"I love having him at shortstop."- Ron Gardenhire, 9/16/12, The Ron Gardenhire Show
It didn't take very long for Brian Dozier to fall out of the good graces with the Minnesota Twins. The team gave him plenty of opportunities to showcase his talents as the shortstop of the future for the organization but he was unimpressive during his rookie campaign. This has left the door open for another player to step-in and get most of the reps at shortstop during the last couple months of the season. Pedro Florimon was the man the Twins turned to and he might be lining himself up to be a starter on Opening Day next season.
On Sunday's edition of The Ron Gardenhire Show, Gardy had nothing but praise for Florimon and his performance so far with the club
. There are obvious things to like about his defensive and those were the skills Gardenhire focused on when asked about his new shortstop. He likes his hands in the field and his ability to get to the ball seems to be as advertised from his time in the minor leagues. While there were some plays just out of the reach of Dozier, it seems like Florimon is able to complete almost every play that is asked to make. The offensive side of the ball is a little bit of a different story for Mr. Florimon.
During his time in the minor leagues this season, Florimon didn't exactly strike fear into opposing pitchers. In time at the Double-A and Triple-A level, he hit .259/.318/.351 with only 27 extra-base hits in 424 at-bats. To say, his ability to hit for power is lacking would be an understatement. It is fine for a middle infielder to not have pop in his bat but this usually comes with the ability to be a contact hitter. For Florimon, his contact swing hasn't exactly developed in the minor leagues either. In 83 games with Rochester, he hit .251/.308/.344 so he wasn't exactly pounding down the door for the Twins to give him a look at the big league level.
Since joining the Twins in the middle of August, Florimon has appeared in 29 games for the club with all of those appearances coming as a shortstop. His non-hitting prowess has followed him to the big league level as he has posted a batting line of .237/.290/.333 with seven extra-base hits in 29 games played. He has almost as many strikeouts (20) as hits (22) and this is another scary trend that has followed him during his trek through the upper minors for the Twins and the Orioles. It would be nice if he could steal a base or two but he was thrown out in 8 of his 21 steal attempts in the minors this season. He hasn't been asked to steal a lot with the Twins but his two attempts at the big league level have been successful.
He is getting a shot with the team and it is hard not to wonder if this could turn into a more permanent role for next season. We have seen this before with Gardenhire falling in love with a slick fielding middle infielder with limited skills on the offensive side of the ball. It's not like Florimon is a young infielder working his way through the Twins system. He wasn't exactly fought over when he came to the organization as a waiver claim from the Baltimore Orioles organization. In December, he will turn 26-years old and it's hard to imagine his offensive skill taking a giant leap in the coming years. At this point in his development, he is what he is and the Twins have to deal with the player they have on their roster.
The Twins entered this past spring with some question marks up the middle after signing veteran infielder Jamey Carroll as the team tried to forget about the nightmare of Tsuyoshi Nishioka. It seems more and more like next spring could have some of the same story lines playing out. Terry Ryan and the coaches for the Twins will tell the media about an opening contest for the middle infield spots but they will have an idea about where they want those positions to end up. Carroll, Florimon, and Doizer will all be in the mix for starting roles and even Eduardo Escobar might be given a look. Alexi Casilla is still arbitration eligible but it might be time for the Twins to part ways with him as his contract value starts to rise and his playing ability isn't where the club would like it to be.
To most fans, Dozier might seem like a better option for the future of the club since he seems to have the vibe surrounding him about an up-and-coming prospect. The truth is Florimon and Dozier are both going to be 26-years old for the majority of next season and it could be make or break time for their careers as big league players. It seems like a situation where Florimon will be given the starting shortstop role out of spring training and the job will be his until he shows the team otherwise. Dozier will be sent to Triple-A to try and find success at that level where he could show the team he deserves a place with the big league club. Carroll will get the nod at second base but an injury or old age could mean Dozier gets the call.
If I was making the roster, I would like to see Florimon sitting at shortstop to start the year because of his defensive ability. Dozier showed fans and the front office that he was lacking in some defensive areas at shortstop so I would give him the starting second base job. It could take some of the pressure off of him on the defensive side of the ball and let him relax when he steps in the batter’s box. This would leave Carroll as the utility man and it would also give the Twins some flexibility when it comes to giving players a day off in the field. Carroll has shown adequate ability to man most infield positions and this could be his role as he turns 39-years old before the beginning of the 2013 campaign.
How would the middle infield look on Opening Day if you were in charge of the team?