• Position Analysis: Shortstop

    Likely Starter: Jamey Carroll
    2011 Stats: .290/.359/.347, 0 HR, 17 RBI, 52 R, 10/10 SB

    Potential Backups: Tsuyoshi Nishioka, Brian Dozier, Pedro Florimon

    Welcome Jamey Carroll, the latest passenger on Minnesota's never-ending shortstop carousel.

    Since Cristian Guzman's departure, the Twins have opened with six different players at the position in seven seasons. Their Opening Day shortstops have ended up averaging 68 starts there, and only one – Jason Bartlett in 2007 – actually started over 100 games in a season.

    At this point, the Twins would settle for even short-term stability, and that's what they're seeking in Carroll, a 38-year-old journeyman signed to a two-year deal during the offseason.
    The words "stability" and "journeyman" might seem odd when coupled in the same sentence, especially when the player in question is almost 40. Indeed, Carroll – who didn't reach the majors until he was 28 – is now with his fifth organization and has profiled as a part-time utility man for most of his career.

    These facts leave plenty of room to question whether he can be the steady veteran rock that the Twins desperately need him to be. But if you look at his most recent history – and that seems fair – it isn't difficult to see why the Twins decided to go with him.

    Although he had made only 46 career starts at shortstop prior to joining Los Angeles in 2010, he exceeded that number in both of his seasons with the Dodgers and was often used as a regular there when Rafael Furcal wasn't available.

    Carroll's offensive numbers over those two seasons were respectable enough, as he made up for a complete lack of pop (.054 Isolated Power) by hitting .290 both years and getting on base at a .368 overall clip. It will be interesting to see whether he can maintain those numbers while batting second regularly in an AL lineup, but if he can he'll be a serviceable hitter.

    Defense is the bigger question mark. There are differing opinions on how he'll hold up at the toughest infield position full-time, but clearly he wasn't thought of as a shortstop prior to arriving in Los Angeles at age 36. Even in the minors, Carroll played nearly twice as many games at second than at short – that just doesn't happen with great middle infield defenders.

    It's possible that the veteran has turned a corner and improved his skills enough to earn the increased tread at shortstop over the past couple seasons, but that seems unlikely for a player in his late 30s. I'd guess that more than anything it was his level of experience, his reputation as a good clubhouse presence and his almost non-existent injury history that served as impetuses for Terry Ryan to take the plunge early in the offseason.

    Those aren't insignificant factors, but none of them make Carroll particularly likely to excel as a full-time major-league shortstop here in the twilight of his career. Of course, the Twins would settle for a guy who stays healthy and doesn't kick the ball around given the disaster that took place last year. What's alarming is that if Carroll doesn't last, we may be looking at a similarly painful situation this summer, because the depth at this position is brutal.

    Who else can play shortstop for the Twins? Tsuyoshi Nishioka and Trevor Plouffe got their chances last year and proved to be defensive liabilities. Ryan has stated that the Alexi Casilla experiment at short last year "didn't really work out." Who else is there? Brian Dozier, who hasn't played above Double-A and is considered by many to be destined for second? Pedro Florimon, the offseason waiver pickup with a .676 OPS in the minors and 26 errors in Double-A last year?

    The Twins are trying their luck with a 38-year-old career utility man as their starting shortstop, and all of his backup options appear to either belong at second base, in the minors, or both. The carousel moves on, as this organization's continued inability to properly address the most important position on the diamond keeps on coming around to haunt them.

    Predicted 2012 Hitting Line for Carroll: .260/.335/.305, 0 HR, 20 RBI
    This article was originally published in blog: Position Analysis: Shortstop started by Nick Nelson
    Comments 10 Comments
    1. Ben Collin's Avatar
      Ben Collin -
      It's interesting that Ryan said that Casilla at SS "didn't really work out". Didn't we all watch Casilla become the player we all hoped he would become when he took over at short during May/June/July? I swear we were all in awe that he finally showed some confidence out in the field. In fact, I think a series in Kansas City is where he broke out and played smooth short stop (including an awesome play at the plate on a tag) and then it started reflecting at the plate. According to Bref, at short he had .736 OPS in 36 games. His fielding struggled initially but right when Casilla was "figuring it out", Nishi got healthy and Gardy put Nishi back in at shortstop and Casilla to second. Nishi should have played second, why ruin a good thing (at the time)? I say if Carroll looks like he's 38, swap him and Casilla. The experiment should not be over with for Alexi at short, not with the options the Twins have right now at that position. Then again, he may have only played a respectable SS for a shorter period of time than I remember.
    1. roger's Avatar
      roger -
      It is interesting that the many people who talk about Dozier being better suited for second base aren't players he has played with. As Seth has often pointed out, pitchers love having Dozier at shortstop when they are on the mound. Who should we go with, the opinions of bloggers/fans or the guys throwing the ball every day?
    1. Nick Nelson's Avatar
      Nick Nelson -
      Quote Originally Posted by Ben Collin View Post
      The experiment should not be over with for Alexi at short, not with the options the Twins have right now at that position.
      I agree. He had his struggles there last season, especially early on, but he actually has the physical skills to play the position which is more than can be said about most of the alternatives.

