Results tagged ‘ Nick Punto ’

Playing Punto

Punto Day.pngHe may have said it last season after a game against the Boston Red Sox, but Nick Punto made a comment that might come true when the Minnesota Twins begin a new era in Minneapolis during the 2010 season.
“If that bottom of the order can produce for the middle of the lineup, 
this could be one of the best offenses in team history.”
With three All-Stars at the top of the order and several other capable bats mixed in, the Twins could indeed have one of the best offenses in team history next season if the bottom of the order, which includes the likes of J.J. Hardy, Delmon Young and Nick Punto, produces. 
Nick Punto does not fit well into the two-hole, and he isn’t a great hitter. Those two things don’t make him a bad baseball player, and they don’t make him invaluable. The ideal scenario would have Punto as a super-utility player, one who could shift around the infield and even to centerfield when absolutely necessary. 
Instead, Punto will likely begin the 2010 season as the team’s third baseman (if he beats out Brendan Harris for the job this spring). With Orlando Hudson now between Span and Mauer, and Punto guaranteed to be at the bottom of the order, the one last piranha on the team being a starter might not be all that bad. 
Punto will give the Twins a capable player at the hotspot until youngster Danny Valencia arrives, and his defense at the corner position is top notch. In fact, among a few of the options the team considered this off-season, including Mark DeRosa, Kevin Kouzmanoff and Joe Crede, Punto’s defense ranks best. 
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Over his career, Punto has saved his team 19.9 runs per 150 defensive games as a third baseman. Crede has been a pretty good defensive third baseman himself as Twins’ fans witnessed last season, but even he doesn’t come close to Punto’s mark. 
Offensively, Punto has historically posted his best on-base percentage when in the nine-spot in the lineup, and there will be little pressure for him to produce if the big sluggers in the top-half of the order can do the heavy lifting. 
Nick Punto would be very valuable off the bench as a backup to both Hudson and Hardy, but since the Twins have added some offensive threats elsewhere, Punto’s defense at third should suffice enough to warrant his playing time. And who knows, if he can produce, the Twins might have one of the best lineups in team history. 

All-Decade Team: Outfield

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The infield side of the All-Decade Team was rather simple considering the results; each selection was unanimous. Now it’s time to see who the best outfielders and utility man of the past ten years were. 
Seth from SethSpeaks.net, John from TwinsGeek, Nick from Nick’s Twins Blog, and Michael from RandBall, were again the participants who helped choose the players on the All-Decade Team.
Left Field
Who played: Jacque Jones, Lew Ford, Shannon Stewart, Jason Kubel, Delmon Young
Seth
Stohs
John
Bonnes
Nick
Nelson
Michael
Rand
Alex
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Jacque
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Jacque
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Jacque Jones and Shannon Stewart occupied left field for the majority of the decade. Jones was in the outfield for seven seasons in Minnesota, while Stewart played in Minnesota for three and a half seasons. 
Stewart’s biggest credit was becoming an integral part of the lineup in 2003 when the Twins acquired him from Toronto in a mid-season trade. Jones began his career in Minnesota in 1999, and played six of his seven seasons during the decade. In seven seasons with the Twins, Jones hit .279 with 132 homeruns and 476 RBI.
CenterfieldWho played: Torii Hunter, Carlos Gomez, Denard Span

Seth
Stohs
John
Bonnes
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Nelson
Michael
Rand
Alex
Centerfield
Torii
Hunter
Torii
Hunter
Torii
Hunter
Torii
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Torii
Hunter

Torii Hunter is the unanimous selection for the centerfield of the decade, and he’s the most sensible option. Hunter manned centerfield in Minneapolis for 11 seasons, and was in the outfield in eight of the ten years during the decade.
In 11 seasons with the Twins, Hunter hit .271 with 192 homeruns and 711 RBI. Hunter made the All-Star Game twice, won eight Gold Glove awards, and was the 2007 recipient of the Marvin Miller Man of the Year award.
Right FieldWho played: Matt Lawton, Dustan Mohr, Jacque Jones, Michael Cuddyer, Denard Span

Seth
Stohs
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Right
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Michael
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Denard
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Cuddyer

