August 14, 2012

When and where will Twins find room for Triple-A murderer Parmelee?

Not much about the Twins' handling of Chris Parmelee this season has made sense. Coming into the year he'd never played at Triple-A and had a measly .416 slugging percentage in 253 games at Double-A, yet they handed him an Opening Day job based on the small samples of his strong September call-up and good spring training. Parmelee struggled with the big jump, hitting .179 with zero homers and 21 strikeouts in 92 plate appearances through mid-May.

At that point they demoted him to Rochester for his first career taste of Triple-A, but then after just three weeks there the Twins recalled Parmelee to Minnesota even though there wasn't an obvious place for him to play regularly. And sure enough he spent the next month collecting dust on the bench, starting just four times and totaling 23 plate appearances in the span of 25 games before they demoted him back to Triple-A again.

They rushed a non-elite prospect to the majors by having him skip Triple-A, demoted him to the minors six weeks and 92 plate appearances later, and then called him up three weeks after that to spend a month on the bench. None of that seems like how you'd want to handle a young player and he's hit just .204/.283/.324 with a 28/9 K/BB ratio in 40 games for the Twins this season, but there is one big bright spot: Parmelee has been amazing at Triple-A.

In the low minors Parmelee showed excellent power and plate discipline, but struck out a ton with poor batting averages. As he moved up the organizational ladder the Twins tinkered with his approach for reduced strikeouts and a higher batting average, but Parmelee sacrificed power and plate discipline in the process. All of which is how he went from high-strikeout, low-average slugger at Single-A to hitting .282 with a .416 slugging percentage at Double-A.

However, in his first Triple-A action Parmelee has kept his strikeouts down and his average up while rediscovering the big-time power and patience. And the end result has been a beautiful .360/.471/.703 line with 15 homers, 14 doubles, and more walks (35) than strikeouts (31) in 47 games for Rochester, which is basically unheard of production. In fact, here are the highest OPS totals by Rochester hitters since the Red Wings became the Twins' affiliate in 2003:

                  YEAR      PA      OPS
CHRIS PARMELEE    2012     208    1.174
Trevor Plouffe    2011     220    1.019
Justin Morneau    2004     326     .992
Jason Kubel       2004     390     .958
Brian Buscher     2008     214     .915
Denard Span       2008     184     .915
Randy Ruiz        2008     456     .902

Parmelee is blowing away the competition with an OPS approaching 1.200 while the only other Rochester hitter to even top a 1.000 OPS since 2003 was Trevor Plouffe last year. Plouffe's mediocre production in the minors and early big-league struggles caused his prospect stock to drop until that monster 50-game stretch in Rochester completely changed his outlook, which sounds similar to Parmelee's story right down to both players being former first-round picks.

And while not as extreme, Denard Span also appears on the above list as another former first-round pick whose prospect stock waned until a great stretch at Triple-A in 2008 propelled him to the majors. Obviously none of that guarantees Parmelee will follow the Plouffe/Span path to MLB success, but whatever you thought of him before this season and whatever you thought of his poor showing with the Twins this year .360/.471/.703 is an opinion-changer.

I'd love to know how differently things may have played out for Parmelee if the Twins had simply sent him to Triple-A to begin the year and called him up after a strong half-season in Rochester, although even that scenario isn't without issues. Considering the Twins' record and his Triple-A performance Parmelee has certainly earned another call-up and regular playing time down the stretch, but where exactly does he play?

Parmelee's natural position is first base, but Justin Morneau is there. He's also played quite a bit of right field and a little bit of left field in the minors, but those spots are manned by Ben Revere and Josh Willingham. Joe Mauer and Ryan Doumit are splitting designated hitter, so there's no room for Parmelee at DH. And the logjam isn't just this season, as Mauer, Morneau, Willingham, Revere, and Doumit are signed for 2013 and all but Morneau are signed for 2014.

Presumably if the Twins thought enough of Parmelee this spring to hand him an Opening Day job despite modest production at Double-A and zero experience at Triple-A they'll still think enough of him next spring to want him playing regularly after crushing Triple-A pitching. In order for that to happen, however, they'll seemingly need to make a trade. Mauer isn't going anywhere, Revere presumably isn't either, and Doumit just signed a two-year extension.

