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  • Escobar Impressing at SS

    From the beginning, there was never really any doubt that Eduardo Escobar was going to make the 25-man roster out of spring training. The intriguing young infield talent is out of options and the Twins, short on infield help, were not going to let him slip away.

    That hasn't stopped the 25-year-old from going out and playing like he's trying to win a job. And that he might.

    After delivering a key two-run single in the seventh inning of Sunday's exhibition match-up against Miami, Escobar is batting .333 this spring, with three extra-base hits in 24 at-bats.

    Meanwhile, the players he's competing with have lagged behind. Jason Bartlett is hitless in 23 at-bats and Doug Bernier is hitting .200 in limited playing time. Escobar has easily cemented himself as the top candidate for a backup infield gig, and he may be playing his way toward a potential starting assignment out of the gates.

    Pedro Florimon has been easing into action in minor-league games after missing a couple weeks due to an emergency appendectomy. He's viewed as the favorite to start at shortstop but his hold on that job is tenuous at best since he hasn't shown much with the bat in the past.

    Escobar hasn't proven to be a superior hitter in the majors, but he also hasn't had the chance to settle into a regular position.

    Last year, after being demoted from the Twins with a .214 average in July, he hit .307/.380/.500 in 43 games at Rochester, and then batted .324 after returning to the majors as a September call-up. So his momentum stretches back beyond the nice spring he's enjoying.

    Florimon is expected to return to the Twins' lineup Monday. If he looks sharp in the field and decent at the plate over these next couple weeks he'll probably be the club's starting shortstop in Chicago on March 31st. Ron Gardenhire seems committed to getting a long look at the athletic defensive whiz, and Escobar's defensive versatility makes him more attractive as a utility man.

    But the Twins need offense and they know it. If Escobar proves himself to be the superior threat at the plate as March fades into April, he could very well knock Florimon from his precarious perch atop the depth chart.
    Comments 70 Comments
    1. Shane Wahl's Avatar
      Shane Wahl -
      I believe an average of WAR (Fangraphs and BR) for Florimon in 2013 was 2.0. Now imagine his bat improving a bit this year after his first full-ish season in MLB?
    1. cmathewson's Avatar
      cmathewson -
      It is possible Escobar could be developing. But his track record doesn't suggest it. If anything, he is winning the competition for the utility role. And his play does give us confidence it won't be a big drop off in case Florimon is not ready for opening day.
    1. cmathewson's Avatar
      cmathewson -
      Quote Originally Posted by Thrylos View Post
      Florimon is not elite, unless by "elite" you mean "above average". With a whole bunch of different metrics he is from 4th-15th SS in the league. For me "elite" is an all time equation. Ozzie Smith was elite.

      As far as why Gardenhire is starting Florimon if not elite, this is because it is his MO. Punto, Buscher, Tolbert, Butera et al. were not elite by any means. Actually Punto is a pretty good defensive comparable at SS for Florimon, other than the high line drive ball.

      I always have been high on Escobar and I think that he will have a great season this season. Little known fact: SS is his natural and best position and he won the VWL gold glove last winter. Also, he is not a good third baseman by any means. He is better than Plouffe, but this does not mean that he is good (see the above link for metrics and defensive comparisons with Florimon, if you care.)

      Would a contender stand to have Florimon's bat at SS? If not, the Twins should not either.
      It depends on what the definition of the word "is" is.

      If you're in the top 4 in baseball, you're elite by most people's standards. Escobar is below average defensively. It is possible he could have a smidgen more offensive upside. He has a shorter swing, which should make him less slump prone. Given his fast start last year, I'm skeptical about his spring numbers. He was really streaky last year.

      OPS by month:

      April: .935
      May; .361
      June: .612
      July: .368
      Sept: .755
    1. Brock Beauchamp's Avatar
      Brock Beauchamp -
      Quote Originally Posted by Shane Wahl View Post
      You do know that Escobar's career MLB OPS is lower than Florimon's, right? Given that, and given Florimon's defense is better, where is there an error in judgment?
      True, but the OPS posted by Escobar in the minors last season in 188 PAs is higher than anything Florimon has posted anywhere at any point in his career (.880 OPS in SSS).

