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Suddenly, Shortstops!

Finding a non-temporary answer at the shortstop position has been a long-standing issue for the Minnesota Twins, dating back about a decade.

In late April, we looked ahead to the upcoming crop of free agent shortstops, suggesting that this might be the best, or only, method for finding a palatable starter at the position in the remotely near future. However, since then, two players have emerged in a big way, to the point where we may now actually have a legitimate competition that doesn't amount to "which option is least terrible?"
Image courtesy of Jesse Johnson, USA Today Sports
Eduardo Escobar has been drawing the lion's share of time at short, and he has performed fairly well. His .273/.319/.393 hitting line is above-average for the position, and his 32 doubles tie him for the team lead. I have always been a believer that Escobar's upside healthily outweighed his past production, and wrote back in March about his momentum toward overtaking the inadequate SS incumbent Pedro Florimon.

Of course, the fact that Escobar has proven to be a superior option to Florimon isn't saying much, and while the 25-year-old has been solid both offensively and defensively this season, I think it's a stretch to argue that he should be counted on as the starter going forward. Escobar is a nice piece to have around, but I think he's best suited as a utility man and backup option at short.

It's Danny Santana who has made the strongest case to claim shortstop duties in 2015 and beyond, even though he hasn't been playing there a whole lot. Santana's initial success upon being called up in May was surprising, in light of his .692 OPS in Triple-A prior to that promotion and his .708 career OPS in the minors, but what's more surprising is that he has never really cooled off. His OPS has been at or above .773 in every month, and so far in August he's hitting .319/.364/.458.

Santana's production with the Twins this year has been strong enough to be an asset at any position, and jibes with the idea that his relatively unimpressive numbers in the minors were shaded by rawness and youth. Still, even if his abilities to spray line drives and run like crazy should keep his offensive game afloat, I'm not ready to tab him as an .800-plus OPS guy. His bat is much more likely to play at shortstop in the big picture, and I'm confident he'll ultimately bring more to the table there than Escobar.

Of course, Santana is considered to be somewhat rough at shortstop, so it would help if he could play there and refine his defensive game. The Twins might view it the same way, as they gave him consecutive starts at short over the weekend -- his first infield exposure since June. Hopefully in September, or sooner, Aaron Hicks or someone else will take over center field and Santana can spend the final weeks solidifying his case to lock up the shortstop position, while Escobar moves around the diamond.

Assuming both players stay on track and Santana can flash some fielding chops in a more extended audition, the Twins will finish the season with multiple legitimate internal options who have proven they have what it takes to play shortstop in the majors on a regular basis.

That's something we haven't been able to say for a long time, and it would mean the club could finally go into this offseason without a clear need at that position.

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68 Comments

I don't understand why people say his skills play more to being a utility man and a backup?He is 25 now.He was only 23 when he came to the Twins in the trade for Liriano.He was the Gold Glove SS in his Winter League this winter. If E Escobar had enough AB, he would rank in the top 10 SS based on OPS.He has 32 doubles, tied for first amongst all SS and tied for 10th in the MLB.Just because he has the ability to play 2b, 3b & OF, does not mean that he should play anywhere but SS for the Twins for a long long time.

    • Brandon and hybridbear like this

Thanks for the read. Add the minor league depth that Polanco, (and yes) Michaels and Goodrum (the latter two both rule-5 eligible) and the eventuality of first rounder Nick Gordon, the Twins' have options for short in the near and far future. Though troubling, none lead with their defense. Each prospects' warts seems to be in a similar place: defense (even if different aspects). 

    • birdwatcher likes this
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pierre75275
Aug 20 2014 04:55 AM
I am not a huge Floriman fan but he is hitting .260 in AAA. Any chance he could carry some of that to the bigs despite his woeful track record and should we give him the chance?
    • birdwatcher likes this
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diehardtwinsfan
Aug 20 2014 05:38 AM

So if Santana is the ultimate answer, do the Twins trade Escobar when he gets expensive?An above average defensive SS with a .700 OPS is quite valuable.

    • birdwatcher and Cris E like this
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TheLeviathan
Aug 20 2014 06:05 AM

So if Santana is the ultimate answer, do the Twins trade Escobar when he gets expensive?An above average defensive SS with a .700 OPS is quite valuable.


I think shopping Escobar now for an elevated return is worth pursuing.
    • USAFChief, birdwatcher, Dantes929 and 1 other like this

I think shopping Escobar now for an elevated return is worth pursuing.


Concur. We all like "buy low, sell high" in theory, but it can be difficult in practice. IMO Escobar is a great "sell high" candidate.
    • birdwatcher, Mike Frasier Law, Dantes929 and 1 other like this
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diehardtwinsfan
Aug 20 2014 06:25 AM

I think shopping Escobar now for an elevated return is worth pursuing.

