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  • Should the Twins shop for a shortstop this offseason?

    When the Twins front office begins to renovate this mess of a house in the winter, at the top of the list the highest priority has to be fixing the starting rotation. It is the home’s crumbling foundation and that needs the most attention.

    Afterwards, item number two could be repairing the all-important middle infield position.

    Offensively, over the past two seasons the Twins shortstops have hit a combined .241/.303/.326. It was this kind of hitting that had forced the 2009 team into acquiring Orlando Cabrera and the 2010 team to land JJ Hardy.

    In terms of OPS, just three other American League teams have extracted less production out of the position since the end of the 2010 season: the Mariners, Rays and Athletics. The difference is, while those teams’ shortstops struggled at the dish, they were all good with the glove providing them with some value. What’s more is that two of those three teams either changed direction or will likely change in the near future.

    In the past two seasons, outside of a geriatric doctor in Sarasota performing physicals, nobody in this country picked up more balls than Seattle’s Brendan Ryan, so it is easy to exchange offense for his defense. Meanwhile, Elliot Johnson in Tampa has been solid, doing more on defense in 2010 over 2011, but he will likely give way to one of the two defensive stalwarts in Tim Beckham or Hak-Ju Lee in the coming future. Over in Oakland, Chad Pennington has been average in the field however his lack of offense encouraged the A’s to grab the equally struggling Stephen Drew, who has yet to rebound after leaving the hitting-haven of Arizona’s Chase Field.

    In theory, the Twins thought they were getting a strong defensive player in Tsuyoshi Nishioka but realized that the bar for a Gold Glove in Japan was apparently set ridiculously low. For their part, recognizing the lack of depth at the upper levels, the Twins have nabbed a few additional shortstops including Pedro Florimon and Eduardo Escobar to go with the in-house Brian Dozier.

    Florimon, who has been up with the team for all of 19 games, comes equipped with plenty of range but an error-prone resume. We’ve seen some slick fielding plays thanks to his speed. Consider with a grain of salt based on the sample size yet according to Baseball Info Solution’s data in 158.1 innings he has made 11 out-of-zone plays at short. Compare that to Jamey Carroll - who had 150 more innings than him at short – and made just 18 out-of-zone plays. However, he’s been unable to make the plays within the standard zone. He’s had 42 balls hit into his zone and made just 27 plays (.643 revised zone rating). While Carroll could not touch Florimon’s speed, Carroll compensated by making the vast majority of plays that were hit near him (85 of 105 for a .810 revised zone rating). And although he has turned a corner and has made just 16 errors so far this year, the fewest E’s the 25-year-old shortstop has commitment was 21 in the low-A Sally League. If he does not find a way to harness all of his physical talent and smooth out his glove work, his minor league track record suggests he will not contribute much offensively judging by his .249/.321/.354 batting line in just under 3,000 plate appearances.

    Escobar has proven to be a much more sure-handed individual over his development but does not necessarily project as a starting shortstop – more likely a second baseman or utility infielder. Even though the White Sox used him at third base, there is nothing in his minor league batting line of .267/.312/.348 that would be indicative of someone capable of hitting like a third baseman.

    Before they decided against recalling him in September, the accept belief was that Brian Dozier would be the frontrunner for the position in 2013 among all the internal options. For most of the year Dozier played decisively average defense. Compared to the rest of the league’s starting shortstops according to BIS, he made a less than average amount of plays in a shortstop’s zone. Some of that was blamed on lack of awareness of his competition. Upon his demotion, Ron Gardenhire questioned some of his positioning that allowed speedier guys like Cleveland’s Jason Kipnis and Kansas City’s Jarrod Dyson to reach on grounders. Improving his defense would require preparation and ability to position in the field to handle those types of situations. Then again, there are plenty of baseball minds who have believed Dozier to be more of a second baseman than a shortstop. And, offensively, he degraded into a Danny Valencia-like mess at the plate, chasing sliders out of the zone and putting a very high amount of those kinds of pitches in play (74% out of zone contact).

