Solid defensive shortstops are never the most exciting players on a team. It’s entertaining to watch a good fielder, but it’s more fun when your player can hit. Last year, though, the Twins trotted out a parade of players who couldn’t do either very well, and that has forced them to reevaluate their middle infield situation from the top to the bottom of the organization.
One of the new middle infielders in the organization is shortstop Pedro Florimon Jr., who was claimed off waivers from the Orioles in early December. Florimon, a 25 year old fielding specialist from the Dominican Republic, will wear jersey number 71 as a non-roster invitee to Spring Training.
Florimon is a good enough fielder that Baseball Prospectus named him the O’s 16th best prospect for 2012, despite their acknowledgement that he will probably never be a good hitter. People who watch the Orioles system say that he has good range and a solid throwing arm, which are necessities for the position. Unfortunately, the same source states that Florimon can get overexcited and make unnecessary errors – a trait the Twins are all too familiar with from last season.
Baltimore signed Florimon back in 2004, when he was a 17 year old. He actually hit very well in his U.S. debut in 2004; he put up a .293/.403/.369 line between Rookie ball and low A Aberdeen that year. But that was the last time his average sat north of .270 for a full season, and his OBP has never been anywhere near as high since. In his second year, Florimon went .197/.257/.272 for Class A Delmarva, though the hitting numbers have been better since. Last year was probably his best at the plate since Rookie level. He had a respectable .344 OBP in his first full season at AA. That hitting display might have helped to convince the Twins to take a chance on him.
It worked on the Orioles, who made Florimon a September call-up despite the fact that he’s never seen AAA. If you’re interested in hearing a manager’s take on Florimon, you can check out this interview with Buck Showalter from the night of Florimon’s debut. If you’re wondering, he went 0-3 that night, but he did bang out a two run double off Tiger pitcher Brad Penny a couple weeks later for his first MLB hit.
Coming into Spring Training with the Twins, Florimon not near the top of the team’s depth chart. Jamey Carroll, Tsuyoshi Nishioka, Alexi Casilla, and Brian Dozier are all ahead of him in the middle infield, and all have much more upside at the plate. He will almost certainly be sent to Rochester to start the season. Florimon’s best chance of making it to Minnesota is to impress the Big League coaching staff with his fielding in Spring Training and then work on his offensive shortcomings at Rochester. At age 24, he still has time to improve a little bit.
It will definitely help his case if he shows some improvement on his plate discipline. Last year Florimon walked 51 times, but he struck out 114. Since he has no significant power, he needs to start walking a lot more and striking out a lot less.
All month long, Puckett’s Pond has been profiling the men who will be in camp with the Twins as non-roster invitees. If you missed the first few, you can find them here. Check back tomorrow, because there will be another exciting non-roster article for your reading pleasure.