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Report From The Fort: Escobar's Opportunity

FORT MYERS: On Sunday, the news broke that the Minnesota Twins starting shortstop Jorge Polanco had been suspended for the first 80 games of the season. After the initial shock, the questions turned to who would become the team’s primary shortstop. Would Ehire Adrianza get the opportunity? Could Erick Aybar be a factor? Or would manager Paul Molitor turn to old reliable Eduardo Escobar? On Wednesday, we got that answer, or at least we know who is going to be given the first shot.

Of course, pending a decision from MLB on the Miguel Sano situation, it is all subject to change again.
Image courtesy of Seth Stohs, Twins Daily
On Wednesday night at Hammond Stadium, the Twins played against the Pittsburgh Pirates. Before the game, manager Paul Molitor talked to the assembled media.Earlier in the day, Polanco had spoken to his teammates and apologized to them for getting suspended. Moliitor said, “I don’t think I should be trying to even try to talk about something that personal would be appropriate.”

Polanco can’t play in major league games, but they will be checking to see when he can start playing in minor league games.

So the question turned to his shortstop position. Molitor said, “Esco’s going to get the chance to hopefully get. He’s going to get from now on the majority of the time. We don’t have a ton of games left. We’ll mix it up a little bit. He’s not going to be in all the games. We have to get Ehire in there too.

Molitor believes in Escobar. He’s been able to come through when needed in the past, and he hopefully will again. “It’s definitely helpful when something like this occurs and you can plug somebody in who is accustomed to playing significant roles in previous go-rounds, including last year where he not only filled in at third base for Miggy, but put him in some big slots in the lineup, and he was productive. He’s one of those guys who always says whenever you need me I’m going to be ready, and I need him.

Escobar started at shortstop for the Twins on Wednesday night, and when his outing was complete, he said that it meant a lot to have the manager’s confidence in him. He also feels that he’s earned the opportunities he’s been given because of his work ethic.

“I come in every day and work hard. All positions; third base, second base, shortstop. For me, I’ll be ready Any time he puts me in the lineup, I love it. I love to play the game. I love to hit. I just play and Molitor has given me a lot of opportunities. I work hard all the time and when I get the opportunities again, I’ll be ready.”

While we know that the advanced defensive metrics don’t grade out well for Escobar at shortstop, mostly due to some lack of range, Escobar has typically been reliable with the plays that he can get to.

Molitor noted, “We’ve seen him play it a lot over the last three or four years. He’s a steady defender. He’s an accurate thrower. My confidence is solid. He and Jorge are different in how they move and how they play, but more than one model works, so to speak.”

Ehire Adrianza, a very solid defender at shortstop, will fill Escobar’s role as the team’s top utility infielder. Then again, Derek Falvey said that they are still expecting to hear from MLB regarding a possible season-starting suspension for Miguel Sano which may alter this thinking. That decision will again impact that roster and the potential Opening Day roster and lineup.



ERICK AYBAR DECISION COMING SOON

A decision is also looming later this week on Erick Aybar. If he’s still on the roster after noon on Friday, he will receive a retention bonus of $100,000 because of his status as a XX-B player (basically a player with over six years of MLB service time who signed a minor league contract). He also has an opt-out in his contract, believed to be March 27th (next Tuesday).

As noted earlier in the week, Derek Falvey said that he only learned about Polanco’s suspension on Sunday morning so it was coincidental that the team signed Aybar to a minor league contract just less than a month ago. Falvey said that there were several reasons for signing Aybar including potential versatility.

“We talked to Torii Hunter at one point around... one thing we’ve said all along is that we’re looking for leadership in guys, guys that can impact our younger guys. That goes back to last year on some of the guys we acquired. That goes to Addison Reed and Zack Duke and other guys. We had heard that Erick Aybar was somebody who could be a great leader around some of our young Latin players.”

In his 12 year major league career, Erick Aybar has played a total of 1,337 games at shortstop, 55 games at second base, and 13 games at third base.

Aybar has played around the infield throughout spring training including time at third base on Wednesday night.