Michael Cuddyer was on the Minnesota Twins’ roster in nine of the ten years during the decade. While his position was changing each year and in some cases each day, the past four years have seen Cuddyer primarily in right field.
In nine seasons with the Twins, Cuddyer has hit .270 with 107 homeruns and 429 RBI. Last season, Cuddyer received an MVP vote after he helped lead the Twins to the playoffs with a late season run. Cuddyer hit .276 in 2009 with 32 homeruns and 94 RBI while switching to first base in September to once again show off his flexibility. 
UtilitySome options: Denny Hocking, Nick Punto, Michael Cuddyer, Denard Span, Jason Bartlett

Seth
Stohs
John
Bonnes
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Nelson
Michael
Rand
Alex
Utility
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Punto
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Jason
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Nick
Punto

Michael Cuddyer is a sensible choice having played first base, second base, third base, left field, right field, centerfield and designated hitter over the past nine seasons. Already the right fielder on most ballots however, the titles falls to another player.
Nick Punto has been with the Twins for six seasons, and has played seven of the nine positions as well. During his time with the Twins, Punto has hit .239 with 11 homeruns, 174 RBI and 83 stolen bases. 
Bartlett doesn’t get the title, but he spent three seasons and a handful of games in Minnesota. During that time, he hit .272 with 10 homeruns, 92 RBI and 39 stolen bases.

What About Second?

Since the off-season first began, the reports have been centered around various third basemen, and the talk has been about who will play next to J.J. Hardy on the left side of the infield next season. Just weeks after the Winter Meetings came to a close, most of the Minnesota Twins’ options have signed elsewhere, and what they’ll do is now uncertain.

Chone Figgins is off to Seattle, Pedro Feliz is going to Houston, Troy Glaus will be in Atlanta, Garrett Atkins is headed to Baltimore, and Mark DeRosa is now headed to the west coast and San Francisco. One potential upgrade remains in Adrian Beltre, but his price might be too steep.
Joe Crede could return or the Twins could go with Danny Valencia to fill the third base void. But there is one other option that might just make sense. If Nick Punto is bound to be in the lineup, why not place him at third and go after a second baseman?
Two primary second basemen remain on the free agent market in Orlando Hudson and Felpiz Lopez. Both would be solid upgrades for the team at the right price, and they’d fill not only the second base void, but also the second spot in the lineup.
Last season, Hudson hit .283 with 9 homeruns, 62 RBI and 74 runs scored. Lopez meanwhile hit .310 with 9 homeruns, 57 RBI and 88 runs scored. Lopez is three years younger, but Hudson is just 32 and a deal would likely be for two or three seasons. 
If the Twins were to add Hudson or Lopez to the roster, a potential 2010 Opening Day lineup might be as follows:
1. Denard Span (cf)
2. Hudson/Lopez (2b)
3. Joe Mauer (c)
4. Justin Morneau (1b)
5. Michael Cuddyer (rf)
6. Jason Kubel (dh)
7. J.J. Hardy (ss)
8. Delmon Young (lf)
9. Nick Punto (3b)
Last season, the Minnesota Twins hit just .262 in the second spot in the lineup to go along with a .306 on-base percentage. Their second basemen combined meanwhile, hit just .209 with a .302 on-base percentage. Both Hudson and Lopez had on-base percentages around or above .360, and each could get on in front of Mauer rather than empty the bases. 
The general consensus has been that the Twins would obtain a third basemen and fill second base with Nick Punto. With options running out however, it might be just as wise to go after Orlando Hudson or Felipe Lopez and stick Punto on the left side. 