      And Escobar is two years younger.

      Really, I think neither one should be anywhere near a starting job in MLB but Florimon is probably close to his ceiling while Escobar may have some room to grow.
    1. Brock Beauchamp's Avatar
      Brock Beauchamp -
      Quote Originally Posted by Shane Wahl View Post
      I believe an average of WAR (Fangraphs and BR) for Florimon in 2013 was 2.0. Now imagine his bat improving a bit this year after his first full-ish season in MLB?
      Again, not sure why anyone is banking on Florimon improving with the bat this season. The guy went into a tailspin after one good month.

      OPS by month in 2013:

      .612
      .784
      .460
      .683
      .555
      .557

      I don't see any reason to expect improvement from that player. If not for what appears to be a flukish May, he's well under a .600 OPS for 2013.
    1. Paul Pleiss's Avatar
      Paul Pleiss -
      The Eddie 400 is a real posibility. 400 AB's for the super utility man. If Flo can't find his swing or range in the next couple weeks Eddie starting the season opener and holding onto the job for awhile if his bat stays hot. This team needs to find a way to score runs, and while Flo provides better ability defensively, a hot bat from Eddie would go a long way to shoring up the bottom of the lineup.
    1. Dave T's Avatar
      Dave T -
      Quote Originally Posted by Shane Wahl View Post
      Hopefully Danny Santana follows the Florimon model of defense (though hopefully at 3-4 years younger) and moves from flashy, spectacular, and routine-play-error-prone, to just flashy and spectacular.
      I agree. Santana has a lot of talent, and could be the "good enough to play for a contender" shortstop that thyrlos is looking for. He just needs more development. If he proves himself at AAA, he'll get a fast promotion.

      I think the Twins want Florimon to be the starting SS because Escobar can play every infield position. I don't see Florimon as the utility infielder, do you?
    1. TheLeviathan's Avatar
      TheLeviathan -
      Quote Originally Posted by Brock Beauchamp View Post
      It's almost impossible to defend the 2006 season and the shortstop situation out of Spring Training.

      Now whether that was Gardy or Ryan or both, I don't know... but Juan Castro.

      Ugh. Juan Castro.
      Right and this was hardly an isolated incident.

      So the real question is whether Escobar has the mythical "leadership skills" requisite for any Gardy SS. Since I don't have the slightest damn idea what those are....I guess we'll find out soon enough.
    1. tobi0040's Avatar
      tobi0040 -
      Quote Originally Posted by TheLeviathan View Post
      Right and this was hardly an isolated incident.

      So the real question is whether Escobar has the mythical "leadership skills" requisite for any Gardy SS. Since I don't have the slightest damn idea what those are....I guess we'll find out soon enough.
      Oh, the Gardy immeasurable statements. "He really gets after it". A pitcher "was really flipping it".
    1. Hosken Bombo Disco's Avatar
      Hosken Bombo Disco -
      I've been a big Florimon supporter but have cooled a little. If Escobar can do the job, and if Florimon is really so far behind with batting against live pitching as Thrylos is reporting, then I think there's nothing wrong with rolling with Escobar opening day.

      Which leaves quite a dilemma-- you've sent Florimon to AAA so he can get his bat working.. hmm...
    1. Brock Beauchamp's Avatar
      Brock Beauchamp -
      Quote Originally Posted by TheLeviathan View Post
      Right and this was hardly an isolated incident.

      So the real question is whether Escobar has the mythical "leadership skills" requisite for any Gardy SS. Since I don't have the slightest damn idea what those are....I guess we'll find out soon enough.
      Yep. To say that the Twins have made many questionable middle infield decisions over the past 15 years is very generous. Many would describe it as outright disaster most seasons.
    1. Hosken Bombo Disco's Avatar
      Hosken Bombo Disco -
      Looking at Escobar's minor league baseball card, it also looks like he's had some speed in the past, if not quite a burner. Could he be our leadoff hitter to start?
      (which would also smartly push Hicks back into a 7-9 slot)
    1. birdwatcher's Avatar
      birdwatcher -
      Quote Originally Posted by Brock Beauchamp View Post
      It's almost impossible to defend the 2006 season and the shortstop situation out of Spring Training.

