Thursday, March 19, 2015

The shortstop non-competition

Eduardo Escobar led
regular AL shortstops
in OPS last year.
The Twins came into spring training with new manager Paul Molitor saying two somewhat contradictory things about shortstop: First, that he was't "prejudging" the competition between incumbent Eduardo Escobar and Danny Santana, who spent most of 2014 in center. Second, that he views Santana as a shortstop.

Considering how well Santana hit in his major league time last year -- an OPS of .824 -- there was never much doubt that Santana will be in the lineup. It was just a question of where. And the question of where seems answered: Shortstop.

Santana hasn't played any outfield this spring that I'm aware of. The center field competition, which opened with Aaron Hicks, Jordan Schafer and Shane Robinson, has expanded, but to include Eddie Rosario, not Santana.

I remain a skeptic on Santana. There's no reason to expect a guy with a .708 minor league OPS to continue to post a major league .824 OPS, and I don't expect him to be a defensive upgrade over Escobar. But this will play itself out. Santana will open the season at short, but I won't be surprised if he plays himself out of the job by the All-Star break.

If that happens, the Twins still might not restore Escobar to the job. Jorge Polanco might get the call. I sense that the Twins see Escobar as a low-ceiling shortstop, and they'd rather try some high ceiling guys first. I can't really argue with that proposition, other than to wish that they apply that same philosophy to the starting rotation,

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