The Free Press, Mankato, MN

July 8, 2013

Thoma column: If at first you don't succeed, you might be Chris Parmelee


The Mankato Free Press

---- — It’s a lot more fun to follow the Twins’ prospects than the big-league team these days.

Anticipating the arrival of the likes of Miguel Sano, Byron Buxton and Eddie Rosario is more rewarding than watching a parade of overworked middle relievers going to the rescue of overmatched starters.

Still, the groundwork for the big team’s revival is being laid in Target Field this summer. The first wave of the transition has reached the shore. Oswaldo Arcia has laid claim to a corner outfield job, and he’s not letting go. Kyle Gibson is in the rotation at long last. Aaron Hicks is getting a season-long audition in center.

And — silver lining to Josh Willingham’s knee surgery — Chris Parmelee now figures to get a truly sustained look.

Parmelee has gotten some chances in the past without truly seizing a job, but he’s also been squeezed. His best position is first base, but Justin Morneau is there. Parmelee has been a better right fielder than anticipated (which isn’t to claim that he’s a Gold Glove candidate), but Willingham and Arcia rank ahead of him in the corner outfield. Ryan Doumit soaks up most of the DH at-bats.

And the Twins have a real need to know what they have in Parmelee. Morneau, still one of the central figures in the lineup and in public perception, is a free agent after the season. Do the Twins want to re-sign the former MVP? If not, do they trade him this month for whatever an aging first baseman with declining power fetches?

If Morneau goes — whether by trade during the season, free-agency over the winter or even the slender possibility that he’ll take his concussion history and retire — Parmelee would figure to be the heir apparent to the first base job.

But for that to work, he’s got to hit. Parmelee came into Sunday’s play hitting .241/.321/.405, about as high as it’s been all year. His OPS+, a stat that attempts to take park effects and other factors out of the raw numbers, says he’s been exactly league-average as a hitter. (Morneau, despite a much better batting average, is only slightly above average.)

That’s not good enough for a first baseman. First basemen (and corner outfielders) have to be well above average to stay in the lineup.

As the Twins lay their plans for 2014 and beyond, it’s not clear that either the veteran Morneau or the unproven Parmelee are particularly good bets to do that. Parmelee now has about a month to demonstrate otherwise.

Edward Thoma (344-6377; ethoma@mankatofreepress.com) maintains his Baseball Outsider blog at fpbaseballoutsider.blogspot.com. Follow him on Twitter @bboutsider.