    To be sure, the gaggle of shortstops has improved the defense a smidge over the 2011 group. Last year the team had a .268 batting average on ground balls in play, well above the league average of .240. This year, that number has dropped to .258. Still on the high-side but an increase of grounders converted to outs, nonetheless.

    Based on what we know today, it would seem that none of these three players are close to becoming fixtures in the middle infield. They certainly all have skills and plenty of upside, although it is hard to envision a team interested in competing for a division title next year to roll forward with any of these three at the vital position.

    The point is, when the Twins brass sits down when the season ends on October 3, they should think critically about their plans for shortstop next year. Any one of these players may be able to get a team through a season and it is possible that one of these existing candidates figures things out either defensively or offensively. On the other hand, based on their prior experience, it is more likely that they do not and will leave the organization, once again, hunting for an answer at shortstop.
    This article was originally published in blog: Should the Twins shop for a shortstop this offseason? started by Parker Hageman
    Comments 43 Comments
    1. YourHouseIsMyHouse's Avatar
      YourHouseIsMyHouse -
      I'm all for Maicer Izturis.
    1. Boom Boom's Avatar
      Boom Boom -
      The Twins should be shopping for a lot of things, not the least of which is middle infielders.

      To be honest I think the Twins are more likely to sign a free agent shortstop than a starting pitcher.
    1. jimbo92107's Avatar
      jimbo92107 -
      Florimon is fun to watch, and he is capable of learning. Lots of guys get better with the glove over time as they become more familiar with their home field and such. Meanwhile he covers a huge area, which Twins pitchers appreciate.
    1. mk's Avatar
      mk -
      Any chance the Rangers make Elvis Andrus available now that Jurickson Profar, baseball's #1 prospect, is in the majors? What would it take to get him on the Twins? Not saying the Twins should make the move, but all options should be examined.

      Also, just taking a quick glance at SS that might be available via free agency, it doesn't seem like there's much to get excited about.

      This scenario seems similar to the Pierzynski/Mauer situation. Baseball's top prospect, valuable defensive position, blocked in the majors by an all-star type player just about to get expensive.
    1. Seth Stohs's Avatar
      Seth Stohs -
      I'm not against it, but in my mind, it should be all about pitching. Unless you can get Andrus for a reasonable price, I'd be OK with going to spring training with Plouffe, Florimon, Carroll, Escobar and Dozier for three positions and a utility spot or two. We generally agree that next year is not a competitive year for the Twins most likely anyway, right? Get them all some at bats and see if you can get a slightly above average player out of them.

      I'm not willing to give up on Dozier yet. I wish he had not been called up for a few more weeks, and I wish he would have been sent down a month earlier so that he could actually work on all these things. Carroll is solid. Florimon and Escobar have good gloves. Get them some time rather than wasting $ that should go to pitching.
    1. Parker Hageman's Avatar
      Parker Hageman -
      We generally agree that next year is not a competitive year for the Twins most likely anyway, right?
      Then why worry about spending money on pitching?
    1. mike wants wins's Avatar
      mike wants wins -
      Then why keep Mornreau, Span, or Willingham? If they really wanted to, they could try to compete next year. If they are not going to do that, those three and Doumit should all be trades. Yes, they should try to find a shortstop for next year.
    1. Top Gun's Avatar
      Top Gun -
      The Twins have to many options at ss already, what will you do with them if not given a chance to play, The Twins young SP have look
      good, maybe a vet like Guthrie and or Liriaro is all they need.
    1. sorney's Avatar
      sorney -
      Pitching and SS should be their priority every single season until they figure it out.
    1. ashburyjohn's Avatar
      ashburyjohn -
      > outside of a geriatric doctor in Sarasota performing physicals

      Ew.
    1. Brad Swanson's Avatar
      Brad Swanson -
      I think you can hide a defense-only SS on a roster a lot easier than a complete lack of starting pitching.

