COMMENTARY | He'll never be a scout's dream player, but at some point the Minnesota Twins need to let results speak for themselves. Antoan Richardson deserves a chance to show the Twins what he can do at the major league level.
The Twins signed Richardson as a veteran minor league free agent prior to the 2013 season and assigned him to Class AA New Britain. The signing was lauded by, well, no one. In fact, the signing was largely ignored, which is what usually happens when former 35th-round draftees are signed.
However, what most people who even heard about this signing failed to realize is that Richardson has excelled at the most important skill in baseball: not making outs. This is also known as the ability to reach base.
Richardson is listed at 5-foot-8 and 165 pounds. He has no power and hasn't hit for all that good of an average. And yet, Richardson has a career on-base percentage over .400 in over 800 minor league games.
Richardson hasn't had much opportunity to play in Class AAA, let alone the major leagues. His draft status and his unimpressive physique have made it very difficult for Richardson to get opportunities. What's worse is that Richardson was actually drafted in the 13th round the previous year but didn't sign so he could return for his senior season at Vanderbilt, which apparently didn't go as well.
That decision has really cost Richardson because 35th-round picks don't get second chances after struggling with a team for a season. Richardson found this out the hard way after batting .241 with a .356 on-base percentage in his first season in Class AA in 2008. He was released by the San Francisco Giants, who did bring him back during the following season before releasing him again at the end of it.
Richardson was then subsequently released and then signed every offseason since. Richardson has primarily been playing in Class AA and has a career .397 on-base percentage in 1,756 plate appearances at that level. The Twins promoted him to Class AAA a couple weeks ago, and he was batting .286 with a .435 on-base percentage through Memorial Day.
Minnesota Twins Need to Get Better Production From Leadoff Hitters
Meanwhile, the Twins' leadoff batters have a .240 OBP, which is dead last in the American League. That has been getting better for the most part since manager Ron Gardenhire has decided to put Jamey Carroll in that spot a lot, but the Twins won't be able to count on getting consistent production from a 39-year-old player unless they give him frequent days off.
There are no guarantees when a player makes the jump to the major leagues, it's difficult to imagine Richardson would be any worse. It's difficult to imagine anyone not being able to improve on that.
Sometimes when a player has success but isn't rewarded with a promotion, it is because there are concerns about him making the transition to the higher level. This is often because a batter strikes out too much. In this case, Richardson's career strikeout rate of less than 18 percent is a little less than the current 19 percent rate in the American League.
Richardson also has a strikeout-to-walk ratio of 1.24, which is about half of the average in the American League.
While he never was considered a top prospect, Richardson deserves to show what he can do at the next level. The Twins have too many players that make too many outs. Richardson could be just what the Twins need to jump-start a struggling offense.
It would be difficult to call up Richardson, since he's not on the 40-man roster. It looks like the Twins would have to put someone through waivers to clear a spot for him. However, the Twins have a number of marginal players on the roster that they could easily do without and could easily replace.
Finding a place on the 25-man roster won't be easy either. Actually, it shouldn't be all that difficult to just send down Chris Herrmann, who is only on the roster to sit on the bench and be the emergency catcher. Herrmann wasn't rewarded for hitting well at Rochester. He was rewarded for being a part-time catcher. However, his numbers show that he clearly didn't deserve to be called up.
That's not the case with Richardson, who would give the Twins a legitimate option for a leadoff batter and a true backup center fielder. He could also give the Twins the option of sending the struggling Aaron Hicks to Rochester to work on his game. This way, the Twins wouldn't have to wait until Darin Mastroianni was fully recovered from surgery on his ankle.
Darin McGilvra has been a professional sportswriter since 1997 and has been a Twins follower since Kirby Puckett's breakout season of 1986. He has been published in The Californian, a newspaper covering Riverside County, and numerous other websites.
Follow Darin on Twitter at @SoCalTwinsfan.More from this author:
- Sports & Recreation
- Antoan Richardson