Thursday, June 7, 2012

Trevor Plouffe, Useful Player

When Trevor Plouffe was drafted in the first round of the 2004 MLB draft, the Twins hoped they had found their power-hitting shortstop of the future. Fast forward 8 years, and it's clear they did not.

Trevor never was a reliable defensive option, committing 173 errors in 801 career minor league games. This despite having solid range and a plus arm. As a result, he was given the opportunity to try third base and later first base, second base, left and right field. So from his deficiencies at shortstop was born a veritable Swiss Army knife of a player.

(More after the jump)

Through about a third of the season, Plouffe has shown his worth at every position but catcher, center field and pitcher. His wide-ranging utility is reminiscent of Twins greats* Nick Punto  and Matt Tolbert.

The comparison between he and his utility brethren ends there. Where the past incarnations of Twins utility men had almost no power (18 combined home runs in 3,738 plate appearances), Plouffe is looking like a bona fide threat at the plate.

In his young major league career, Trevor has hit 17 home runs in 492 plate appearances. Extrapolated out to a complete season, that's about the equivalent of a 20 home run season. The bombs are accompanied by 23 doubles (~27 doubles extrapolated), showing there is some legit thunder in his bat. In fact, 41 of his 96 career hits have gone for extra bases. That 42.7% clip is only slightly below Albert Pujols, at 43.98%.

Of course, Plouffe is nowhere near Pujols. He won't ever hit .300 or 30 home runs in a season. But he also isn't as poor a hitter as his .218 batting average would lead you to believe. His career BABIP (batting average per ball in play) is just .248 and only .176 this year. This is based mostly in bad luck and  can be expected to rise closer to the major league average of a shade below .300. This adjustment pegs Plouffe as a .240-.250 hitter, which you will recall is about slightly below average in today's hitting environment.

On top of this, Plouffe has shown an impressive improvement in plate discipline over his career, increasing his walk rates from 0% in 2010, to 7.8% in 2011 and 10.9% this year. Still not an elite skill, his could be one of the better eyes on the team.

If Plouffe can put it all together, he could be a new breed of utility player for the Twins over the next three or four years; playing effectively all over the diamond and producing a line around .245/.310/.415 with 10-15 home runs a year.

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