Going into camp…
The Twins wanted Brian Dozier to take ownership of second base after a less-than-stellar stint as the team’s starting shortstop in 2012. The team felt his defense would play better at the keystone, and that his hitting would continue to improve with time and experience.
Jamey Carroll and Eduardo Escobar came into camp as the projected backups, with Carroll ideally suited for a bench role and Escobar having to prove himself to avoid starting the season in AAA. Regardless of his optimal role with the club, Carroll was viewed as the top competition at both middle infield spots if either Dozier or Pedro Florimon failed to take the starting jobs.
How the competition has played out thus far:
Dozier has committed just a single error in the 12 games he’s played at the keystone through Friday evening, but has hit just .206 this spring. There are positives to take out of Dozier’s hitting line, though: three of his seven hits have been doubles and, more importantly, he’s posted a walk rate closer to his minor league track record than his stint with the Twins last season. Still, Dozier’s glove isn’t generally considered strong enough to belie a batting average as low as he’s showed thus far, and with slick-gloved, light-hitting Florimon the front-runner at shortstop, the Twins may prefer starting the season without two offensive holes in the batting order.
Carroll has seen significant time at second this spring, hitting precisely in line with his .276 career batting average. Escobar, though, has shown defensive prowess all over the infield and is hitting .344, putting himself in the discussion as a starter at both middle infield spots.
Journeyman Ray Olmedo has been getting play all over the infield, too, and has crushed thus far to the tune of a .987 OPS. If Escobar or Carroll win one of the starting infield spots come April 1, Olmedo could head north as the team’s second backup infielder. Brian Dinkelman has gotten into 17 of the team’s first 20 games, but has hit poorly to this point. Eddie Rosario, on the other hand, has been an absolute stud with the bat, boasting a triple slash line of .545/.583/.909. He already looks like a second baseman heading into his second season at the position and, while his defense is improving, it isn’t yet MLB-ready. Rosario’s play this spring has cemented his position as top middle infield prospect in the organization.
The team desperately wanted Dozier to take second base by the horns this spring, but they probably weren’t expecting Escobar to have played as well as he has. Dozier will have to hit better than he has to this point and, if Aaron Hicks forces the Twins to bring him north when the season starts, the team may feel more comfortable with Carroll batting in the two hole if they opt to have Hicks lead off.