Thursday, February 2, 2017

Whither Jorge Polanco

I am trying to reconcile myself to the likelihood that the Twins will at least open the 2017 season with Jorge Polanco at shortstop. It's not easy.

Only part of this is their inability to find a reasonable trade for Brian Dozier. Trading Dozier would have opened up second base for Polanco, and second base is a better fit for Polanco's skill set than shortstop (just as it was and remains for Dozier).

But the fact remains that, unless a Dozier trade included a major league-ready shortstop -- and that was always unlikely -- somebody currently on the roster figured to wind up with the shortstop job. If either of Dozier or Polanco were (or are) traded, the front-runner would be Eduardo Escobar by default.

I'm pretty sure I like that option more than Paul Molitor does, and I say that fully aware that Escobar is at best a fringe average fielder at the position. Polanco is worse afield, which is no small matter given the looming and lumbering presence of Miguel Sano at third and the need to support the pitching staff.

But Polanco promises to be a superior hitter to the man LaVelle Neal dubbed "Eddie the Stick" a few years ago, and we return to the metaphorical balancing act: Will Escobar's glove save more runs (compared to Polanco) than his bat will give up (compared to Polanco)? My guess is yes, but I can't prove it, and neither is ever likely to be the shortstop of a playoff caliber team.

This is not to equate Polanco and Derek Jeter, but the fact remains: Jeter was never, by the defensive metrics, a truly outstanding defensive shortstop. He got by at the position, and his bat made him a great player, and there is no shortstop of my lifetime I'd rather have for the length of his career than Jeter  -- not Cal Ripken, not Ozzie Smith, not Barry Larkin, not Robin Yount or even Alex Rodriguez.

It's possible for Polanco to be a good enough hitter to make up for his problems afield. But for that to happen, he's not only got to hit; he's got to get closer to fringe average as a fielder. If he were as good with the glove as Escobar (which, again, is not to say that Escobar is good), I'd have no problem with Polanco as the Twins shortstop.

He's not, or at least he hasn't shown that he is. Molitor appears to believe that he can be.

No comments:

Post a Comment