February 19, 2008

Competition: 2nd Base

Nick Punto

Punto has been a favorite of Ron Gardenhire's since the moment he was acquired by the Twins in the Eric Milton trade in 2004 (which also brought Carlos Silva). He's a steady defender and plays hard on every play. Unfortunately, hard work doesn't always pay off and he had a dreadful 2007 campaign in which he flirted with the 'Mendoza Line' for the majority of the year. Given the fact that he's played in the Metrodome for 4 seasons, and the fact that he is a favorite of Ron Gardenhire's, it looks like he may have an edge on the others in the three-way competition. Out of the three players that look to be competing for the starting job, Punto's bat is by far inferior to both of the other players, however he does have the best defense.

I think that Punto's best asset to this team is that he can play many positions while staying strong defensively. I think he's a much better role player on the bench than a starter, and I hope that the Twins have a short leash with him if he struggles, as he has two other players that would start on the majority of the other teams in the league.

Alexi Casilla

Alexi Casilla is a very exciting player to watch as he possesses plus,plus speed. However, from what I saw of him last season, both his glove and his bat need a little more work before he is ready to step onto the field as an everyday player for the Twins. On defense, he made some great plays, many of which left people scratching his head and say, "How did he do that?". A lot of his plays that he makes are because of his great speed which makes himself have a wide range for which he can cover. One play comes to mind when he was playing second base, he got a late start to a foul ball and when he realized that neither Justin Morneau nor Michael Cuddyer could get to it, he turned on his 'jets' and raced to the wall to make a last-second catch. He also made a few nice diving and jumping stops as well. Unfortunately he made a lot of bone-head moves while playing as well and made a lot of routine ground balls look very challenging which actually set off Ron Gardenhire later in the season.

For Casilla, he has many physical tools, he'll likely become a better defender with more time and his offense will likely start improving as well. But the majority of the problems with Casilla don't stem from the fact that he doesn't have the tools or that he won't ever show them, it's because he's mentally not prepared to start right now, and it looks like he's trying to prove himself on every play. I'm not saying it's a horrible thing he's doing, he should go out and try to give it his all on every play, but he needs to clear his mind and go out there and just play ball. I hope that he improved during Winter Ball and will really impress fans and coaches this spring, but I think it's more likely that he starts the season in Rochester and forces management to call him up.

Brendan Harris

Harris is one of the Twins' newest players as he was acquired along with Delmon Young and Jason Pridie in a trade earlier in the off-season. Harris' best attribute over these other players is that he has a good bat and it's likely that it'll only get better. Defensively, he's probably the weakest of this group, but as a former shortstop, he should be ready to make an easier transition over to second base. Right now, I'd have to put him as the front runner, as it looks like the Twins are trying to be better offensively this season, and Harris would definitely be the best option.

My Thoughts

Personally, I think that Harris will ultimately win the job. Based on offensive skills, he blows Nick Punto and Alexi Casilla out of the water and he's not that bad defensively. He'd be a great addition to an already improved lineup.