Friday, February 3, 2017

The Engelb Vielma solution (which isn't a solution)

Every once in a while as I consider the Twins shortstop conundrum, I think of the example set by Earl Weaver in the 1970s with the Baltimore Orioles.

He had a shortstop, Mark Belanger, who was a marvelous gloveman but simply could not hit -- career batting average of .228, career slugging percentage .280. But The Blade was a fixture in Weaver's lineups for more than a decade because he helped keep guys like Jim Palmer, Dave McNally and Mike Flanagan in the game for seven innings.

If the O's had the lead late, great; if not, Weaver had a raft of pinch-hitters he could deploy.

One could imagine the Twins trying the same approach in 2017, with Engelb Vielma in the Belanger role. Vielma is a scrawny gloveman -- everybody who has been exposed to him raves about him as a fielder -- who last year hit .271 at Double-A Chattanooga, albeit with no power (just 11 extra base hits). He was added to the 40-man roster this offseason,

The Twins have, depending on how one views Danny Santana, three or four shortstop options on their 40 -- Eduardo Escobar, Jorge Polanco, Vielma, maybe Santana (listed on the team website as an outfielder). I'm confident that Vielma is the best defensive player of the four, and just as confident that he is by far the weakest hitter.

You may remember that last month I published a post about a Baseball America piece about the growing demand for power from shortstops. The idea was that a major league regular has to project to "45" power, fringe average on the 20-80 scouting scale. Vielma, listed at a mere 155 pounds, is almost certainly a 20.

Paul Molitor has shown in his two years as manager little inclination to shake the glove tree. He plays guys he thinks can hit for him. But he's also managing in a different era than Weaver. There were a lot of shortstops in the 1970s with 20 power. That's not the case today. Playing Belanger then wasn't sacrificing as much offense relative to the league as playing Vielma would today.

1 comment:

  1. Just wondering if you are as surprised as I am by the release of Park. I understand the numbers crunch caused by signing that reliever, but I'd much rather have Park than Danny Santana or Vargas on the roster. I read reports that speculated that his salary, albeit modest by MLB standards, would probably keep potential suitors away. I expect some team to take a chance on him: Oaklad? Tampa Bay?