Minnesota Twins Spring Training Battles: Position Players
DH: The bulk of DH duties will most likely fall to Byung Ho Park. Mauer and Sano will slot in occasionally for rest. Park will have to prove himself not ready for Major League pitching for the Twins not to bring him north in April. Also, Park, like other Japanese/Korean imports, may have minor league opt outs in his contract. The Twins may not be able to send him to the minors. After posting $12.85 million to win the rights to negotiate with Park, and a 4 year, $12 million deal to pry his bat from the Nexen Heroes, it’s safe to assume he’s the DH on Opening Day. If something does happen to either Mauer or Park, the Twins do have a nice insurance policy in Kennys Vargas, who improved his plate discipline last year in the minors.
SS: Favorite in the pre-season clubhouse: Eduardo Escobar. And really, there should be no competition given how Escobar finished last season. In the second half he was arguably one of the top shortstops in all of baseball at the plate. His 47 extra base hits were 4th in MLB among shortstops. Two players were tied at 2nd with 48 XBH but both had over 100 more ABs than Escobar to accomplish it in.
He also is one of the most vocal leaders in the dugout, especially for the younger Latin players. But the Twins, for some reason, have kept trying other options. Escobar has slid around the infield and even in the outfield. Hopefully, this is the year the Twins proclaim the 27-year-old Venezuelan their starting shortstop for this year and beyond. But, don’t rule out the Twins’ affinity for hot prospect Jorge Polanco. He has seen some time with the parent club over each of the past two seasons. They believe his bat to be major league ready, but his defense produces way too many errors.
His .932 fielding percentage in the minors is forty points below MLB average. His next error in the minors will be his 100th (339 games played). The best outcome would be for Escobar to continue his productivity for the next few years and have Polanco ready to replace Escobar or Brian Dozier in case of injury to either. Polanco needs innings, preferably at both middle infield spots at Rochester. The future infield could include him, not as shortstop, but instead taking over for Dozier and letting phenom Nick Gordon be the heir apparent to Escobar.