Minnesota Twins: Polanco suspended 80 games and shortstop moving forward

ST. PETERSBURG, FL - SEPTEMBER 5: Shortstop Jorge Polanco
ST. PETERSBURG, FL - SEPTEMBER 5: Shortstop Jorge Polanco /

The Minnesota Twins were issued a blow today in the form of an 80-game suspension for shortstop Jorge Polanco. Where do the Twins turn in his absence?

The Minnesota Twins and the news surrounding them has been at an all-time high of positivity. After several free agent additions, most recently the addition of starting pitcher Lance Lynn, the Twins look poised to hit the ground running to start the season. Today the Twins and their fans were delivered a significant piece of bad news. Jorge Polanco will be suspended for the first 80 games of the 2018 season.

Polanco tested positive for Stanozolol which is a performance enhancing drug.

Polanco has issued an official apology concerning the suspension:

It is hard in situations like these to fully believe that the player, in this case Polanco, had no idea what he took. That said, part of me feels for Polanco. He is a young player who has a lot of pressure to perform this season. He may not be competing for his job in 2018, but moving forward he has three top organizational talents breathing down his neck in Royce Lewis, Nick Gordon, and Wander Javier. I just hope this is the truth, that he didn’t take this knowingly and it doesn’t tarnish his reputation moving forward.

The question now from a baseball perspective becomes, where do the Twins turn for starting shortstop? The Twins were relying on Polanco to provide for them in fairly significant ways this upcoming season. He seemed to have been taking steps in the right direction defensively even if a -1 DRS doesn’t seem too encouraging. That -1 DRS was improved from a -8 DRS the season before. Polanco’s bat also filled out a dangerous looking lineup for the Twins and they will now miss his .256/.313/.410 and 13 home runs or even improved hitting.

Possible Replacements

The first option is Eduardo Escobar who has already proven that he can handle stepping into a starting role if needed. His defense isn’t necessarily very good at shortstop but he can at least contribute at the plate. Huge question with Escobar is he is already insurance for what appears to be an eventual Miguel Sano suspension. A Sano suspension leaves the Twins replacing the entire left side of their infield for Opening Day.

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Ehire Adrianza becomes the next most likely option to take over for Polanco. Adrianza is certainly a great option from a defensive standpoint as he has always been a glove first player. If there is a silver lining here, for what little spring training results are worth, Adrianza has looked good with the bat so far this year. He is hitting .290/.333/.484 with a home run and three doubles. And some of those hits have just looked like good, solid hits off of the bat.

There is always  Nick Gordon down the organizational depth chart. The Twins and manager Paul Molitor do clearly like how his batting approach has looked this spring. There just seems to be way too many defensive questions marks for him to make the jump to the majors right now. With arm strength being one of the biggest questions marks.

This instead probably opens up a roster spot for Erick Aybar to head north with the Twins. The 34 year old has hit .296/.321/.407 this spring. Polanco’s suspension would create the needed 40-man spot for Aybar to be added to the roster. The question will certainly be asked of whether or not the Twins would look to bring in someone else for that open spot. That does seem quite unlikely since the few free agent options still out at shortstop seems to start and end with Stephen Drew and J.J. Hardy. The Twins front office will instead look to make what is in house work moving forward.

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Polanco may not have been the most important player to the Twins 2018. He was certainly expected to be a big piece of the Twins push towards a playoff run. Instead, now his reputation may be tarnished and the Twins shortstop carousel continues to spin.