      Who should we go with, the opinions of bloggers/fans or the guys throwing the ball every day?
      I'm referring to professional talent evaluators more than bloggers and fans. A guy's teammates aren't exactly the most objective source of information either.
    1. StormJH1's Avatar
      StormJH1 -
      It's one of the bizarre things about Gardy that he gets a lot of credit as a manager (and much of it deserved, I think), but then he has his positions flipped in the wrong direction two years in a row now. Last year, Nishioka was thought to be a shortstop, but they worried about his arm. So Casilla was the guy, and Nishioka played a week at second, sucked, then got his leg broken because he didn't appreciate that MLB'ers threaten bodily harm if you don't jump up on a double play ball. So, Nishioka heals, and then is rewarded for all of that with a shot at shortstop, which was equally as disastrous. Plouffe sucked too, so you would think that Casilla's comparatively steady effort there would be even more appreciated.

      Except that Gardy doesn't like Casilla very much, so we go looking for a new SS. Fine. But the guy they signed is basically a David Eckstein-like "tweener", steady enough at 2B, but not really dynamic range or arm for SS, ESPECIALLY as a 38 year old. And he puts him at SS.

      Look, I've been blowing smoke all offseason about how Carroll is not a SS and this is a bad move, but I'm convinced enough that Carroll is not going to play 140 games at SS this year that I'm not even worrying about it any more. The carousel continues...
    1. Paul's Avatar
      Paul -
      Quote Originally Posted by Nick Nelson View Post
      I agree. He had his struggles there last season, especially early on, but he actually has the physical skills to play the position which is more than can be said about most of the alternatives.


      I'm referring to professional talent evaluators more than bloggers and fans. A guy's teammates aren't exactly the most objective source of information either.
      I agree 100% with your assessment of Casilla. He's the guy with the most upside at SS. The love for Caroll is just indicative of the team's frustration of last year.

      I disagree though with your assessment of the value of the pitchers' opinion re Dozier. Frequently the subjectiveness of the "insiders" reflects the "true" value of the parts. Whether or not they are willing, or can, articulate it to the objective outsiders.
    1. USAFChief's Avatar
      USAFChief -
      Is everyone forgetting Casilla was a disaster at SS last year? Let him stay at 2nd where there's at least some chance he can handle the position.
    1. mattlarson12's Avatar
      mattlarson12 -
      wow nick, your projection is even worse than ZiPS, which is notably regression-heavy to begin with. love the optimism!
    1. mnjon's Avatar
      mnjon -
      I hate to do this because too much of this great site is already littered with posts on this topic, but I am so sick of all the negative comments from the readers! No one is forcing you to read this. If you feel Nick is being negative, don't read his posts. Why is he expected to fill you with optimism? He's being realistic. A player well beyond his prime (especially SS) regressing is not exactly unheard of, and given the Twins inability to provide a competent SS over the past 5+ years (not including J.J. Hardy) makes me believe his prediction could be very true. I just don't understand this mentality of attacking the bloggers by telling them they are not giving you enough hope. What would be the point of this site if all it ever said was "The Twins will win the division this year! See you in the postseason everyone!"
    1. Teflon's Avatar
      Teflon -
      It's not like the Twins haven't had viable options at shortstop recently - their front office just kept booting serviceable shortstops like Bartlett and Hardy.
    1. jorgenswest's Avatar
      jorgenswest -
      I think it is in the best long term interest of the Twins to start Dozier at SS this year. If not now, by June 1. They must assess if he can handle that position defensively at the major league level and speed of the game. If he can not, they must address the position next winter.

      I also think it is their best interest to start Nishioka at AAA or AA. If he has a chance to be useful, he needs to go play every day and find success offensively and defensively. If he isn't successful, at least they will know they can abandon any plans for his future as a Twins.

      At the close of the year, I hope to see Dozier as the majority starter at SS. I would like to see Carroll in the role of filling it at SS, 2B and 3B. He will get significant playing time in that role. I would like to see Nishioka in September having found some success in AAA.

      I think this plan puts the Twins in the best position for making off season decisions about the future of the middle infield.
©2014 TwinsCentric, LLC. All Rights Reserved.
Interested in advertising with Twins Daily? Click here.