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:
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:
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
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.