Minnesota Twins Spring Training Preview: Shortstop


Over the course of the next few weeks, I’ll be providing a rundown on who the Twins will have in Spring Training camp at each position, including projected starters and backups, as well as long shots to make the Opening Day roster.

Sept 29, 2012; Minneapolis, MN, USA: Minnesota Twins shortstop Pedro Florimon (25) fields a ground ball hit by Detroit Tigers center fielder Austin Jackson (not pictured) in the first inning at Target Field. Credit: Jesse Johnson-USA TODAY Sports

More than half of the Twins positional starters are basically set in stone, but we’ll take a look at the contenders where there is competition; many of the more interesting battles in camp will play out for backup spots as the spring progresses. And while even a strong camp will still mean relegation to the minors for a lot of these guys, they’ll be just an injury away from seeing time with the Twins at some point over the course of the season.

So far, we’ve run down the catchersfirstsecond and third base. Today, we’ll look at the competition at shortstop as we move our way around the diamond over the course of Spring Training.

 

PROJECTED STARTER: Pedro Florimon

If Terry Ryan’s public announcement that he was actively seeking competition for Trevor Plouffe at third base was meant to light a fire under Plouffe this offseason, his apparent willingness to make the starting shortstop position Florimon’s to lose could be an attempt to calm and give confidence to the slick-gloved 26 year old. Florimon showed the instincts and athletic ability to make spectacular plays in the field last season, but he didn’t the make the routine plays as consistently as he needs to if his glove is going to offset his Butera-esque bat.

Sept 26, 2012; Minneapolis, MN, USA: Minnesota Twins shortstop Pedro Florimon (25) hits a RBI single in the seventh inning against the New York Yankees at Target Field. The Yankees won 8-2. Credit: Jesse Johnson-USA TODAY Sports

Like Drew Butera, being very good defensively won’t cut it for Florimon, and he’ll have to be exceptional in the field to provide value in his roster spot. If these lapses are Florimon trying too hard to impress in the field in order to secure a job, then hopefully he can take the confidence Ryan has publicly had in him over the offseason and run with it this spring. This is all just conjecture, of course, and it’s certainly possible that Florimon simply lacks the focus to be the consistent defensive presence Ron Gardenhire craves at shortstop.

PROJECTED BACKUPS: Jamey Caroll, Eduardo Escobar

Carroll started 36 games at short for the Twins last season, and the team is comfortable with him starting there although, like last year, they feel the soon-to-be 39 year old is best utilized in a reserve role. Escobar, who came over last year in the Francisco Liriano trade, has played the vast majority of his games in the minors at shortstop, but he’s seen more action at second and third base in the limited games he has played in the Twins organization. If Florimon falters out of the gate this spring, either player could step in and provide adequate competition at short. Both players are discussed in my second base spring training preview.

LONGSHOTS

It seems like the Twins are pretty intent on putting Brian Dozier at second base in his second shot at the 25-man roster and letting him sink or swim there. Still, he’ll get some innings at short in spring training, and there is an outside chance that the team will go with Dozier at the position to start the season. Dozier certainly feels like he’s in the thick of the shortstop competition.

Danny Santana is a slick-gloved SS who may be the Twins best prospect at the position or at least the shortstop within the organization most likely to be at the six-hole when the team will start to form on the field into the young, talented core expected to contend in 2016. That says as much about the shortstop depth within the organization as it does about Santana, who put together basically his first good offensive season at Fort Myers last season. Still, he supplanted Levi Michael as the starting shortstop for the Mirace by the end of last season, and Niko Goodrum probably won’t be ready to step into a MLB role by 2016. Santana needs to prove that his jump in batting average last year at High-A wasn’t a statistical outlier, and this spring will be the first step in a big year for the 22 year old. His development could very well play into how heavily the Twins target middle infielders from outside the organization during the 2013 offseason and even this season’s trading deadline.

James Beresford re-signed as a minor league free agent this past offseason and was extended an invitation to spring training. He’s a good defender and can play second base, as well. Ray Olmedo, who I previously wrote up as a second baseman, will have to show a strong glove at short if he hopes to make the roster as a utility infielder. It’s not clear if Doug Bernier was extended a spring training invitation, but if injuries or ineptitude strike, he could have a shot at one of the utility infielder spots.

 

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