Morneau is the obvious choice, as he plays Parmelee's primary position and is owed $14 million in the final season of his contract. Willingham would fetch more in return, but there's been no indication that the Twins are willing to part with the hugely productive slugger they signed to a three-year deal in December. They could also open a spot by trading Span and shifting Revere to center field, but Parmelee as an everyday corner outfielder could be ugly defensively.

Wherever and however, the Twins need to find a place in the 2013 lineup for Parmelee.

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  • http://contributor.yahoo.com/user/1613406/justin_revere.html Dane

    Great article. This is something I have been wondering ever since Parmelee began mashing at triple-A. Pretty sure this is going to be a major story line this off season…

  • patrick

    Trade span put revere in center (where he belongs) and CP in right. Problem solved

  • Caleb Loge

    I have a bad feeling this will be the last year we will see Morneau in a Twins uniform. He has been my favorite Twins player since he came up(my Morneau jersey has his rookie number 27 on it). But the more I think about, the more it makes sense for this ballclub to trade. It will be very tough to see him go.

    On a side note, I think the Lance Ray of the Miracle will be going through the same sort of transformation that Parmelee had early on in his career. I can already see it with Ray striking out less and as a result having a higher batting average.

  • K

    Absolutely incredible article. I gotta think they could come close to an Ace by dangling Morneau, a former MVP. Is the missing piece for 2013 a top-of-the-rotation guy? What can they realistically get from a team, and who in a pennant race needs Morneau?

  • Paulie

    K – Zippy chance they’d get any pitcher that’s a near-ace, but they may be able to grab a couple high velo, high upside arms in A-Ball. Morneau is owed $15m in 2013 and the Twins have historically been too cheap to pick up a portion of that salary to get a better prospect. I hope I’m wrong, but I’m not overly optimistic on what they’d receive in a trade this offseason. 1B that get on base 35% with solid power are more common than you think and his injury/concussion history won’t help out their cause at all.

    Cheers, Paulie

  • MC

    I kinda want Morneau to retire a Twin… but these are the good problems to have. I don’t think Parmelee will show well in the OF so I think one of these two will have to give.

  • Josh

    I think either Span or Morneau gets moved in the offseason. I’m ok with either, but it’s all about the return. I don’t want Span moved for some C-level A-Ball relief prospects or a no-hit middle INF. He’s got real value and needs to bring it back. I don’t want Morneau moved in a salary dump, either. Now that he’s healthy again (and playing with confidence that he won’t get beaned and have his career ended when facing a LHP) he also has real value.

    If both get moved, I hope the Twins will get back (or sign) a good RF and install Parmelee at 1B. I agree, though: Parmelee looks to be ready.

  • MC

    Is AA harder than AAA? That’s another question I have about his break out. I’m still a bit skeptical but hope it’s real.

  • mazeville

    Twins should trade Morneau, preferably for a major league pitcher, which I don’t think is out of the question for a team like Seattle. I’d like to keep him, but Parm’s production is too strong to ignore, and he’s $13.6 million cheaper. That money could be used on another pitcher because, hey, we need more than one arm.

  • jfs

    hell, don’t trade anyone. use parmelee as a roving replacement in rf, lf, first base, and 3b. span and morneau have worked their behinds off, returning from injuries. and they are important parts of an impressive offense.

  • D-Luxxx

    Was Plouffe really such a butcher at 2nd base that we couldn’t try Parm at 3rd? Or is that just not an answer? Just think of the power that lineup would have. I mean we’d probably envy Detroit’s defensive prowess, but still…

  • jc

    Morneau seems to be the obvious answer. The Twins front office could trim his salary from the books, allowing them to spend half or 3/4 of that on a starting pitcher. This would still give the allusion of “spending” while cutting payroll.

  • http://twitter.com/invertedw Inverted W Podcast

    I have to call you out a bit here Aaron because you’ve always been fairly hard on Parmelee (and I noticed how you picked your most kind critique of him to cite), and now you want to trade Morneau just to see what he can do? If TR is serious about not being in a rebuild mode, and thinks he will compete next year, wouldn’t be in their best interest to think about Parmelee being the trade chip this winter?