On Joe Crede…

Joe Crede.jpgThe biggest question remaining for the Minnesota Twins this off-season, outside of the Joe Mauer contract situation, is what to do at third base. Second base too is a gaping hole as December nears an end, but the team has several in-house options to fill the void if only they can put someone next to shortstop J.J. Hardy on the left side of the infield. 
With half the options joining teams across baseball, three primary options seem available for Minnesota: sign Mark DeRosa, sign Adrian Beltre, or trade for Kevin Kouzmanoff. 
If no trade occurs or the other options sign elsewhere, the Twins will have a backup option in the form of third basemen Joe Crede. While Crede played in just 90 games last season, there are some reasons he could make sense if other options don’t develop.
Why Crede Makes Sense…
He’ll be cheap: A back injury ended Crede’s season early in 2008, and after playing in 90 games last season, he was done yet again. Crede may have one more opportunity to stay healthy, and where he receives that opportunity, he’ll likely go cheaply. 
Shortly before spring training earlier this year, Crede signed a one-year, $2.5 million contract with incentives that could have pushed it to $7 million. Crede earned very few of those incentives with just 333 plate appearances, and so the Twins got him relatively cheap. 
A deal this off-season would again be incentive-laden, would likely have a cheaper base salary, and possibly include fewer incentives. 
Low-risk, high-reward: The same was said when the Twins signed Crede before, but the same would be the case if they sign him a second time. Crede has potential to put up solid power numbers and play decent defense at third base. He’d be a cheap option who would be underpaid if he played a full season at his capable level. 
Better than nothing: The Twins do have other options to fill third base if the primary ones run out. They could put Nick Punto there and sign a second basemen, or they could go with upcoming prospect Danny Valencia.
Nonetheless, Crede makes sense even if he has a high likelihood of being injured again in 2010. If the team doesn’t feel Valencia will be ready until mid-season or the beginning of 2011, Crede could push his debut date back, and even if he lasted only until mid-season, Valencia would have a half-season at triple-A Rochester to improve his game.
Why Crede Doesn’t Make Sense…
There are second basemen: If the Twins can’t get DeRosa, Beltre or Kouzmanoff, they could always switch their focus to second base. Two key second base options are Orlando Hudson and Felipe Lopez, and both would also fit nicely into the lineup.
Nick Punto seems like a lock to be in the lineup at some position, and whether he’s at second or third isn’t a big issue. Punto will be inserted much more for his defense than hitting capabilities, and he’s an above-average defender at both second and third. 
Crede’s injury history: While Crede would come on the cheap, it may be better to just go in-house. If Danny Valencia is closer to the majors than some believe, would it be a terrible move to let him take a shot at starting from the first day of spring training and use the money elsewhere?

On Pace: Hitters

With a 5-hour, 16-inning game, the Minnesota Twins have played 81 games in the 2009 season; signifying the completion of half of the season. Through the midway point, the Twins find themselves one game above .500 with a record of 41-40 (compared to 44-37 last season).

The Twins have some work to do in the second half if they hope to make the playoffs. Some players will need to step up, while others will need to continue their first half production. After three months, many players are on pace for career numbers.
** Denard Span is on pace to hit for a .292 average, hit 9 homeruns, and drive in 58 runners. More impressive is his projection to walk 74 times, collect 171 hits and score 97 runs from the leadoff spot.
** Joe Mauer is on pace to knock out a career high 34 homeruns and collect 110 runs batted in. In addition to those eye-popping numbers, Mauer is projected to collect 201 hits despite missing the first month of the season. Some other key projections include a .390 average and 78 walks compared to only 69 strikeouts.
** Justin Morneau is on pace to reach a career high in the homerun department with 38 and in the RBI category with 131 runs batted in. Some other key projections include 191 hits and 42 doubles; all while hitting .311.
** Jason Kubel is on pace to hit a career high 28 homeruns and drive in a career high 90 runners. The career high projections also carry over into the hits and average categories where Kubel is on pace to collect 163 hits and hit for a .304 average.
** Michael Cuddyer is on pace to hit .280 with 25 homeruns and 92 runs batted in. The thus far healthy right fielder is also projected to collect 38 doubles and an astonishing 10 triples.
** Joe Crede is on pace to provide some of the best production from third base in quite some time. The powerful right-hander is projected to hit 28 homeruns, drive in 83 runners, and possibly most impressively, be the best defensive third basemen in all of baseball.
** Delmon Young has had a down year, but is starting to heat up which could alter his projections. The youngster is on pace to hit 8 homeruns, drive in 62 runners, and collect 124 hits in only 132 games.
** Brendan Harris is on pace for a solid year with projections of 9 homeruns and 48 runs batted in (compared to projections of 9 HR and 47 RBI midway last season) over the course of a projected 149 games. Harris is also on pace to tie a career high 149 hits and a .280 batting average.
** Nick Punto is on pace for 37 runs batted in, Matt Tolbert is on pace for 32 runs batted in, Brian Buscher is on pace for 6 homeruns and 26 runs batted in, Carlos Gomez is on pace for 2 homeruns and 26 runs batted in, Jose Morales is one pace to hit .356, and Mike Redmond is on pace for 16 runs batted in.
Due to lack of games, both Alexi Casilla and Jason Pridie were excluded from the list.
The second half of the “On Pace” series, the pitchers, is due up next.
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