      Now whether that was Gardy or Ryan or both, I don't know... but Juan Castro.

      Ugh. Juan Castro.
      Brock, I'm not defending their decisions. Over the years, they've given us plenty of ammunition and some big targets, Castro being the poster boy. But to say that it's Gardy's MO to play crappy players, which was the basic message to which I reacted, is a bit of a cheap shot, that's all.

      Back to Escobar versus Florimon.
    1. birdwatcher's Avatar
      birdwatcher -
      Quote Originally Posted by Brock Beauchamp View Post
      Yep. To say that the Twins have made many questionable middle infield decisions over the past 15 years is very generous. Many would describe it as outright disaster most seasons.
      And I think a part of this ugly history can be traced to their lack of investment in building up an international scouting and development capacity, and particularly a Dominican presence, until just several years ago. Finally, we're seeing some impressive evidence of a future payoff from that. Danny Santana might just replace Florimon by mid-summer.

      But I do think you're being just a tad harsh in calling the decisions of who played MI an outright disaster most seasons. Disastrous choices, maybe, but not disastrous decisions most of the time. But Castro. I know.
    1. cmathewson's Avatar
      cmathewson -
      Escobar is a slightly better hitter with a bit more offensive upside. Florimon is a much better fielder with a bit more upside (more consistent). If you think those things are equally valuable, you take the guy with a clear advantage at one of them. That would be Florimon.
    1. ashburyjohn's Avatar
      ashburyjohn -
      Quote Originally Posted by birdwatcher View Post
      Back to Escobar versus Florimon.
      Moderator's note: Yes. A review of historical SS choices, or of how the team goes about signing prospects, probably belongs in its own thread by now.
    1. Riverbrian's Avatar
      Riverbrian -
      BTW... Not trying to flame anything... My points are being made with a smile on my face.

      My points are these:

      I think the Twins value defense at the SS and C positions.

      I think they should.

      I think the majority of the other 29 teams do as well.

      I don't think the people who run the Twins are baseball clueless.

      I think there are defensive baseball metrics that say that Florimon is elite and others are producing defensive metrics that say he isn't. Defensive Metrics are half baked and inconsistent and dangerous in the hands of those who are biblical about them.

      I watch him play and there is no doubt he's elite. He was stunning at times. If any defensive metric says otherwise... His play as shown me enough. I don't belong to the D metric Church.

      You can drag Punto and Castro into the discussion as an MO. Fine... It shows me that they value defense then and Florimon shows that they still value it.

      There is nothing to justify offensively in Florimon's MLB Offense numbers or... Past farm numbers.

      If he's a suspect hitter and we can all agree that he is because its obvious that he isn't good with the bat.

      If he's a suspect... Below average hitter... Below average for light hitting SS's even...

      If all this is true and it is... Why would the Twins hand him the job for the 2nd year in a row if he was also an average non elite defensive SS... They wouldn't and this can't be argued.

      If anyone believes that the Twins would field a bad bat at SS who is also just a simple decent defensive SS and at a somewhat advanced age. It would explain why some think we have a clueless front office.

      You can argue how our front office ranks in comparison to the other front offices in baseball... But... Can we not assume that they are not that clueless. There are a bunch of lifelong baseball men employed by the organization.

      If Florimon wasn't considered elite Defensively. The Twins would have given Escobar or Bartlett the job already. They would have signed Drew or Peralta or Anyone because his bat isn't up to snuff.

      Andrealton Simmons... Is a decent hitter but he doesn't blow the doors off the place... He is stunning defensively. The Braves will not part with him. The D-Backs wanted to give them Juston Upton for him. The Braves wouldn't do it and they obviously wanted Upton because they got him with another package.

      The Tigers gave up Avisail Garcia to get Iglasias from Boston. They were set with him at SS and only now that he is hurt... Are they looking at Drew. No interest in Drew with an elite defensive SS in place and they let Peralta go. If it was money entirely they wouldn't be looking at Drew at all... Even after the injury to Iglasias!

      Andrus isn't exactly killing it at the plate. The Rangers locked him up because he rocks defensively.

      There are weak hitting SS's all over the place. It's because teams want defense at the position. If you are not up to snuff... They move you to 2B, 3B or the OF.

