Tuesday, February 3, 2015

The Twins by position: Shortstop, part two

As I see it, the Twins this spring have a choice between a adequate but unspectacular shortstop (Eduardo Escobar) and a slightly younger one with a higher ceiling and a lower floor (Danny Santana.)

I also see signs that other teams see Escobar as better suited to a reserve role than as a regular.

During the winter meetings, both Paul Molitor and Terry Ryan described Escobar as having hit 40 doubles. Which he didn't. He hit 37. (Had he been the regular shortstop all year he probably would have gotten to 40, but he sat behind the punchless Pedro Florimon in April.)

The inference I drew from this modest puffery of a player they are inclined to bench: They were trying to drum up a trade market. Historically, a bona fide regular shortstop is worth a starting pitcher, and that was a likely goal.

But nobody bit, and with spring training just a bit more than two weeks away, it appears the Twins will have both Escobar and Santana.

If Santana is to be the regular shortstop in 2015, this winter was probably the peak of Escobar's trade value. Instead, he's likely to serve as an insurance policy for Santana.

And given the genuine questions about Santana's defense at a defense-first position, that might sound like the wisest course -- except that the Twins also have Jorge Polanco climbing the ladder rather rapidly. Polanco might be better suited for second base, but he was named the best defensive shortstop in the high A Florida State League in Baseball America's annual poll of league managers.

I beleive in Escobar more than I do in Santana. But I do see a logic in giving the superior athlete a clear shot at the job -- this is, after all, a building project, not a team likely to lose the pennant by screwing up the shortstop position. If Santana fails, there's not only Polanco but Escobar to turn to.

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