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What To Make Of The Twins Utility Scenario

Posted by Ted Schwerzler , 16 February 2017 · 1,104 views

Going into the 2017 Major League Baseball season, it stands to reason that the Minnesota Twins will more than likely employ a similar 25 man roster construction. That means there'd be places for 12 pitchers and 13 position players. Given in are in the starting lineup, the four vying to fill out the bench provide some questions for Paul Molitor and his club.

Two of those bench spots are immediately claimed by the backup catcher (see Mitch Garver, John Ryan Murphy, or Chris Gimenez) and a fourth outfielder (Robbie Grossman or Eddie Rosario). With just two openings left, the Twins need to incorporate a defensive focus, some sort of base running threat, and realistically cannot ignore offensive production completely. Utility men would be great fits for either of those spots, but unfortunately for Minnesota, they have three players in the mix.

Danny Santana probably comes to mind first. He burst onto the scene thanks in large part to a mirage of a rookie season. His BABIP created unrealistic watermarks, and his career has spiraled since. Although he's played the most positions of the possible options, he occupies no ground on the field while being a positive defensive asset. I took a deeper dive into what Santana brings to the table in this piece, but right now he has to be the odd man out. Although Minnesota obviously appreciates his flexibility, it stands to reason his level of asset is simply the lowest.

That brings us to Eduardo Escobar. From 2014-2015, Escobar played in 260 games for the Twins owning a .737 OPS at the dish. While his OBP (.312) left something to be desired, he showed a little pop with his 18 homers, and was of value offensively. In the field, Escobar spent the majority of his time at shortstop, and went from -6 DRS in 2014 to +2 DRS in 2015. He's never completely sold us on the part that he's an every day player, but as a utility man that profiles at short and can play two other infield spots, it looked to make sense.

Last season however, Escobar through a wrench into his future with what was a significant step backwards. His OPS plummeted to a paltry .618, and he totaled -7 DRS in 579 innings at short. No longer a defensive or offensive asset, Escobar had simply become a below replacement level player. On a new arbitration contract with the Twins this season though, it appears the club is banking on that being an outlier, and it's probably a decent bet.

Rounding out the trio is the recently acquired Ehire Adrianza. Coming over from the San Francisco Giants (and briefly, the Milwaukee Brewers), Adrianza is virtually all glove. Despite the small sample size, he's regarded in the Andrelton Simmons level of leather at shortstop, and that's something that the Twins simply don't have anywhere on their roster. Given the likelihood that Jorge Polanco struggles defensively, Adrianza would stand to look otherworldly in the field.

With the bat, Adrianza owns just a .605 career OPS and is coming off his best season in which he totaled a .679 OPS in 40 games with the Giants. He has just 17 extra base hits in 154 big league games, and gap power is something that will likely always elude him. Down at Triple-A though, Adrianza has compiled an .822 OPS in just over 100 games being virtually the same singles hitter. He has speed, although he doesn't typically steal a ton of bases, and that can probably play on both sides of the ball.

For Molitor and the Twins, the decision likely comes down to whether or not they can handle a glove only bench player. Escobar, despite his poor 2016, should be a lock, and that leaves it a competition between Santana and Adrianza. The former can stand at multiple positions but play none, while the latter plays infield spectacularly but can't hit a lick.

As noted above, with question marks already surrounding Polanco's ability to cope at short, Adrianza seems like an ideal fit. Minnesota was beaten badly around the ballyard a season ago in large part due to poor defense. Having such an asset ready and waiting off the bench seems to make a lot of sense. Expect this to be sorted out as Spring Training draws on down in Fort Myers.

For more from Off The Baggy, click here. Follow @tlschwerz

  • jwiederin likes this

Well....Santana can't really hit a lick either.
Ted Schwerzler
Feb 16 2017 10:57 AM

Well....Santana can't really hit a lick either.

Nope, no he can't. I beat that horse dead in the linked piece though haha.
Feb 16 2017 04:13 PM

I have Adrianza on my tentative 25-man roster. I'm looking forward to seeing him field. 


Here is a link to Adrianza's highlights as a SF Giant:

Feb 17 2017 08:52 AM
Escobar had a bad year. Injuries played a part. I wouldn't forecast the next year based on a single season for any player. I think it is reasonable that he can post an OPS of .700 while being average defensively at SS. That isn't exciting but he was better than that in 14 and 15. If he is at that level, he is a very valuable bench player.
Ted Schwerzler
Feb 17 2017 08:54 AM

Escobar had a bad year. Injuries played a part. I wouldn't forecast the next year based on a single season for any player. I think it is reasonable that he can post an OPS of .700 while being average defensively at SS. That isn't exciting but he was better than that in 14 and 15. If he is at that level, he is a very valuable bench player.

Not sure if I led you in the wrong direction or not, but the point us Adrianza and Escobar take the utility spots.
Feb 17 2017 09:41 AM

I have made this argument in other places as I think thatgiven an everyday opportunity Adrianza would have a decent shot at hitting 250. That with his superior glove should put him as the starter at short. Given the hopeful new commitment to better pitching and defense this would seem to make all the sense in the world. SS is arguablythe most important defensive position on the field. Polanco is not the answer there.


Polanco has the ability toplay SS, 2nd and 3rd so why not make himthe utility guy. Hit it tool is good but it is not like he has the impact bat thatcan't be in the lineup. Likely long-term should be at 2B but not an opening there ... at least not yet.


If we are committed to helping our pitching out this is the most logical situation. Otherwise all the banter about improving the defense is just lip service.

I would argue that Grossman is a lock. The Twins will probably go with three bench guys and keep a longman/starter (May, Haley, Hughes).


Escobar can also play the outfield. But Santana is out of options. The catching situation is a mess. 


And who won't the Twins keep (Santana, Grossman) if they need to add anyone to the 40-man.


Did you know that back in the 60s roster out of spring training were at 28 until May 15th. The most notable casuality of all of this was Chuck Schilling, who came to the Twins from the Red Sox in the Dick Stigman trade. He sat on the bench for all that time with NO playing time and then was sent to the minors and chose to retire instead.

    • Deduno Abides likes this
Ted Schwerzler
Feb 17 2017 12:02 PM
I can't see any way the Twins only go with 3 bench players and Escobar's OF days should be long gone.
    • Platoon likes this
Feb 17 2017 03:11 PM


I can't see any way the Twins only go with 3 bench players and Escobar's OF days should be long gone.


The DH has made the bench different from the old days and a reluctance to bring in the second catcher means we only have three bench players.  So one is OF, one is IF and the third has to have a special quality, probably a bat, but could also be legs.  Molitor has to look at the teams strengths and how he will rest players and handle the later innings.  I do believe that in the age of relievers a larger roster is in order. 

Deduno Abides
Feb 19 2017 07:59 PM
Pickler was a pro scout for the Dodgers. Did he have any insight as to A-Ray's skills?