  • Clyde

    Why not trade Parmelee? Target Field plays big for left-handers (see Kubel, Jason; Mauer, Joe) and it seems that it is only a matter of time before Sano is moved to first base. Mauer is going to play there too. Package Parmelee and an outfield prospect or two and try to get near major league front-line pitching and middle infield help.

  • Clyde

    Beat me to it IWP.

  • Pedro Munoz

    With his injury history and his contract, Morneau has no trade value. The Twins would be lucky to move him without having to pay part of his salary next year. Unfortunately, Parmelee does not have much trade value either. Teams won’t pay much for mediocre players who blossom at AAA.

  • Dave T

    While Parmalee has been tearing up AAA, Morneau has been tearing up the AL (at least the past few weeks). I won’t venture an opinion here about who to trade, but Morneau is back at an MVP level. If he has no trade value, then extend him. Twins fans remember those MVP years, and won’t stand for a give-away trade.

  • JD

    Parmalee throws left-handed so he won’t be playing 3B per some of the suggestions above.

  • Kurt Erickson

    Would be pretty interesting to hear what the front office has to say about their handling of Parmelee. As you pointed out, there’s an obvious right and wrong, and clearly they weren’t right in their managing of him. He should have started and stayed all year at AAA, and the Twins should now be looking to move players to make room for him. A 24 year old AAA masher OPSing over 1.000 does not belong in AAA, he belongs in the big show and they need to make room via trade or they need to figure it out another way, period.

  • spoofbonser

    make him the only mlb left-handed shortstop

  • Overeasy

    Or the Twins could see what the market would bear on a Mauer deal, use Parmalee and Morneau at DH and 1B and Doumit at catcher. A Mauer deal would reduce payroll (apparently a need for the cash-rich team) and ought to net a starting middle infielder and a starting pitcher–if not more. It would also solve obviate the problem that would be created by moving Revere and his arm to center and using Parmalee in a corner spot.

  • Jon M.

    “I kinda want Morneau to retire a Twin… but these are the good problems to have. I don’t think Parmelee will show well in the OF so I think one of these two will have to give.

    Comment by MC — August 14, 2012 @ 8:29 am”

    I”m not sure the Twins have any “good problems to have.”

  • http://www.mog.com/funoka funoka

    “Mauer deal” = not happening.

  • Sam D.

    I liked this article alot, and really see eye to eye with Gleeman almost all the time. This really does remind me on how Plouffe mashed last year at AAA, and got me exited about him as a prospect again. Same thing for Chris, but hes hitting even better than Trevor last year. He has to be up here, but where? I’m thinking that it might finally be time to trade Span this off-season. Revere seems ready to take over the lead off and center field role. We could still use another masher in the lineup to pair with Justin.(who is starting to come around finally, in a big way). And if we do decide to eventually trade Morneau, or let him go in 2014, Chris can take over at first. Some of our outfield prospects should be ready for the bigs then. (Benson,Hicks,Arcia….and so on. I wanted Chris P. up here for good to begin this year.

  • Ed

    Mauer has a no-trade clause, so he would have to waive that before he could be traded.

    There is NO WAY they would trade an inexpensive prospect like Parmelee… he is under Twins control for years and will be cheap which will free up salary headroom for pitching.

    Trading Morneau will not bring much… certainly not a reliable ML starter. But you might get a really good reliever and get rid of most of his salary, which could then go to a free agent starter, so I think it is possible to get 2 pitchers from a Morneau trade.

    I suspect there is a good chance they move both Morneau and Span in the off season to improve pitching, as they should.

  • Paulie

    Do many of you realize that Morneau had a 4.0 fWAR the year he won the MVP? He’s never had a “MVP season” and people need to wise up and factor in positional value & what league averages & replacement players are doing. Ruben Amaro completely botched it when he extended Ryan Howard 2 years before he hit free agency. As more front offices become wiser it is more difficult to “pull a fast one” on them. What I’m trying to say is that we need to be peppering Brian Sabean’s phone this entire offseason (b/c the Giants may be the only team with an opening at 1B w/ a GM who loves old and often times overrated guys).