Tuesday, March 5, 2013

At the keystone

Brian Dozier was a shortstop last year, a second baseman
this time around.
Around the time my Monday print column connecting the competence of the Twins infield defense to that of their pitching staff was being readied for publication, Phil Mackey was making much the same points in this piece on the merits of Eduardo Escobar as an infield regular.

Of particular note in Mackey's reporting is Ron Gardenhire saying that while Escobar can handle shortstop and third base, he thinks second base is Escobar's best position.

OK, let's sort through this. Jamey Carroll is going to be on the roster, preferably as a frequently-used utility man. He turned 39 last month, and his offense last season was better when he got more time off. If Carroll winds up the regular at any infield position, it means Plan A failed.

Pedro Florimon entered camp as the favorite for shortstop. He can pick it, but he can't hit it. The same can be said of Escobar. Good field, no hit.

Then there's Brian Dozier. He flopped as a rookie at short last year and has been used strictly at second base this spring. Tom Kelly last week lauded his improvement. Dozier played all nine innings in Monday's exhibition against the St. Louis Cardinals and was involved in turning five double plays, which is not a bad sign at all.

Escobar may well be the superior defensive second baseman, but it's going to be difficult to justify having Florimon and him both in the lineup on a regular basis. Of the three non-Carroll candidates, Dozier is the only one with a respectable minor-league resume as a hitter.

Of course, that track record didn't translate to the majors last year.  If Dozier is to emerge from Florida with the job over Escobar and Carroll, he's got to hit as well as field. My guess is that he's going to get the chance.

1 comment:

  1. Dozier at age 23 in A ball hit .275/.350/.349. Escobar spent most of last year in the major leagues at that same age.

    In 2010, at age 21, Escobar hit .277/.316/.393 split in a season split between A-ball and AA. Dozier broke out at age 24 in 2011 and hit .320/.399/.491 between A-ball and AA. Then he struggled last year at both AAA and in the majors. So did Escobar, but he was two years younger.

    Whether Dozier is the better bat this year remains to be seen. But Dozier only has one minor league season, 2011, that sets him apart from Escobar.