Double Play Depth: Plouffe The Magic Dragon

I have more HR's this season than you have in your entire career, little man! Keep your chin up, buddy!

OK, so it's been a while since I wrote up one of these. In fact, the last time there was an official Double Play Depth column in this format, Trevor Plouffe had exactly one home run. But more on that later. On second thought, let's skip the intro and just dig into that one now.

The Spotlight

Trevor Plouffe has 9 home runs in June. Jose Bautista and Adam Dunn both have 7 over that time period, and collectively, these three players are the only in all of MLB with more than 5. The natural question to ask is: OH MY GOD HOW? It's easy to default to just saying that it's a statistical anomaly, when that's only partially true. Of course it's true that he will not continue to hit 25% of his fly balls over the fence - especially playing half his games in Target Field. But this is not something to write off and move on.

Plouffe may not have been a top prospect in the Twins system, and he did play three seasons at AAA, but he only turned 26 years old this past week. And when you look at his minor league numbers, his power numbers were developing over time. Here are Plouffe's HR/PA rates (both majors and minors) starting with his first pro season in 2006: 0.6%, 1.6%, 1.7%, 2.1%, 3.5%, 4.3% and an incredible 8.1% so far in 2012. This sort of steady progress tells us that his power is legit, although it's more of the 20-22 HR variety than the 39 HR variety which he is on pace for. But more importantly, his plate discipline is allowing this power to finally come through on the major league level. His BB/K rate, which was 0.35 in 2011, is now at 0.63. He's swinging at fewer pitches outside the zone, making more contact in the zone and it's showing. So if you've had him for this run, hope you enjoyed it. And if you're thinking about dealing for him, just make sure you have realistic expectations.

More after the jump...

Other DPD Notes

* Last week, the Chase Utley Watch turned into the Chase Utley Countdown, as the Phillies started his rehab assignment clock. This means July 2is the date he will return, barring a setback - which of course, is far from a sure thing. If the date holds, I'd expect the final 10 days or so before the All-Star Break to be a continuation of his spring training, but once the break is over, I expect him to perform like a Top-10 fantasy 2B for as long as he's healthy.

* One high profile 2B who's struggled this season so far has been Dustin Pedroia. His thumb injury has derailed him lately, but look for better things to come. His 726 OPS certainly isn't what you hoped for, but his career OPS for the months of April and May are 774 and 767, respectively. He's a guy who heats up with the weather, just take a look at the rest of his OPS by month: 848 in June, 938 in July, 866 in August and 814 in September.

* Rafael Furcal had a resurgent start to the season this year, but has fallen on very hard times so far in June. Example: Furcal hit .315 in April and .349 in May. His OPS in June is .357. Yes, his OPS. Pair that with 2 walks and 9 strikeouts (he had nearly a 1-1 rate going into the month) and you get a player who's earned his way onto your bench. It may just be a slump, but you never know when a hot-starting guy like Furcal can turn back into a pumpkin.

Short-Term Planning

These are the five best and five worst performers from the past week (Monday to Sunday) in standard 5x5 categories.

Who's Hot:

1) Trevor Plouffe (.391, 5 HR, 7 RBI, 8 R, 0 SB in 23 AB)

2) Brandon Phillips (.407, 3 HR, 10 RBI, 4 R, 0 SB in 27 AB)

3) Dee Gordon (.292, 0 HR, 1 RBI, 4 R, 5 SB in 24 AB)

4) Cliff Pennington (.333, 1 HR, 4 RBI, 5 R, 2 SB in 21 AB)

5) Ian Kinsler (.280, 0 HR, 5 RBI, 5 R, 2 SB in 25 AB)

Who's Not (min 10 AB):

1) Omar Infante (.111, 0 HR, 0 RBI, 0 R, 0 SB in 18 AB)

2) Dan Uggla (.056, 0 HR, 0 RBI, 1 R, 0 SB in 18 AB)

3) Rafael Furcal (.095, 0 HR, 0 RBI, 1 R, 0 SB in 21 AB)

4) Jerry Hairston Jr (.000, 0 HR, 1 RBI, 1 R, 0 SB in 14 AB)

5) Taylor Green (.077, 0 HR, 0 RBI, 1 R, 0 SB in 13 AB)

The Bandwagon

Here is where I will keep the unabridged list of bandwagons I am currently on here in the world of middle infielders. The categories show how strongly I feel about them - ranging from "driving!" (a bandwagon I feel super strong about) to "about to jump!" (a bandwagon I'm pretty sure is on fire and requires my swift departure). Nothing will get erased from this list over the course of the season, so the "Evacuated" section will be there to remind us all of the crazy, crazy bandwagons I've supported over the course of the year. All new bandwagons for the current week are starred.

The Good:

Hanley Ramirez will finish 2012 as a top-10 overall player (driving!)

Derek Jeter will be more valuable in 2012 than Asdrubal Cabrera (driving!)

Alcides Escobar will hit .280 or higher in 2012 (firmly on)

The Bad:

J.J. Hardy will hit fewer than 20 HR (losing some faith)

Ryan Roberts will finish outside the top 15 2B in 2012 (firmly on)

The Ugly (Evacuated):

None yet. Whew.

What to Watch For

Some of you may know this, but I've never been a big Rickie Weeks supporter. I just think he's terribly overvalued based on what people think he is, but regardless of that, the elder Weeks is showing some signs of life lately - although not the ones you'd think. What's been killing Weeks thus far in 2012 are his strikeouts, as had K-rates of 27.2% in April and 33.9% in May. But so far in June, he's struck out in only 19.7% of his plate appearances. This has helped lead to his .245 average for the month, which looks downright Carew-ian after his .132 May. The strange thing is that he has 0 HR and 4 SB during June. His 6 steals so far this year put him on pace to top 11 steals for the first time since 2008. If he's going to steal at a near 15 SB clip rate for the remainder of the year and he can keep the strikeouts down a little, there could be a real rebound here. Certainly not to where he was drafted, but if he's out there in your league (he's available in 43% of ESPN leagues), now might be a good time to start speculating on Rickie.

Follow me on Twitter at @tfw_bret

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