      Not only is Florimon Elite... He is Jaw Droppingly good at a time where SS's are doing more defensively than any other decade.

      With all of that... Happy St. Patricks Day to all!!!
    1. Brock Beauchamp's Avatar
      Brock Beauchamp -
      Brian, yeah, there are weak-hitting shortstops all over the place... But your two examples are both considered better defenders than Florimon and they're significantly better hitters.

      There's weak-hitting and then there's Pedro Florimon.
    1. KirbyHawk75's Avatar
      KirbyHawk75 -
      I really like Escobar as a utility man... I think he can join the likes of Denny Hocking. Floriman is very good defensively, but his offense is so bad that I just do not think he is a major league caliber starter. However, if Escobar starts what does Floriman offer? He is not a bat off the bench.
    1. tobi0040's Avatar
      tobi0040 -
      Quote Originally Posted by Riverbrian View Post
      BTW... Not trying to flame anything... My points are being made with a smile on my face.

      My points are these:

      I think the Twins value defense at the SS and C positions.

      I think they should.

      I think the majority of the other 29 teams do as well.

      I don't think the people who run the Twins are baseball clueless.

      I think there are defensive baseball metrics that say that Florimon is elite and others are producing defensive metrics that say he isn't. Defensive Metrics are half baked and inconsistent and dangerous in the hands of those who are biblical about them.

      I watch him play and there is no doubt he's elite. He was stunning at times. If any defensive metric says otherwise... His play as shown me enough. I don't belong to the D metric Church.

      You can drag Punto and Castro into the discussion as an MO. Fine... It shows me that they value defense then and Florimon shows that they still value it.

      There is nothing to justify offensively in Florimon's MLB Offense numbers or... Past farm numbers.

      If he's a suspect hitter and we can all agree that he is because its obvious that he isn't good with the bat.

      If he's a suspect... Below average hitter... Below average for light hitting SS's even...

      If all this is true and it is... Why would the Twins hand him the job for the 2nd year in a row if he was also an average non elite defensive SS... They wouldn't and this can't be argued.

      If anyone believes that the Twins would field a bad bat at SS who is also just a simple decent defensive SS and at a somewhat advanced age. It would explain why some think we have a clueless front office.

      You can argue how our front office ranks in comparison to the other front offices in baseball... But... Can we not assume that they are not that clueless. There are a bunch of lifelong baseball men employed by the organization.

      If Florimon wasn't considered elite Defensively. The Twins would have given Escobar or Bartlett the job already. They would have signed Drew or Peralta or Anyone because his bat isn't up to snuff.

      Andrealton Simmons... Is a decent hitter but he doesn't blow the doors off the place... He is stunning defensively. The Braves will not part with him. The D-Backs wanted to give them Juston Upton for him. The Braves wouldn't do it and they obviously wanted Upton because they got him with another package.

      The Tigers gave up Avisail Garcia to get Iglasias from Boston. They were set with him at SS and only now that he is hurt... Are they looking at Drew. No interest in Drew with an elite defensive SS in place and they let Peralta go. If it was money entirely they wouldn't be looking at Drew at all... Even after the injury to Iglasias!

      Andrus isn't exactly killing it at the plate. The Rangers locked him up because he rocks defensively.

      There are weak hitting SS's all over the place. It's because teams want defense at the position. If you are not up to snuff... They move you to 2B, 3B or the OF.

      Not only is Florimon Elite... He is Jaw Droppingly good at a time where SS's are doing more defensively than any other decade.

      With all of that... Happy St. Patricks Day to all!!!
      I agree with your sentiment about the defensive metrics. Simmons won over 5 games defensively if you look at defensive WAR. Carlos Gomez 4+ games helped him become the second most valuable player in the league last year according to total WAR. I have a hard time believing a player like that could be more valuable than Kershaw for example.

      Regarding Florimon and the Twins view. I guess I don't see why we stand for a great defensive SS that is a complete liability at the plate when we would not stand for a below average SS that hits very well. It seem slike you could model out the difference between a guy like Florimon and compare him with a guy that hits much better, but may get a few more errors. May let a few more balls through, etc.

      http://espn.go.com/mlb/war/leaders
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