      Elvis Andrus is fantastic, but I am guessing Texas would want starting pitching back i any trade for him. They seem to have their lineup pretty well set, and might even want to keep him, move him or Profar to 2B and move Kinsler to the OF if Hamilton leaves. Good gravy, Texas is good.
    1. Winston Smith's Avatar
      Winston Smith -
      Trade for Hardy, sign Liriano and Lohse all set.
      I wish they had a plan either spend some money and try to build a short term playoff team or rebuild.You have Morneau (13), Willingham, Doumit, Carroll and Span thru 14. Now either build a playoff team around these guys, which means spending some money or trade these guys and rebuild for 14 or 15 with youth. I'm not sure you can do both at the same time.
      Pick one or the other, imo.
    1. strumdatjag's Avatar
      strumdatjag -
      Don't trade for a SS. Someone must step up between Florimon, Dozier, Escobar and even Nishioka (very good last two weeks of season at Rochester - raising his average from .245 to .258). So, don't waste any of our resources on a veteran - The Twins need soemone in their system to step in and do the job.
    1. greengoblinrulz's Avatar
      greengoblinrulz -
      Think Andrus will be dealt to ARIZ for Justin Upton, but if not I go after him hard!!!
      His play alone will improve the pitching. Center the deal around Hicks/Arcia as MN has shown what they think of those 2 this Sept and they have the OF depth.
      If not, Im all for taking a flyer on Stephen Drew & hope his ankle is healed.
      If they go with a combo of Dozier, Florimon, Escobar etc.....another 90 loss season is ahead of them.
    1. Seth Stohs's Avatar
      Seth Stohs -
      I know they may not all be consistent, but I think there is enough offense to be competitive. If the Twins don't spend most of their funds on pitching, they aren't going to compete. That's why my point is that if they can get a good deal on a SS, great. But the focus has to be on the pitching. Like others have said, give these other guys a chance to step up!
    1. Brad Swanson's Avatar
      Brad Swanson -
      Last 10 years, here are the SS that either played the most or played down the stretch for each WS winning team:

      2011: Rafael Furcal
      2010: Juan Uribe
      2009: Derek Jeter
      2008: Jimmy Rollins
      2007: Julio Lugo
      2006: David Eckstein
      2005: Juan Uribe
      2004: Orlando Cabrera
      2003: Alex Gonzalez
      2002: David Eckstein

      The take-away? Obviously, get Juan Uribe.
    1. Boom Boom's Avatar
      Boom Boom -
      Quote Originally Posted by Brad Swanson View Post
      Last 10 years, here are the SS that either played the most or played down the stretch for each WS winning team:

      2011: Rafael Furcal
      2010: Juan Uribe
      2009: Derek Jeter
      2008: Jimmy Rollins
      2007: Julio Lugo
      2006: David Eckstein
      2005: Juan Uribe
      2004: Orlando Cabrera
      2003: Alex Gonzalez
      2002: David Eckstein

      The take-away? Obviously, get Juan Uribe.
      I don't know, I like this Eckstein kid you mention. He's a gamer who battles his tail off and knows how to win.
    1. Rosterman's Avatar
      Rosterman -
      If the Twins are going to competitive next year and actually sign an arm of two that will be around for at least three seasons, yes, explore something for the 2B/SS/3B position. You can hope that Plouffe bats an acceptable .240 with 20 homers and a few more rbis. You would like some speed eitehr at 2B/SS, as Alexi has shown, but a bit more in the BA department, as well as the ability to over runners around. Dozier hasn't impressed in the field. Florimon not much better. Carroll is the parfect utility guy. But if the Twins aren't competitive, then don't purchase any starters yet. Give guys more of a look. Have a payroll of $70 million and lots of empty seats to go with your announced attendance of 25,000 a game.
    1. greengoblinrulz's Avatar
      greengoblinrulz -
      biggest gripe on Dozier was his age coming into the season.
      Florimon is 6 months older than Dozier and when MN sent him thru waivers this spring to clear him off the 40 man.....not a single other team was interested.
      THAT is the player I want goin into the future.
    1. nokomismod's Avatar
      nokomismod -
      Stay with what you have like Seth said. All free agent resources go into pitching, and trade Span for pitching.
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