Friday, March 14, 2014

Spring training trip, Day 1: Danny Santana

Danny Santana has hit
for good averages the
past two seasons in
High A and Double A.
Incumbent shortstop Pedro Florimon might see some playing time before I return to Minnesota early next week, but for now he's sidelined. This has created playing time for other shortstops, including a shortstop of the past (Jason Bartlett) and the supposed shortstop of the future (Danny Santana).

Santana played all nine innings Thursday against the Red Sox (the only player on either side who did), and we saw the good and the bad.

Good: He doubled and walked. (The walk really startled me; Santana's minor league record says walking him takes some doing.) He also beat out what should have been an inning-ending double play. The Twins didn't take advantage of that, but it showcased his speed.

Bad: He was prominent in a string of flawed infield plays, some of which were ruled errors and some of which were not.

The Twins were charged with three errors Thursday -- one each for Santana, Trevor Plouffe and Joe Mauer -- and all four runs they allowed were officially unearned.

Santana booted a grounder in the fifth inning that led to a pair of runs. In the third inning, he dropped a throw from catcher Kurt Suzuki on a stolen base; the umpire made the out call, then saw the ball on the ground and properly changed the call. Not an error. Then Santana just missed making a leaping catch of a Shane Victorino liner that drove home the base stealer. I won't say he should have caught the ball, but leather touched leather.

Patrick Reusse is calling for Santana to get the shortstop job, comparing his defensive inconsistencies to those of Zoilo Versalles, the Twins shortstop for most of the 1960s and the league MVP in 1965. Watching Santana play short on Thursday, I can understand Ron Gardenhire's reluctance to go in that direction. Managers hate it when shortstops fail to make makeable plays.

But there's a part of me that remembers being pleased when the Twins bit the bullet after the 1998 season, let Pat Meares go and committed to Cristian Guzman at shortstop. Guzman wasn't really ready for the majors, and he struggled for a while, particularly at the plate. But he was also clearly athletically superior to Meares.

Florimon vs Santana echoes Meares vs. Guzman. Santana will make more mistakes than Florimon. But he will also hit better (no real challenge). And he has more room for growth. Florimon isn't going to get any better than he was last year.

I now believe there's a better case to be made for Santana as the shortstop than I thought earlier this winter. But I suspect skipping him up from Double A is a call that would need Terry Ryan's involvement, especially if Gardenhire is wary of an inconsistent gloveman at the position, and that involvement isn't coming this month.



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