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Other Baseball Today, 01:18 PM
So I just picked up OOTP 21 on the Steam Summer Sale, and I played my first game.   It was a 21 inning game.I played it pitch by pit...
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Twins remove Calvin Griffith statue

Minnesota Twins Talk Today, 01:30 PM
because TEAR EVERYTHING DOWN!
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LG Twins Thread

Other Baseball Today, 12:41 PM
Baseball is coming back to ESPN. Tonight. Come tomorrow, there will be Twins baseball. Live and on the air. Since we are all, by some tra...
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Cleveland MLB team reportedly considering name change

Other Baseball Today, 12:18 PM
This is an AP article I lifted from the StarTribune web site.   https://www.startrib...sure/571623572/
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Watch the Live Play-by-Play of the Virtual Twins Playoffs

Minnesota Twins Talk Today, 10:56 AM
With the real Twins around the corner, I have elected to sim to the playoffs to try and tease how the real club will do this fall, and as...
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Recent Blogs


Embracing Substance Over Style

I’ve been married to The Voice of Reason™ for nearly 25 years, and I can say with confidence that I’ve never called her “solid.” Because she’s from Philly. And I like my teeth. Wisely, I choose a lot prettier adjectives, but I have to tell you, it’s the substance beneath that veneer that has sustained 21 years of marriage.

(And here’s the point in the story where I compare my betrothed to Eduardo Escobar. Hmm. That’s going to cost me a bicuspid. Can we keep the rest of this story between ourselves? We all agree? Ok, let’s go on.)
Image courtesy of Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports
Watching Eduardo Escobar play shortstop on Friday afternoon, it’s understandable why he does not excite a lot of people. He isn’t smooth. He is not stylish. You catch yourself holding your breath watching him …

(I’m having coming up with a verb here. He doesn’t race. Stumble is too harsh. Let’s go with hustle, as it conveys both the cynical and positive connotations.)

You catch yourself holding your breath watching him hustle towards the hole, field the ball, pivot and make the throw to first base. He looks like he is laboring. He does not inspire confidence.

But he made the plays. Asked about Escobar’s defense after Friday’s game, manager Paul Molitor portrayed it as “solid.” “He made all the plays,” reflected Molitor. “That’s typical of what we expect out of him because he’s going to do that.”

It’s expected because he made damn near all the plays last year, too. You might be surprised to hear that Eduardo Escobar’s shortstop UZR last year was +2.1 which means he saved approximately two runs more than the average shortstop over the 771 innings he played.

Don’t trust the defensive metrics? Let’s do some old school scouting instead. Inside Edge counted 252 ground balls to Escobar last year that were “routine” meaning they are turned into outs 90-100% of the time. Escobar turned all but 6 into outs, or 97.6%. As you might expect, he was not as solid for the plays which are less routine, making a handful fewer outs than one might expect in those cases. Again, not flashy, but solid.

His bat, on the other hand, has been eye-catching, especially this spring. He knocked in his 11th RBI on Saturday to lend further credence to the .721 OPS he put up last year over 465 plate appearances. You would think posting an OPS equivalent to Jose Reyes and Jimmy Rollins, while playing solid defense would cement a 26-year-old’s spot in the lineup.

You would be wrong, because Escobar is being crowded out of an everyday spot in the lineup so Danny Santana, who filled in as a center fielder last year, can have his turn at shortstop. What isn’t as clear is why that is happening. Why not keep Santana in center field?

The obvious reason is that Santana’s future is likely at shortstop, and so why not start that future that right now? But that raises the question: why not start that future last year? The easy answer is that center field was a disaster last year – but it doesn’t looks like a lot has changed. Just like last year, the Twins are throwing a lot of players at the problem in hope that one of them sticks.

The other question it raises is: why not start that future, you know, in the future? By then, maybe Aaron Hicks has a track record in AAA that inspires some confidence. Maybe Byron Buxton is ready to take over center field for the next decade. Maybe Escobar has established himself as an everyday shortstop in the eyes of the league and becomes a much more valuable asset in a trade.

Or, maybe, Escobar flames out. His doubters can point to last year’s 93 strikeouts (versus just 24 walks) as evidence that his success is far from assured, or that he’s ill-suited for the adjustment pitchers are likely to make this year. But that still is a solution, only now Hicks and Buxton (or Eddie Rosario?) have had more time to establish themselves in center field.

In short, the Twins seem to be embracing a solution in search of a problem - except that the problem is fairly obvious. It hasn’t moved; it is where it was last year, in center field, not at shortstop. Escobar’s results should rank higher than whatever potential the Twins still see in their center field candidates. He may not be as stunningly beautiful as my lovely wife, but he’s dependable. Shouldn't that be the priority?

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41 Comments

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Willihammer
Mar 22 2015 09:19 PM
The really strange thing is that while Santana has not logged any innings in the OF this spring (correct me if I'm wrong), but Escobar and Nunez have

Also, Santana has a ton of doubters with some basis given his BABIP last year.  Personally, I think they both pass the eye test as major league hitters, they swing hard, and are not intimidated which are signs that they see the ball well.  Not only is it possible that Boxton or Rosario will be up this summer, it is also possible that Polanco (who is starting to fill out and look like a serious player with HR ability) could be up NEXT summer.  We're not good enough to keep one of better players on the bench in favor of one of our worst.

