Tuesday, April 27, 2004

Who's on Second?

Costello: All I want to know is who’s on second?!

Abbot: Like I said, Who’s on first. Luis Rivas is on second.

Costello: Oh. (long pause) Would it be possible for Who, What, or I Don’t Know to play second instead?

I’m sure most Twins fans out there are asking themselves the exact same question as Costello: isn’t there ANYONE else that can play second base for the Twins besides Luis Rivas?!? Rivas went 0-3 again in Monday night’s 6-1 loss to the Blue Jays, lowering his batting average to .197 and his on-base percentage to .222 (he’s also the not-so-proud owner of a .550 OPS). Now, I fully realize that we are less than 20 games into the regular season, but it is becoming more and more apparent every day that Luis Rivas is not the long-term (or even short-term!) solution at 2B.

I know we went through the same debate last year when Rivas started so poorly, but enough is enough. It appears that Rivas has digressed (or remained stagnant) in nearly every facet of his game since his promising rookie season of 2001. His plate discipline has not improved, his defense has possibly gotten worse, and he is no longer the base-stealing threat he once was. I, for one, am thoroughly disappointed.

The thing is, do the Twins have anybody better? Here are the candidates:
Nick Punto: Punto is seemingly the best replacement candidate that we currently have on the major league roster. However, I hate to bust everyone’s bubble, but Nick Punto is not the answer either. At best, he is the Twins version of Bo Hart: short, scrappy, singles-hitting middle infielder. And Punto takes the “singles-hitting” thing to new extremes: in 134 major league at-bats, he has exactly 3 extra base hits (for those of you scoring at home, that works out to be a .276 slugging percentage- only about 1000 points lower that Barry Bonds’ this year). He may work out fine in the short-run, but he is far from a long-term solution. Punto almost makes Rivas look like Bonds.

Michael Cuddyer: I’ve seen a lot of statheads over at the DTFC champion the Cuddyer-as-2B cause. Right now, I’m going to rain on that parade. Michael Cuddyer, simply put, is not a second baseman. He never was a second basemen (although I’m aware he was drafted as a shortstop) and he will never be a second baseman. I do think he could someday be an adequate third baseman in the majors (note the term “adequate”) but he simply does not posses the hands, the footwork, or the instincts to be a second baseman at the major league level (to borrow a term from Bert Blyleven). Anyone who has any baseball-sense whatsoever and has seen Cuddyer play second EVEN ONCE will agree with me. There is no doubt in my mind that he would out produce Rivas easily, but I would not put up with his inferior defense to gain the fairly modest offensive benefits- he’s not Jeff Kent yet remember. Also, let’s not forget this is the same organization that gave up Todd Walker for next-to-nothing, because they were so disgusted with his defense (and attitude).

Minor League candidates: Luis Rodriguez, Alex Prieto, and Jason Bartlett
I’m not sure if any of these AAA players are actually candidates to ever play second base in the majors. Rodriguez is the current 2B for the Red Wings, but it’s obvious the Twins don’t think that highly of him as a prospect (besides the obligatory spring-training invite). He’s only 23, but he’s also 5’9’’ 180 (or so he says). His stats say he’ll probably be a career minor league filler, which is too bad. No power, little speed- a bad combination for a guy hoping to break into the bigs. Prieto is a AAA infielder, but I’m pretty sure he doesn’t play second all that much. And it is unlikely that the Twins would have Bartlett, who they have been grooming as a shortstop, break into the majors as a second baseman.

There you have it. Even though he sucks (as I have repeatedly stated), Luis Rivas is currently the Twins’ best option at second base. I hope he can turn his season around, but my faith is dwindling. In the meantime, let the search for Who, What, or I Don’t Know begin.

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