Likely Starter: Pedro Florimon
2012 Stats: .219/.272/.307, 1 HR, 10 RBI, 16 R
Potential Backups: Eduardo Escobar, Jamie Carroll
On April 1, Pedro Florimon will become the Twins' ninth Opening Day starter at shortstop in 10 years. Will he be able to become the first player since Cristian Guzman to hold the title for consecutive seasons? Magic 8-ball says: outlook not so good.
The path that brought Florimon to the Twins is brushed with a hint of irony. He had been drafted and raised by the Orioles, who watched him rise through their minor-league system and even sip a cup of coffee in the majors before removing him from their 40-man roster after the 2011 campaign. Shortstop had been a problem for the Birds in past years, much like with the Twins, but luckily Baltimore had found its answer at the position in one J.J. Hardy.
The Twins claimed Florimon, and subsequently outrighted him from their own 40-man roster, exposing him to waivers and giving every organization a shot at him. Twenty-nine teams passed.
It seemed clear that at this point in time Florimon was considered a marginal talent, but the Twins continued to see something in him. And last year, others started to see it as well. Playing in Class-AAA Rochester, the shortstop was voted onto the International League All-Star team in July as folks took notice of his flashy glove work. His bat remained typically unimpressive, but Florimon’s glowing defensive reviews earned him his first extended big-league stint the following month.
His 43 games with the Twins in 2012 were a mixed bag. Unsurprisingly, he was a mess at the plate, as evidenced by a .219 batting average and .579 OPS. His defensive contributions are a bit trickier to judge; no metric could be trusted in such a small sample and the eye test registered plenty of good and bad moments. Team brass liked what they saw enough to ignore the shortstop position during the offseason and appoint Florimon starter without any real competition, so there’s that.
Clearly, the guy has the athleticism and tools to be a quality defensive shortstop. But he’ll need to be well above average -- and perhaps even elite -- to offer meaningful value as a regular starter, because he’s simply not going to hit. Over the past two years, between Double-A, Triple-A and the majors, he has struck out in 23 percent of his plate appearances. Such drastic contact issues are alarming, especially for a guy who offers little in the way of power or patience to make up for them. Odds are he’ll have a tough time maintaining even a .600 OPS, which would make him a liability in the lineup even at the No. 9 spot.
If he plays great defense and the rest of the lineup carries weight, it’s probably a liability the Twins can afford. And that seems to be what they’re counting on. If Florimon can’t hack it, they’ll likely rely on his backup Eduardo Escobar – who carries a similar profile – in the same way.
While it’s a bit frustrating to see such a blatantly bad hitter inked into the lineup, I can understand the team’s thinking. Shortstop has been a miserable pain point for the Twins in recent years, and while they stand little chance of extracting much offensive production there from any viable candidate, they can at least hope to shore the position up defensively. Plenty important, in light of the pitching staff’s ground ball tendencies.
Florimon is as good a bet as any to fulfill that expectation, but he’s not a long-term answer. Identifying a player with a chance of becoming a lasting asset at the infield’s most important position should sit right next to starting pitching atop this organization’s list of ongoing priorities.