A look at Minnesota Twins shortstop Jorge Polanco and what could have been if he wasn’t suspended and what is to come for the infielder.
The Minnesota Twins were poised to make a formidable run at the playoffs in 2018. They appeared to have a budding young core of players who had taken significant developmental steps forward in 2017 on the way to a playoff berth. The Twins also were able to sign several veterans to supplement that core leading up to the start of the 2018 season.
While expectations were high domino after domino causing destruction to those expectations fell. One of those domino’s was the suspension handed to Twins shortstop Jorge Polanco who was penalized with an 80-game suspension for violating the league’s substance abuse policy.
In those 80 games missed two guys filled in the most for Polanco. Before things went south for Miguel Sano, Eduardo Escobar was the guy who lined up at shortstop most often for the Twins. From March 29th until April 27th, Escobar hit .300/.354/.557 with a .912 OPS and added three home runs as well as nine doubles. So for about a month, the Twins didn’t miss anything in the way of offensive production from the position.
Once the Twins needed to shift Escobar over to third base, Ehire Adrianza got the bulk of the reps at shortstop. From the beginning of the season through July 2nd when Polanco returned to the lineup, Adrianza hit .261/.314/.410 with a .723 OPS, four home runs and 14 doubles. Which really is a very solid showing offensively for Adrianza.
Now since Polanco’s return to the lineup in 72 games played he has hit .285/.342/.431, with a .773 OPS, six home runs and 17 doubles. That lands Polanco’s offensive output somewhere between Escobar and Adrianza. It is obvious the significant impact the absence and inefficiencies of Sano and Polanco had on the Twins lineup.
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What also had a large impact on the Twins was the absence of Polanco’s glove. Polanco made significant strides in his defense from 2016 to 2017 going from a -8 DRS in 2016 to a -1 DRS over 1,119.2 innings in 2017. Escobar has never been regarded as a good defensive shortstop and as the first player to take Polanco’s spot turned in a -7 DRS for the Twins as a shortstop.
Adrianza has traditionally been regarded as a much more sure-handed defender. His defense was actually why at the initial announcement of Polanco’s suspension I declared that Adrianza needed to and could have a major impact on the 2018 Twins. Well, over 2018 while playing shortstop Adrianza has turned in a -3 DRS. That has made Polanco’s 0 DRS over 593.1 innings since returning a very welcomed venture.
While the Twins survived the beginning of the season without Polanco it is clear that he was missed and at least a small part of the reason the team struggled so much in 2018. It is yet to be seen where Polanco will play in the long term for the Twins. Going into the 2019 season, barring a free agent signing, it looks as though he has proven to have enough of a glove and bat to continue as the Twins starter at short.
Long term, if Polanco continues to hit there is a chance he could be moved over to and succeed as a second baseman. There is a chance the Twins may want to try Nick Gordon at shortstop over Polanco even though Gordon’s defense is questioned just as much as Polanco’s. More likely is that the Twins top prospect, Royce Lewis, will eventually supplant Polanco as the Twins everyday shortstop. Until that day, Polanco has proven to be a valuable member of the Twins starting infield and should continue in his current role.