Thursday, December 13, 2012

Minor league shortstops

Levi Michael as a collegian in 2011. He figures to
repeat high-A -- and to spend the season at shortstop.
The Twins on Wednesday made no announcement about Kevin Correia. (I think they're toying with those of us who think signing him is a mistake, raising our hopes that all those reports early in the week were erroneous.)

They did, however, announce eight minor-league free-agent signings, only three of which came with invites to major league camp. None of those three strike me as particularly likely to see any major league time.

I wanted to take note of Ray Olmedo, however. When the Twins sought to open space on their 40-man roster just before the winter meetings and lost Tommy Field on waivers, I predicted that they'd be in the market for a shortstop for Triple A Rochester. And here he is. Olmedo's 31, and if he spends time in Target Field it will be a very bad sign.

It got me thinking -- again -- about the shortstops in the farm system. I've said this before: The Twins have a lousy track record in developing shortstops, going back to the time the franchise arrived in the Twin Cities. Zoilo Versalles, the Twins original shortstop, was homegrown; the best truly homegrown shortstop since Versalles was probably Danny Thompson, and he had only one true season as a regular.

The Twins' best shortstops since Versalles -- Roy Smalley, Greg Gagne, Cristian Guzman, Jason Bartlett -- all came from some other organization.

If that streak is to be broken, the player is probably lower in the organization. Probably.

Doing a little projecting for the full-season affiliates, from the bottom up:

Cedar Rapids (low-A): Niko Goodrum and Jorge Polanco are likely to move up the ladder from Elizabethton. Goodrum, a second-round pick in 2010, repeated the Appy League, and while his hitting numbers didn't really improve, he did cut his errors almost in half. Polanco, a Domincan signed the same summer as Miguel Sano, spent most of the season at second base and hit well. Goodrum is 20; Polanco is 19. Goodrum may eventually move to the outfield; Polanco could, should that happen, return to shortstop.

Fort Myers (high-A): I rather suspect Levi Michael, the 2011 first-round pick, will repeat the Florida State League. He largely split 2012 between second base and shortstop there, but spent more time at second. Tyler Grimes, who saw the most time at short in low-A in 2012, is apparently going to try catching in 2013; I think Michael will be seeing more shortstop time as a result, especially since Eddie Rosario ought to be getting most of the second base time at this level.

It'll be a key season for Michael; the Twins are reportedly inclined to blame his rough 2012 on the injures he had as a collegian in 2011, but he needs to show something in the coming season. An infield with Rosario, Sano and Michael -- certainly last spring, that was the long-term dream for the Twins. It seems a good bit less likely this offseason than it did last.

New Britain (Double A): Danny Santana moved ahead of Michael in the pecking order with a strong season at Fort Myers and won a spot on the 40-man roster. His walk/strikeout ratio even in a good season (29 walks, 77 strikeouts) doesn't bode well for continuing his 2012 success at higher levels, but he just turned 22 last month. Now entering the upper levels of the farm system.

Rochester (Triple A): Olmedo plus organizational lifers James Beresford and Estarlin de los Santos,either of whom may repeat Double A and/or play second base. Nothing to see here in terms of potential long-term regular shortstops.


  1. Replies
    1. That's ridiculous. He was the Twins shortstop for three years and hit better than most of the guys you listed. And he played well enough to get a five year contract from the Pirates as a free agent.

  2. Meares put up 4.6 WAR in 6 seasons with the Twins and had a robust 76 OPS+. Who knows why the Pirates paid him.