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« Greinke an All-Star at Preventing Homers | Main | San Fran's Starters Avoid Fat Part of Plate During Shutout Streak »

Trevor Plouffe: Sudden Slugger

Minnesota's Trevor Plouffe has more home runs than Justin Morneau and Joe Mauer combined. His 144 OPS+ is in the top 15 among AL hitters -- ahead of Jose Bautista, Prince Fielder and Albert Pujols, among many others.

These things might not be all that surprising if it were, say, early April. But the All-Star break is nearly upon us and Plouffe, a 26-year-old with a career .726 OPS in the minors and a pair of putrid cameos with the Twins in 2010-11 (a combined 83 OPS+), ranks among the league leaders with 18 bombs. Plouffe is pulverizing pitches thrown middle-in -- and that's especially the case with fastballs.

Here's Plouffe's slugging percentage by pitch location in 2012. Go inside, pitchers, at your own risk:

 Plouffe's slugging percentage by pitch location, 2012

He's slugging .660 on pitches thrown on the inner half, which ranks tenth among MLB hitters and is 180 points above the league average. It should come as little surprise then, that nearly all of his homers have been yanked down the left field line:

Location of Plouffe's HRs in 2012 

Sixteen of Plouffe's 18 homers have been hit to the pull side, and he's doing most of that damage against fastballs. He has gone deep 11 times against the heat and ranks in the top 15 in fastball slugging percentage:

Highest slugging percentage vs. fastballs, 2012

BatterSlugging Pct.
Matt Kemp 1.057
Alfonso Soriano .819
Matt Joyce .785
Andrew McCutchen .774
David Ortiz .762
Eric Chavez .725
Tyler Colvin .714
Adam Dunn .712
Jason Kubel .686
Mike Moustakas .678
Wilin Rosario .676
Carlos Beltran .673
Joey Votto .673
Adam LaRoche .669
Trevor Plouffe .663
MLB Avg. .445


Chances are Plouffe isn't the second coming of Jose Bautista. And as a third baseman, he makes a pretty good DH. But he has shown a solid eye to go with his epic power (Plouffe has cut his chase rate from 31 percent in 2010-11 to 26 percent this year).

At the very least, it looks like Minnesota unexpectedly found a capable bat at a position to be named later. Considering that the Twins' player development machine stalled in recent years and the likes of Byron Buxton, Miguel Sano and Eddie Rosario won't reach Target Field for years, Terry Ryan and Ron Gardenhire will take all the help they can get.

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