not the power statistics expected from a third baseman.

Harris has not done anything to make the decision difficult for Gardenhire when Punto returns after being place on injured reserve Friday retroactive to April 15th.

So the debate is over.

It's not going to be Harris.

Now let the debate begin.

If the Twins want to make a World Series run, who should the Twins pursue to replace Punto?