Molitor said, “”When he came into camp, we knew he would have to play around to see where he was at as far as being flexible on defense. He’s been open about it. Obviously he’s played a lot more short than anything else. He’s fine. I thought he made a nice play on a ball he knocked down and recovered tonight.”

While Molitor admitted that it’s been tougher to get him playing time of later with starters getting more work, it appears that he and the front office are comfortable with what they’ve learned about Aybar this spring. “We’ve got a good idea, not only what we’ve seen but who he is and what he’s done. We’ll see how it all comes together.”

Again, this situation does remain fluid pending an MLB decision on a potential Miguel Sano suspension. If nothing changes, it does appear that Sano would play third base with Escobar getting most of the shortstop innings. The Twins are prepared with contingency plans for the Sano situation. One would have to think that a suspension could move Escobar back over to third base with Ehire Adrianza moving in as the starting shortstop.


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11 Comments

I thought maybe they'd give Adrianza a look and keep Escobar at utility, but I was wrong.  I'm glad for Escobar, he's practically my favorite overall guy on the team.  

    • tarheeltwinsfan, SF Twins Fan and rdehring like this
The article could have been shortened to "Molitor believes in Escobar". There was a lot of speculation that Andrianza had a shot at SS, including mine. But that was sort of wishful thinking. Minus a Sano suspension EE was always the guy. Molitor has always gotten him playing time. And in all honesty Escobar is a nice and reliable bench piece, and no doubt a great teammate. And while he has always hit in spurts, a MLB level SS, he is not. That said, with the above factors added to Molitors proclivity for offense over defense, this decision was a forgone conclusion.
Photo
diehardtwinsfan
Mar 22 2018 06:36 AM

Escobar has shown on enough occasions that he has the potential to be a well above average bat at SS behind average at best defense at SS. He's probably not signed through his arb years b/c he knows it, and that's a starting job on a lot of teams. Injury seems to be the thing that has derailed him, because by now I suspect he'd be an entrenched starter otherwise. The question at hand is whether his injuries are durability related or just bad luck.

 

I'm perfectly fine letting him have the next 80 games. If Sano gets suspended, I'd roll with a Gordon mini-test for the duration of that suspension letting Adrianza do what he does best (late inning defensive sub/spot starter).

 

I think letting Adrianza start 80 games would not be wise. The defense would be good... the bat not so much, and I don't think his defensive chops would out weigh his offensive deficiency. 

I think what we are hearing is that Aybar will be on this team, filling the 40-man spot that opened when Polanco was suspended.Is that spot now open?Or doesn't it open until the season starts?

No to Aybar, would rather carry a 5th outfielder if Sano is not suspended.If Sano is suspended would rather have the Twins give Gordon a 15 - 30 game shot as a learning experience.Do not waste time on an over the hill player.  

Maybe Aybar would take the money and a minor league assignment for the Twins.That would be ideal if Gordon proves early on to not be ready.Depending on temperament I feel it would be in the Twins interest to let people play up and see if they can improve on the fly. 

I know that type of challenge worked for me in a couple of different places, why not give it a try.

    • Twins33, mikelink45 and HrbekRules like this

Keep the young players coming.Keep giving youth a chance - we brag about our prospects - start turning them in to players.Small chances are big growing experiences and very important in the long term.  

    • beckmt likes this
Well we do have a flyball staff for the most part, so im good with Escobars D at SS for now.

Escobar's career UZR/150 at SS is +0.3 and was +3.5 last year. Aside from a poor 2016, Escobar has never been a below average shortstop in 5 other seasons.

 

His RF/9 has also traditionally graded out as average to better than league average at SS.

I really thought the team would have learned what Sano's fate is by now. MLB is taking a snail's pace on this.

 

I really thought the team would have learned what Sano's fate is by now. MLB is taking a snail's pace on this.

 

Manfred is probably mostly worried about his own appearance ... Between Chief Wahoo and Twittergate, he might make his way to the stage at the next DNC.

Adrianza at SS and Escobar at 3rd doesn't bother me if it is short term.That configuration will deliver great defense and save some runs.Logan Morrison at DH looms large.

 


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