    • glunn and scottz like this
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Nick Nelson
Mar 22 2015 10:22 PM

 

The really strange thing is that while Santana has not logged any innings in the OF this spring (correct me if I'm wrong), but Escobar and Nunez have

I don't think it's that strange. The latter two are being groomed as utility men. Santana will be the everyday SS. 

 

Santana was considered a raw defensive shortstop coming up through the minors. He's still in the prime of his development at age 24. He needs to play there to get better, and that I think is the biggest reason that CF should not be an option, even if he might be their best option there in the short-term. 

    • ashbury, USAFChief, glunn and 7 others like this

"He may not be as stunningly beautiful as my lovely wife, but he’s dependable."

 

Well played, sir.

    • glunn and Dantes929 like this

Yup, I agree with Nick. The reason that the Twins are going to start Santana at SS this year, but didn't last year has little to do with how solid we are at CF (John's right, there isn't much difference to last year). It has to do with who are manager is/was, and whether that manager was interested in winning as many games in the short run versus building for the long run.That being said, while we need to figure out if Santana can be a SS, we also need to find at bats for Escobar because we need to find out if last year was a fluke. With Polanco, Escobar, and Santana all capable of potentially playing a couple of positions and hitting well in the next few years, we need to figure out who is going to be our starting SS, who is going to be a solid utility player, and who is (realistically) going to be traded. Sorry, but that may require tinkering, and not always having the bat in the lineup on a given day that is likely to do the most damage that day. But this is the time to figure that out.

    • glunn, birdwatcher and Platoon like this
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stringer bell
Mar 23 2015 05:47 AM
Another well-written piece, John. I share your mixed feelings about SS/CF.
    • dbminn likes this
The Twins had several "dependable" players last year. In no order of import, or with intent to demean, they had a dependable catcher, 2B, 3B, SS, 1B, and closer. And if one argues that Santana should stay in CF, you can add that position also. Dependably, they also lost 90+ games again! I am sure they are looking at Santana as having more upside than Escobar. Plus leaving Santana in CF is really a short term solution, with no upside. While I am definitely not a fan of the current pitching staff, they have suffered for several years from a lack of range in both the infield and outfield. If they hit, you can live with a young Arcia in one OF corner, and say a somewhat statuesque Plouffe on an IF corner, but you then have to make up for it in range at the postitions next to them. And I don't think "range" is a term often associated with the current defense.

The really strange thing is that while Santana has not logged any innings in the OF this spring (correct me if I'm wrong), but Escobar and Nunez have


According to B-Ref, Escobar has not appeared in the outfield either this spring. Just Nunez among infielders (and only once so far).

Two issues:

 

Platoon, the problem is not the Twins players who are dependable, it is those who are not. We were three starting pitchers short of a dependable rotation and two or three outfielders short of a dependable defense. That is why the Twins lost 90 games last year.

 

The bigger concern for me is Ryan's vision of the team: Does he see a competitive team this year or one that is building for the near future?

 

Moving Danny Santana to short looks to the future. Not acquiring a solid defensive centerfielder seems to be part of a long-term plan. Signing Ervin Santana, Duensing and Stauffer looks like a short-term program.

 

PS - I actually view the one-year Hunter contract as part of the long-term plan because he can mentor two outfielders that don't play consistent defense and do not have enough quality at-bats. (Obviously, Arcia is farther along than Hicks but he still gives away too many swings, especially against quality pitching). Unlike Santana and Nolasco, Hunter will be done by the time the prospects are ready.

    • birdwatcher likes this
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Willihammer
Mar 23 2015 07:33 AM

I don't think it's that strange. The latter two are being groomed as utility men. Santana will be the everyday SS. 
 
Santana was considered a raw defensive shortstop coming up through the minors. He's still in the prime of his development at age 24. He needs to play there to get better, and that I think is the biggest reason that CF should not be an option, even if he might be their best option there in the short-term.


Escobar is only 2 years older and to John's point, why should he be a utility man and not the everyday SS simply because Santana is also a SS? The hole is still CF and Santana patched it up perfectly fine last year.
    • Kevin and Dantes929 like this

Cannot develop someone in the majors if you expect to win.Escobar can hold SS warm for Polanco.Santana is probably at the peak of his perceived value.The solution is easy: trade high.

 

 

    • Dantes929 and Jham like this
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Brock Beauchamp
Mar 23 2015 08:00 AM

If Santana posts an OPS over .700 this year and does it at SS, his value is higher in eight months than it is today. He doesn't need to blow .700 out of the water... a .710 OPS will attract buyers.

 

If you can see a "sell high" candidate, so can the 29 other general managers in baseball. Nobody is going to loot the farm for Danny Santana right now for the same reason that Twins fans want to trade him.

 

That's not "sell high". That's just "sell".

    • birdwatcher, Danchat, Tibs and 2 others like this

 

Cannot develop someone in the majors if you expect to win.Escobar can hold SS warm for Polanco.Santana is probably at the peak of his perceived value.The solution is easy: trade high.

