On Opening Day 2013, Pedro Florimon became the eighth* different player in the past nine years to open the season as the Twins' starting shortstop. Since the departure of Christian Guzman in 2005, it’s been a perennial struggle to find the next fixture at what is generally, outside of catcher, the most important defensive position in baseball. Fortunately, in yet another season where little has gone right, the Twins appear to have filled their vacancy at shortstop for the foreseeable future.
Florimon has never been much touted for his offense and, true to form, his .236/.292/.351 line this year leaves much to be desired. However, that line looks much better in the context of .254/.307/.365 league averages, with shortstop traditionally being the weakest offensive position on the diamond. In fact, among his 26 contemporaries with at least 250 plate appearances this season, Florimon sits a respectable 16th
** and 17th
***, ahead of players like Elvis Andrus and Starlin Castro, among others. Further, given his age (just 26), minor league numbers (slightly better across the board), and relative inexperience (just 131 games at the major league level), it’s not crazy to expect some modest improvement as he enters what should be his prime next season.
But what really sets Florimon apart – and what will surely prove incredibly valuable in the years to come, as explained below – is his defense. Florimon committed his ninth error of the season Friday night in Seattle (tied for ninth most among shortstops), so he clearly has room to improve in terms of fundamentals. Having said that, advanced defensive metrics indicate he is already among the elite at his position.
In terms of both UZR
(Ultimate Zone Rating) and DRS
(Defensive Runs Saved), commonly cited as the two most accurate measures of defensive performance, Florimon rates as the second best shortstop in baseball – second only to Atlanta’s Andrelton Simmons, widely considered to be the best defensive shortstop in the game. He also ranks fourth in Baseball Prospectus’ FRAA
(Fielding Runs Above Average), behind Milwaukee’s Jean Segura, the aforementioned Simmons, and St. Louis’ Pete Kozma.
Largely as a result of his defense, Florimon has already been worth 1.7 WAR per FanGraphs (and 2.2 WAR per Baseball Reference), making him the Twins' second-most valuable position player behind Joe Mauer this season. With Florimon earning just $495,000 this season and not eligible for arbitration until 2016, he is and will likely remain among the better values in all baseball over the next few seasons.
Looking ahead to 2014 and beyond, the value of that defense cannot be overstated. The Twins likely second and third basemen of the future, Eddie Rosario and Miguel Sano, both currently reside at Double-A New Britain. Both rank
among the best offensive talents in the minor leagues at their respective positions, and it’s not out of the question that both could be playing at Target Field as early as 2014. What neither is known for, however, is excellence on defense, making the fielding range of whoever is playing between them at short that much more important. Assuming Rosario and Sano continue to develop as expected, Florimon projects as their ideal complement in the field, making him a key component of the rebuilding effort.
With the fifth worst record in baseball through 100 games, the Twins' front office is surely in all-out evaluation mode, trying to determine which members of the current roster will be around to help stem the losing tide next season. Based on his performance thus far, Florimon is one player who seems virtually assured of a spot in the 2014 opening day lineup. After almost a decade of trying to plug the six-hole, it seems the Twins finally have found their guy. #p2c
*The others: Jason Bartlett (2005, 2007), Juan Castro (2006), Adam Everett (2008), Nick Punto (2009), JJ Hardy (2010), Alexi Casilla (2011), and Jamey Carroll (2012)…yuck.
**Per Baseball Prospectus, TAv is a measure of total offensive value scaled to batting average.
***Per FanGraphs, wRC+ is a park- and league-adjusted measure of a player’s total offensive value compared with league average.
Originally published on pitching.2.contact