 

The Twins got Liriano in an absolute steal of a trade, and while it didn't look like it at first, it looks like they got a steal when they traded him!I have to wonder what he'd fetch.The real concern I have is what happens when Santana turns back into a pumpkin.Is he going to still post a .700 OPS will playing good defense (with the occasional lapse)?If so, yeah, I'd trade Escobar... for what though.This team could really use a good corner OF for the next wave, but I don't see teams offering upthe type of player I'd want (probably something like Arcia, high ceiling bat and hopefully average defense). 

    • DocBauer and hybridbear like this
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TheLeviathan
Aug 20 2014 06:54 AM
I agree diehard, I'd shop him not just because he's a great "sell high" guy but also because Santana needs to be the SS Longterm and I'd rather gamble on him maintaining his production than Escobar.
    • birdwatcher likes this
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birdwatcher
Aug 20 2014 08:25 AM

Concur. We all like "buy low, sell high" in theory, but it can be difficult in practice. IMO Escobar is a great "sell high" candidate.

Also concur. Especially in light of the fact that Florimon is doing in AAA what they hoped he'd do up here,  Polanco appears to be at the doorstep as a very adequate utility guy, Nunez is an OK fallback as a bench guy, and even Michael may be turning the corner at AA.  

 

Maybe we could buy low on Liriano.

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Nick Nelson
Aug 20 2014 08:33 AM

I like what Escobar's doing but let's cool the "sell high" chatter. He had a .587 OPS in the majors prior to this season, and a career .675 OPS in the minors. Hopefully he is turning a corner but I don't know that other clubs are going to jump at him because of a solid stretch of 360 plate appearances.

 

Also, there's nothing wrong with having a guy like him in the utility role. It's a luxury to have a versatile glove and a decent bat there, and if Santana should falter or get hurt, he's available to fall back on.

    • Brock Beauchamp, birdwatcher and hybridbear like this

Other teams aren't going to completely "buy" the season Escobar has had so far.I'd call this a "selling medium" situation if one was looking to trade him.The acquiring team would hope he could keep it up, but not expect it and be satisfied if he turned into a utility piece, just like the Twins probably are now (and why I would keep him).I don't think that gets you much, probably not even enough in the Twins current situation to make it worthwhile (youth movement finally in progress).

    • birdwatcher likes this
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ericwerner9
Aug 20 2014 08:39 AM

On a positive note, it is nice to have options with Escobar.  If Santana can take over SS on a daily basis, it would be a nice luxury to have a utility guy that is also an above average hitter.  Taking the "sell high" approach for once would also be a welcome surprise.  Personally, I'd be OK with either outcome.

    • birdwatcher likes this
I'm not sure I totally buy the premise here. Yes, Twins have had decent production at SS and by the player that appears to be the heir to the position, albeit at a different position. But both are playing considerably above their established track record. Is what we would expect them to hit going forward above average? Or is it simply closer to average than we have had at SS for years?

Anyway, I am a bit skeptical that the Twins are suddenly awash in SS depth.
    • Oxtung likes this
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TheLeviathan
Aug 20 2014 09:05 AM

Of course no one is going to come calling drunk on love for 360 plate appearances.  But they may see him in a more positive light than they would otherwise.  Especially given the dearth of shortstops out there.

 

It's a scarecrow to think "sell high" means you're going to get Alex Meyer or something for him.  No one is saying that.  You might, however, find an interesting young OF for him so you can slide Santana where he needs to be.

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Nick Nelson
Aug 20 2014 09:09 AM

It's a scarecrow to think "sell high" means you're going to get Alex Meyer or something for him.  No one is saying that.  You might, however, find an interesting young OF for him so you can slide Santana where he needs to be.

 

See, to me, that's not worth it. The Twins have outfielders in the minors, and can find a guy like Sam Fuld in FA if needed. I value a guy who can capably play all over the infield -- and also hit a little -- more so than what they'd likely get back. When you finally have a modicum of depth at a position for the first time in like a decade, you don't just immediately trade one away.

    • WLFINN likes this
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TheLeviathan
Aug 20 2014 09:21 AM

See, to me, that's not worth it. The Twins have outfielders in the minors, and can find a guy like Sam Fuld in FA if needed. I value a guy who can capably play all over the infield -- and also hit a little -- more so than what they'd likely get back. When you finally have a modicum of depth at a position for the first time in like a decade, you don't just immediately trade one away.

 

Except this is based on the premise that 2014 Escobar will be 2015 Escobar and I have serious doubts about that.