Of course Escobar may be at his peak of perceived value as well. If we can get a trade that equals the value these two guys put up last year then great.  I doubt that will happen and while I was very skeptical about Escobar and pigeon holed him as a utility player right away I am not sure that was fair.I like having both in the lineup and liked Polanco as well. Why not make Santana an outfielder and be done with it. Fantastic speed and if Arcia or Vargas are not who we hope for then an outfield of Rosario, Buxton and Santana would be really exciting.

I've asked this a couple of times on twitter, and now I'd invite Twins Daily readers to do some research, if you want...

 

Has any 25-year-old shortstop ever posted a .275/.315/.406 (.721) with 35 doubles and 6 homers and played average or slightly better than average shortstop defense one year and not been handed the starting shortstop job by his team the following season?

 

I feel bad for Escobar. Someone in the Twins clubhouse one day I was in there called it "The Power of the Label." Escobar has always been seen by people in the industry as a utility guy, and maybe that's what he is, but even after a strong season last year in nearly every day play, The Label still wins. 

    • scottz, Danchat, Monkeypaws and 4 others like this

How many prospects have we waited for in the last decade.  Prospects are prospects and that is all they should be labeled as in my opinion.  We finally get a guy up last year (Santana) that can really play and produce and now we talk about trading him so we can wait for another prospect.  No way.  If it works, you better stick with it until these "prospects" become players and push these professionals out.  We've got a bird in the hand and about nine in the bush, take what we've got in the hand.

When I read the title of this I thought it was a Span versus Revere discussion :-)

I could never figure out why Santana was in CF last year.  It was another Gardy gaffe.  He should've been playing SS every day last year to determine if we have our SS of the future.  I love his arm at SS, and hope he sticks, but had Gardy played him at SS, we'd have a much better idea of the future today!

IMHO, Escobar is an nice player, and I think he has great value as the utility player, and he's good at it!  But I can't help but think he falls into the category that TK was quoted on others; "He's a nice player, but you put him in the lineup every day, and he'll play his way right out of the majors."  

    • nytwinsfan likes this
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PeanutsFromHeaven
Mar 23 2015 09:22 AM

I never would have considered the Twins infield depth situation as a metaphor for marriage, but this is excellent.

 

I may or may not complement my wife's Dozier-esque hair, provided she doesn't critique my Mauer-y handling of the dishes.

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Willihammer
Mar 23 2015 09:22 AM

I could never figure out why Santana was in CF last year.  It was another Gardy gaffe.  He should've been playing SS every day last year to determine if we have our SS of the future.  I love his arm at SS, and hope he sticks, but had Gardy played him at SS, we'd have a much better idea of the future today!


This is unfair for two reasons - the FO put all their eggs in the Hicks basket, Gardy didn't. Secondly, we learned that Santana could play CF reasonably well and that Escobar could handle the SS job. It was not the lost season as its been made out to be.

 

 

 

 

    • Dantes929, stringer bell and Oldgoat_MN like this
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birdwatcher
Mar 23 2015 09:30 AM

 

Cannot develop someone in the majors if you expect to win.Escobar can hold SS warm for Polanco.Santana is probably at the peak of his perceived value.The solution is easy: trade high.

The Twins couldn't appear to disagree with you more about Santana's ceiling, thrylos. I believe we've heard more accolades for Santana from the team's field people than we did for Plouffe or Dozier at the same stage, and in the case of both of those players, their value has inflated dramatically since they got to Target Field.

 

If Santana works out like Dozier and Plouffe have, I'm not going to quibble that we might have to trade Escobar for less than his optimal value to make room for someone like Polanco. And if Danny doesn't turn into much of a player, at least they have options. It was only a couple years ago that we had countless comments here about how the Twins were inherently bad at developing middle infielders, and now we know that was a false perception.

    • stringer bell likes this

Escobar's competence at multiple positions is working against him at this point, and that doesn't really seem fair.Baseball is always a numbers game, though, as you only get 25 roster spots and someone is going to suffer the consequences, right now it's Escobar.I wish I could see a good way to get him in the lineup 4-5 times a week that didn't mean sitting down one of Plouffe, Dozier, or Santana frequently since those guys all earned the playing time as well. 

 

 Why not make Santana an outfielder and be done with it. Fantastic speed and if Arcia or Vargas are not who we hope for then an outfield of Rosario, Buxton and Santana would be really exciting.

 

Right on.

While we're at it, let's return Hicks to pitching.

    • birdwatcher likes this

I do think that the Twins should trade Danny Santana. Given that it won't happen, I still like the idea of giving real days off to Dozier and Plouffe. They need more rest. Escobar can play 3 days a week as a starter or maybe 2 days. He is a great bench asset.

 

I do think that the Twins should trade Danny Santana. Given that it won't happen, I still like the idea of giving real days off to Dozier and Plouffe. They need more rest. Escobar can play 3 days a week as a starter or maybe 2 days. He is a great bench asset.

If Escobar can continue to perform how he did last season, I agree.  He can play two or three times a week and fill in at 3 spots.


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