Who should be the Twins' third baseman?
Coming out of Spring Training, Brendan Harris had the edge statistically 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.
When the season opened Ron Gardenhire named Punto his starting third baseman and the debate began.
The answer now seems obvious—give it to Michael Cuddyer.
After filling in for Orlando Hudson at second base in the first game of the Twins' west coast road trip in Seattle, Cuddyer should be given consideration to be the their fulltime third baseman.
The benefits of such a move could not have been more evident than in the Twins' 5-4 victory over the Seattle Mariners.
Delmon Young, Jason Kubel and Cuddyer all homered in the game. Cuddyer and Kubel on back to back pitches in the fourth inning.
By playing Cuddyer at third this allows Gardenhire to play Kubel in right field, Young in left field, and have Jim Thome DH more frequently. More plate appearances for more power hitters.
This allows Gardenhire to use Punto in a role better suited to his speed and hustle—late inning pinch runner or defensive specialist.
Of course this means less playing time for Nick Punto and more importantly Brendan Harris.
Punto is currently batting .221 and Harris only .170. Combined they have only one home run this season.
Not even close to what is considered a power-hitting position in baseball!
The downside, there is no downside—it only seems to get better and better!
At the end of last season, when Justin Morneau went down with a stress fracture in his back, Cuddyer filled in admirably with a .986 fielding percent in 34 games at first base.
Comparing Cuddyer's career stats to Corey Koskie, the Twins' third baseman from 1999-2004, helps to solidify the move:
Cuddyer: .270 batting average, 20 home runs, 83 runs batted in, .941 fielding percent at third.
Koskie: .275 batting average, 20 HR, 83 RBI, .966 fielding percent.
It sure seems like Cuddyer and Koskie were cut from the same bolt of cloth.
Since Koskie's departure after the 2004 season the Twins have not found anyone to anchor the hot corner.
Cuddyer played 95 games at third in 2005, but was moved back to the outfield in 2006.
Punto, Harris, and Mike Lamb were all given a shot to play third base, and none of them have been able to match the numbers of Cuddyer.
Who should play third base? The answer is the right fielder in front of us!