StaTuesday: The impact of Josh Donaldson’s glove for Twins

Look, at this point we know what slugger Josh Donaldson can do at the plate.

The third baseman signed a franchise-record four-year deal worth $92 million with Minnesota this offseason, giving the Twins another lethal bat in the middle of their lineup.

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Coming off a 37-homer season himself, Donaldson joins a roster that set a major-league record with 307 home runs and boasted five different players with 30+ homers last year.

But the “Bringer of Rain” brings a bit more to Minnesota than just another powerful bat.

Donaldson is one of the league’s best third basemen.

Playing in 148 games at third base for Atlanta in 2019, Donaldson tied for 12th in the big leagues with a 1.7 defensive WAR rating. That ranked second among full-time third basemen just behind Oakland’s Matt Chapman (2.3), who won the American League gold glove at the position.

Donaldson’s dWAR was better than National League gold glove winner Nolan Arenado, who posted a 1.1 for the Colorado Rockies.

Donaldson also ranked second among third basemen in SABR defensive index with a 7.9, behind Arenado (13.1) and tied for 16th overall in the NL.

Among third basemen, Donaldson ranked fifth in games played. He also finished second in double plays turned in the hot corner (38), third in assists (304) and fourth in range factor — a measure of putouts and assists per game — at 2.73.

Perhaps an even bigger storyline is the fact that Donaldson forced the Twins to reorganize their infield.

While Minnesota boasts a talented and deep outfield (#NothingFallsButRaindrops), the infield struggled defensively in 2019. Jorge Polanco doesn’t have the arm strength or accuracy of a typical big-league shortstop, so he’s often hidden in infield shifts.

And Miguel Sano, who played 91 games for the Twins at third base last season, might be considered mobile for his 6-foot-4, 272-pound frame but still is limited in his range in the hot corner. He logged a below-average -0.7 dWAR at the position last year.

With Donaldson now in town, Sano will shift to first base, a position with perhaps the lowest amount of necessary range.

Suddenly, the Twins infield doesn’t look too shabby.