Joe Mauer has been sidelined since August 19th after he took a pair of foul balls off his facemask while behind the plate. He ended up on the 7-day DL with a concussion, but there doesn’t appear to be a hard time table on when he may return to the Minnesota Twins lineup. He’s started to make some positive progress, but has continued to experience some sensitivity to light and sound, according to reports passed along by Hardball Talk’s D.J. Short.
Mauer also reportedly picked up his rehab efforts on Friday and was scheduled to hit off a tee for the first time on Saturday.
It’s still unknown when the team may be hoping to have Mauer back in the lineup. The larger question might be where he plays when he does return. Discussion has picked up again in recent weeks regarding Mauer’s future with the Twins. The hometown hero clearly isn’t going to be leaving the organization anytime in the near future, but his ability to remain behind the plate much longer has started to come into serious question. A shift to first base not only seems inevitable, but recommended.
Since debuting with the Twins in 2004, Mauer has been one of the top offensive catchers in all of baseball. He’s hit .323/.405/.468 in his career, won the AL MVP Award in 2009, and has received multiple other accolades. He’s also been forced to miss significant time to injury (in 2004, 2007, 2011, and 2013). Naturally speculation has centered on whether moving him to first base permanently might help him avoid missing time so that the team can keep him in the lineup – ultimately with the belief that he’ll be just as, if not more productive with the reduced amount of physical stress that comes with catching. Translating his offensive production to first base, Mauer isn’t among the game’s top threats anymore. He’d still rank among the leaders in batting average and on base percentage, but his power numbers fall well below most first baseman across the Major Leagues.
Moving Mauer to first base long term appears inevitable for the Twins, but there’s no certainty that they’ll see the desired impact on his offensive potential that they appear to be hoping for. Mauer will still have a positive impact on the lineup no matter what position he plays, but his value is diminished with a move to more premium position.