On Friday I examined Eduardo Escobar's grasp on the shortstop job and, in passing, mentioned the shortstops in the lower levels of the minors.
These guys aren't threats to Escobar -- yet. But they do make it a lot easier to imagine the Twins doing something with the shortstops above them in the system in the coming offseason.
With the minor league seasons winding down, here's who's where:
Danny Santana is hitting .289 for Triple A Rochester. I don't know how likely he is to come up when the rosters expand.
Jorge Polanco was moved back to Double A so he and Santana could both play short on a regular basis. He continues to have difficulty in the field, and Doug Mientkiewicz had him playing second base Friday night. I think second base is his best position, and that probably makes him trade bait during the offseason, since Brian Dozier has a lock on that position, Polanco's bat will play in the middle infield; I don't think his arm will play at short.
Those are the guys who might challenge for the big league job next spring. Now for the up-and-comers ...
Engelb Vielma is the shortstop at high A Fort Myers. His slash line there is unimpressive: .267/.315/.306, slightly worse than at Low A Cedar Rapids in 2014. In truth, Fort Myers is a much more difficult hitting environment, so essentially maintaining his production is a good sign for him.
Vielma is a 21-year-old out of Venezuela and something of a mirror image of Polanco. Observers rave about his fielding, and his bat is questionable. He definitely needs to get stronger if he's to be a major league regular, but that's pretty common among A ball prospects. There are few big league bodies at that level. Expect Vielma to move up to Double A next year.
I devoted a Monday print column earlier this month to Nick Gordon , the shortstop at low A Cedar Rapids. The Twins invested the fifth overall pick in Gordon in 2014, and I liked what I saw from him in a four-game glomming of the Kernels. He's the only one of these lower level shortstop I've actually seen play (Vielma was injured when I saw CR last summer), but it's my guess that he's the most likely of the bunch to wind up a big league regular.
Jermaine Palacios is the shortstop at Elizabethton. The latest issue of Baseball America has a short piece on him (written by the Star Tribune's Phil Miller). A 19-year-old Venezulean, Palacios is said to be a hitter, and his minor league numbers to date back that up, although one should be cautious about rookie ball stats.
Then there's Wander Javier, a 16-year-old Dominican the Twins signed this summer. They invested $4 million in him, so they clearly expect big things from him, but those big things are far down the road. Javier has yet to play in organized ball.
I've commented many a time on the sorry record the Twins have at developing their own shortstops. This crop has the potential to reverse that record. But it won't come immediately.