Danny Valencia was the victim of change due to losing games! or was he? It’s hard to call Danny a victim when he has a .190 batting average (AVG), a .204 on-base percentage (OBP) and a slugging percentage of .290 (SLG), even if Drew Butera thinks those numbers are pretty good.* Those are numbers that are screaming THIS ISN’T WORKING so the Minnesota Twins optioned Danny Valencia down to Triple-A Rochester on Thursday, May 10th. He needs to go down there, get to work and get some confidence back into his game.
*Haha, sorry Drew! My first thought was to go with Junior Ortiz for that, then Tim Laudner but I decided to go with a current Twin so everyone would know who it was. How ’bout Brendan Harris or Matt Tolbert or maybe Alexi Casilla so I can match up the ValenSeeYa with the CaSeeYa? ValenSeeYa is supposed to be a good thing like when Danny hits a home run or gets a clutch hit not when he’s sent down to the minors!
Danny has gone through some struggles on his way to the Major Leagues but I doubt he’s gone through anything like this where he’s struggled for so long. He had a tremendous 2010 season for the Minnesota Twins to the point where it’s hard to find an area he didn’t do well in, at least with the bat. He only had half a season in the majors but he seemed to adapt to the major leagues quickly. Did his success make him relax in the off-seasons or was it teams learning how to pitch him?
In 2011, Danny Valencia was hitting basically the same way he was in 2010 but getting different results and less hits. He started to struggle against right-handed pitchers. That will tend to happen after teams get some film on young players. That’s probably not close to the whole reason Danny struggled in 2011. I’m far from an expert in analyzing swings. I’ll leave that to the scouting types.*
*I do find it fascinating how a batter’s swing can be divided into so many parts and then adjusted or fixed to speed up or slow down a swing for various situations. Think of what that takes to do and do it in a timely manner to fix your swing from day to day or even week to week. The discipline to first admit there’s something wrong, even if you can see it on video, then know what to do (or try) to fix it and, most of all, to change a part of your swing and get to the point where it becomes natural to you again. I’m not sure most fans realize how much this happens. Another thing that’s amazing is that these players obviously had success before they changed a part of their swing so it was working and it just shows that baseball is a game with adjustments going on all the time and that’s why I love the game!
So Danny’s hitting struggles go back to 2011 and have not really ended and have actually gotten worse. At least in 2011 he was still getting some walks where as in 2012, he has 2 walks and 23 strikeouts in 27 games and 100 at-bats. That tells me that he’s trying to swing his way out of his slump which usually means swinging at more bad pitches. The opposing teams and pitchers know he’s struggling so they’ll try to take advantage of that by not giving him much to hit and seeing if he’ll bite on the breaking balls and off-speed stuff and throwing more outside pitches as well.
The trouble with being in a slump is most players try to swing their way out of it, swinging at more pitches and at more pitches out of the strike zone but contacting on less of those pitches. Look at Danny’s plate discipline stats and it’s easy to see what I’m talking about. His swing percentage on pitches out of the strike zone has gone from 24.9 % in 2010 to 30.9% in 2011 and a whopping 40.1% so far this season while his swing percentage on pitches in the strike zone has gone down (60.3 to 57.8 to 50.5.) Not surprisingly, his contact percentage has gone down as well (82.9 to 79.8 to 74.6.) He’s getting down in the count early which is getting him into pitcher’s counts and he’s swinging at the junk they are throwing out of the zone which, of course, is harder to hit. Danny is 0-for-May and he’s struggling big time. The Minnesota Twins could’ve tried sitting him down for a couple games but they obviously didn’t want to go in that direction. Hopefully Danny is able to correct this in the minors because we’ve seen that he’s capable of being a pretty good hitter.
Defensively, Danny has kind of been on the questionable side so when he performed so well in his initial call-up, it took most people by surprise. His defense went from above average to really bad. Was it playing more games and the small sample size fooling us? Ron Gardenhire started to show frustration with Danny’s approach at the hot corner and hinted that the team’s future at 3rd base might be in question. Danny worked on his defense in the off-season and has looked a lot better but he still has his deficiencies.
