The Twins head into August as surprising contenders in the A.L. Central. Perhaps no player has been a bigger surprise on that squad than Denard Span, who entered the year as a busted prospect but has had a breakthrough season and now finds himself as the Twins everyday right fielder. And with the way he’s playing, he’s not giving it up any time soon.
Since his return to Minnesota at the beginning of July, Span has hit .313/.403/.463 in 134 at-bats, racking up 0.53 WPA/LI in basically one month’s worth of playing time. As an extreme ground ball hitter (58% GB%), the power is a bit unexpected, but he’s doing it by hitting the ball on the screws (25% LD%). Adding the extra base hits to his ability to work the count (13% BB%) and his speed (7 infield hits, 2 bunt hits), and you’ve got a guy with an all around offensive attack.
Span won’t keep posting slugging marks this high, but he can certainly be a quality player with this skill set. Because of how often he slaps the ball into the ground, his upside is something resembling Ichiro-type OBP/SLG numbers (obviously with fewer hits and some more walks) than Kenny Lofton, just without the same propensity for stealing bases of either of those two. And, considering that 2008 is the first year Span has ever showed this level of offensive production, I hesitate to use those names, but we have to acknowledge that the speed/walks/defense package can produce a pretty terrific player.
Denard Span, right now, is what Boston fans thought Jacoby Ellsbury was going to be for them this year. He’s flying a bit under the radar, but keep on eye on the kid up in Minnesota. If they end up winning that division, he’s going to be one of the main reasons why.