2017 Minnesota Twins Roster Projections - The Middle Infielders
Image courtesy of John Rieger, USA TodayWe will start with the middle infielders of the Minnesota Twins, and then we'll work our way down the organization ladder, all the way to those who will likely remain in extended spring training.
2B - Brian Dozier (29), Eduardo Escobar (28)
SS - Jorge Polanco (23), Ehire Adrianza (27)
As long as Brian Dozier is on the Twins roster, he will be the team’s primary second baseman, and for good reason. He was worth 5.9 fWAR in 2016 and has been worth 16.4 fWAR over the last four years. 42 home runs in 2016. With 25 home runs in 2017, he would jump into the Twins Top 10 of all time (well, back to 1961).
Jorge Polanco certainly is a question mark at shortstop with the glove, but at 23, it’s worth giving him every opportunity to improve and get more comfortable there. Plus, his bat is what has people excited.
Having Eduardo Escobar on the roster is a must with this roster. He’s still not making much money, and he can give the Twins a solid backup at three infield positions, a guy whom they can feel comfortable starting at each position if there is a DL stint, short-term or long-term. He also can take over at shortstop if the defense there does become too shoddy.
This week, the Twins added depth in the middle infield by claiming Ehire Adrianza (Ay-Ray Add-ree-on-zuh), a slick-fielding shortstop who have played in nearly 200 big league games over the past four seasons.
Rochester Red Wings
2B - Levi Michael (26), Tommy Field (29)
SS - Engelb Vielma (22)
If the Twins need a quality defensive-minded shortstop sometime in 2017, they could turn to Engelb Vielma who is the top defensive infielder in the organization. Will he hit? Well, last year at AA, he hit .271/.345/.318 (.663). If he can put up similar numbers in AAA, and eventually in the big leagues, while playing elite defense at shortstop, that is immensely valuable.
The Twins brought in several minor league veterans who have the ability to play in the middle infield. Most are utility infield types. Levi Michael ended the 2014 season with 15 games in AA New Britain. He has spent the last two years at AA Chattanooga where his playing time and performance have declined. Maybe a bump up to AAA will help. He becomes a minor league free agent following the 2017 season. To increase his value, to the Twins or other teams, he needs to play other positions besides second base, something he hasn’t done.
Tommy Field is tremendous defensively all over the field. He’s a long-time AAA veteran who spent the second half of 2016 in Rochester. His defense is maybe best illustrated by the below tweet:
2B - Ryan Walker (24), Tanner Witt (26)
SS - Nick Gordon (21), Benji Gonzalez (27)
Nick Gordon is a consensus Top 100 prospect, and he’s easily one of the top Twins prospects. He has above average tools and has performed on the field as well. He had a solid season in Ft. Myers last year and a strong showing in the AFL against that league’s competition. He’s ready for AA.
Ryan Walker took a big stride forward in his career in 2016. He started in Ft. Myers and moved up to Chattanooga. He hit well and got on base, but as important, he played all around the infield, something that will be important for his career.
Tanner Witt signed early last season and spent the season with the Miracle. Benji Gonzalez is a 27-year-old veteran who spent six years in the Pirates organization, two years in the Padres system and last year with the Mariners AA affiliate. While he has played mostly at shortstop in professional baseball, he has played all three non-first base infield positions.
Ft. Myers Miracle
2B - Luis Arraez (19), Sean Miller (22), Rafael Valera (22)
SS - Alex Perez (24), Nelson Molina (21)
Luis Arraez came to the States in 2015 and had a strong showing as a 18-year-old in the GCL. He moved up to Cedar Rapids as an 18-year-old and led the Midwest League with a .347 average. He followed up by hitting .335 in 46 games in Venezuela this winter. While his ability to play second base is still in question, he’s very young and can continue to work and improve.
Nelson Molina was a Twins Daily 2016 Minor League All Star for his strong performance with Cedar Rapids. He mostly played third base, but he is a natural shortstop. He hit .300 with a .374 on-base percentage. He played one game in Puerto Rico but broke his hamate bone. He’s in Ft. Myers rehabbing and will be ready for spring training.
Sean Miller and Alex Perez were drafted in 2015. Both of them split their seasons between Cedar Rapids and Ft. Myers. Miller played every day in Cedar Rapids, around the infield. Perez got some time in Cedar Rapids, but when he moved up to Ft. Myers, he played nearly every day and showed a good ability to put together strong plate appearances.
Cedar Rapids Kernels
2B - Travis Blankenhorn (20), Andre Jernigan (23)
SS - Brandon Lopez (23), Jermaine Palacios (20), Ariel Montesino (21)
Last year, Jermaine Palacios was the hot prospect, the guy who destroyed the GCL and Appy Leagues as an 18-year-old in 2015. Unfortunately, Palacios really struggled with the bat to start 2016 and his season ended early with a broken bone after being hit by a pitch. He’ll look to get back on track in 2017.
Travis Blankenhorn made the move to second base in 2016 in extended spring training. In 34 games in Elizabethton, he hit .297 with seven doubles and nine home runs. His seasonended in Cedar Rapids where he hit .286 with five doubles and a homer in 25 games.
Brandon Lopez was the Twins 10th-round pick last June after his Miami Hurricanes' run in the College World Series. He went to E-Town where he hit .337 with an incredible .470 on-base percentage in 27 games. He moved up to Cedar Rapids for the final 18 games where he hit .386 with a .393 on-base percentage.
Andre Jernigan was also drafted by the Twins last year, in the 14th round out of Xavier. After a slow start in Elizabethton, he came on very strong. He was a conference MVP shortstop in college, and he’s making the transition to second base.
Ariel Montesino has slowly moved up the organizational ladder since signing with the Twins in 2013 out of the Dominican Republic. In Elizabethton, he hit .299 in 47 games.
Extended Spring Training
2B - Joe Cronin (22), Dane Hutcheon (22), Emmanuel Morel (19)
SS - Jose Miranda (18), Jorge Munoz (20), Wander Javier (18)
Wander Javier is the $4 million man, or kid. The 18-year-old signed in 2015 for a little more than the Twins maximum international slot. He debuted in the DSL this past summer, but he hurt his hamstring, and when he returned, he re-strained the same hamstring which cost him the rest of the summer. He did participate in Instructional League in Ft. Myers following the season.
Jose Miranda was the first of two compensation picks after the second round. The Puerto Rican hit a bit in the GCL and should move up to Elizabethton. Most assume he’ll move to second or third base as he grows. Jorge Munoz is a flashy glove at shortstop, though he played all over the infield in the GCL. He’s not a big guy, but he has some pop in his bat. Emmanuel Morel, like Munoz, is very fast. He can play both middle infield positions. Cronin and Hutcheon were late-round draft picks out of college who are solid ballplayers. Cronin in particular takes quality at-bats, plays solid defense, and is considered a grinder. Hutcheon has some speed and puts the ball in play.
1.) Nick Gordon
2.) Travis Blankenhorn
3.) Wander Javier
4.) Luis Arraez
5.) Jose Miranda
6.) Engelb Vielma
7.) Jermaine Palacios
8.) Brandon Lopez
Will Brian Dozier be on the Opening Day roster? Can we assume that yet? How will Jorge Polanco handle a full season of shortstop with the glove? Could we see Engelb Vielma at some point? Will Luis Arraez continue to hit for a very high batting average with the promotion to Ft. Myers. Can Jermaine Palacios have a bounce-back season and reclaim his prospect status?