The bad thing about sending Danny Valencia to the minors is the Minnesota Twins don’t really have another 3rd baseman on the roster. They have some guys they can put over there, like Jamey Carroll, Trevor Plouffe, or Alexi Casilla, but they have never really played 3rd base full-time. This should allow the Twins to get Trevor Plouffe more playing time to see if he is worth keeping or if they eventually have to make a move with him as well.* This points to the problems of the Twins depth in the minors at 3rd base and infielders as a whole.
*Plouffe is hitting a whopping .145/.280/.585 although in the last two games he is 2-9 with 2 home runs, 3 RBIs and 4 strikeouts so we may have witnessed a slump…BUSTED! Trevor is out of options so he would have to clear waivers to be sent to triple-A. I would prefer they keep Plouffe in the outfield as he’s shown that he might not have the skills to play infield in the Majors. He seems to be on a Michael Cuddyer path where the Twins are trying to find a place for him and it might end up being right field because his glove isn’t good enough in the infield. He could probably fill in at 1st base here and there but that’s about it.
The bottom line is if players aren’t performing and they still have options left to be sent down to the minors, at some point they need to play better or someone else needs to be given a chance in The Show! That’s what has to happen when you have a losing team.
Other Minnesota Twinsactions
5/7 – 1B Justin Morneau placed on 15-Day disabled list (retroactive to May 1, 2012) with sore right wrist
5/7 – SS Brian Dozier recalled from AAA Rochester Red Wings
5/7 – RHP Liam Hendricks optioned to AAA Rochester Red Wings
5/7 – LHP Scott Diamond recalled from AAA Rochester Red Wings
5/9 – signed free agent DH Shawn Roof
5/10 – LHP Matt Maloney designated for assignment
5/10 – RHP P.J. Walters recalled from AAA Rochester Red Wings
5/10 – 3B Danny Valencia optioned to AAA Rochester Red Wings
5/10 – LF Darin Mastroianni recalled from AAA Rochester Red Wings
- SS Brian Dozier is the big name on this list. He’s moved through the organization quickly and made a bid to make the team out of spring training. Don’t expect him to be the savior or anything like that but it’s always exciting to see how a prospect does in his debut. It’s fun to see the firsts of a player’s major league career (hit, rbi, home run, etc…). He should be pretty good defensively and alright with the bat.
- LHP Scott Diamond was up with the Twins at the end of last season for 7 starts (a spot start in July and a regular rotation spot in late August) going 1-5 (W-L). He got his 1st Major League win in a 7-6 win in Chicago against the White Sox. He ended up with a 5.08 ERA & 1.744 WHIP (Walks + Hits per Innings Pitched) with 17 walks and 19 strikeouts in 39 innings. Not great but he got a taste of what it’s like in The Show and had a couple good starts.
- He’s been great so far this season no matter where he’s pitched. In triple-A Rochester, he was 4-1 with a 2.60 ERA, 1.212 WHIP with only 7 walks and 26 strikeouts in 34.2 innings. He’s been spectacular with the Twins. In his 2 starts, he’s 2-0, has yet to give up a run (0.00 ERA), has a WHIP of 0.714 and has only 1 walk and 10 strikeouts in 14 innings. Can he keep this going?
- RHP P.J. Walters was signed as a free agent in December. He was part of the Colby Rasmus trade from St. Louis to Toronto for Edwin Jackson. He’s been up and down between AAA and the majors since 2009 getting some starts and some time in the bullpen.
- LF Darin Mastroianni was claimed off waivers from Toronto in the off-season. He’s got a lot of speed, good plate discipline, a decent bat although very little power and he’s good defensively in the outfield. He can play 2B as well although I doubt he’d be put there much for Twins but nice to have that option if you need it.
Alright, those are my TwinsTakes. What are your TwinsTakes? Are the Minnesota Twins doing the right things with their roster? When will we see Danny Valencia back up with the Twins?
Tell us what you think in the comments!