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Brock Beauchamp
Aug 20 2014 09:31 AM

Except this is based on the premise that 2014 Escobar will be 2015 Escobar and I have serious doubts about that.

 

As would any other GM, which drops his trade value to the point that it's not worth moving him.

 

If Escobar repeats his 2014 and the Twins cement Santana at short, then maybe it makes sense to move him. Right now, it's taking a pretty big risk to trade the guy and rely solely on Santana going forward.

    • Steve Lein and stringer bell like this
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TheLeviathan
Aug 20 2014 09:37 AM

As would any other GM, which drops his trade value to the point that it's not worth moving him.

 

If Escobar repeats his 2014 and the Twins cement Santana at short, then maybe it makes sense to move him. Right now, it's taking a pretty big risk to trade the guy and rely solely on Santana going forward.

 

Possibly, that's the risk in buying high, but teams do this.  The Twins should shop him before he goes pumpkin and see if there are any takers.

 

The team needs to find plan Bs, but if you can take one of your Plan Bs and turn it into a Plan A - it's worth exploring.

    • birdwatcher likes this
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DAM DC Twins Fans
Aug 20 2014 09:49 AM

I take a different approach.I leave Santana in CF--lots of CF played SS in the minors starting with the Mick.Lets face it, Buxton wont be here until Sept. 2015 at the earliest--2014 was a lost season for him.Put Danny in CF next year and see if he repeats this year.Keep Escobar at SS.

Interesting conundrum. Maybe Santana is where he needs to be right now. An outfield with Buxton and Santana is certainly intriguing. Or Santana is also at a high value right now (think Casilla after his great stretch before injury in 2008) and maybe could get a top pitching prospect. I don't think anyone is suggesting trade Escobar for utility player value but if they get an offer commiserate with a top 10 shortstop they should consider it It is not so far fetched. There are currently only 7 qualifying shortstops with an OPS over .700. Think of how many years the Twins were looking for just this kind of guy. If they don't get a high offer then the whole point is moot. You can't sell high if no one is willing to buy high.
    • USAFChief likes this
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Brock Beauchamp
Aug 20 2014 10:01 AM

I take a different approach.I leave Santana in CF--lots of CF played SS in the minors starting with the Mick.Lets face it, Buxton wont be here until Sept. 2015 at the earliest--2014 was a lost season for him.Put Danny in CF next year and see if he repeats this year.Keep Escobar at SS.

 

At some point, Hicks is going to need to get another shot at MLB. Personally, I'd like to see Santana start making the transition back to short as soon as possible because he's not going to stay in center. One or all of Hicks, Rosario, and Buxton are better suited to the position.

But there's also a reason that Hicks is playing all 3 outfield positions now. There were always questions about Santana's Defense at SS. Escobar is terrific at shortstop with the glove. I just assume he isn't going to hit like he has this year going forward, but there's no way I'd trade him at this point. There wouldn't be enough upside in whoever they would get for him to make it worth it. 

 

I mentioned on the Twins Hangouts last night that I can't help but wonder if not only the Twins but the other organizations still see Escobar as "just" a utility infielder. Fair or not. He made it to the big leagues at at 21 as a utility guy. Who would do that if they saw him as a real prospect (the White Sox, I guess)? I wonder if that's the industry's standard belief.

 

The Twins do, and rightfully should, value utility guys. We've seen the value of that position for the last 25 years. Having a guy that can play all three spots in the infield is huge, and now I think he can be an adequate starting SS too. 

    • DocBauer likes this
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TheLeviathan
Aug 20 2014 10:27 AM

People keep pointing out the problem with "sell high" is that  no other teams will want him because he's a likely regression candidate...but then they argue he's a really valuable guy to keep around because of his production in future seasons.

 

I'm a bit confused how we want to have it both ways.

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Nick Nelson
Aug 20 2014 10:42 AM

People keep pointing out the problem with "sell high" is that  no other teams will want him because he's a likely regression candidate...but then they argue he's a really valuable guy to keep around because of his production in future seasons.

 

I'm a bit confused how we want to have it both ways.

We see value in having him around as a solid utility guy and depth option. That's probably how other teams see him, rather than as a starting SS. What is anyone really going to give up for that? Not enough to make it worthwhile, IMO. That's my hold-up.

    • Steve Lein likes this
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TheLeviathan
Aug 20 2014 10:44 AM

We see value in having him around as a solid utility guy and depth option. That's probably how other teams see him, rather than as a starting SS. What is anyone really going to give up for that? Not enough to make it worthwhile, IMO. That's my hold-up.

 

They might not....and if they don't you don't move him.  I'm simply endorsing that we shop him because it would make sense from a value standpoint and for getting Santana back to where he needs to be playing.

    • birdwatcher likes this

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