• Top Stories for 2013: What to expect from the middle infield

    The Twins have long credited themselves with being able to throw strikes and then catch the ball. Itís well known that it is very important to be strong up the middle. In 2012, the Twins middle infield was a mess which didnít help a pitching staff that was already behind the eight ball.

    The Twins addressed their middle infield deficiencies by, well, non-tendering Alexi Casilla. It appears that the Twins are counting on major improvements from the other guys that were there a year ago. Pedro Florimon will begin the season at shortstop. Brian Dozier played 83 games at shortstop last year, but he will move over to second base to start the season. Jamey Carroll is capable of starting at all three infield positions, but he will likely be the backup at all three. Eduardo Escobar will also be a utility infielder, as well as the emergency catcher.

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    Worst Case Scenario


    Itís hard to imagine that both middle infield positions will be any worse than they were last year. Consider the following:


    • In 2012, the Twins shortstops were 29th in baseball with a .580 OPS (.226/.277/.303).
    • In 2012, the Twins shortstops were 21st in baseball with a .969 fielding percentage (with 25 errors)
    • In 2012, the Twins second basemen were 28th in baseball with a .604 OPS (.245/.296/.308).
    • In 2012, the Twins second basemen were 24th in baseball with a .979 fielding percentage.


    It is entirely possible that Pedro Florimon canít replicate the .579 OPS that he had in 43 games with the Twins in 2012. Last year between New Britain and Rochester, he posted a .670 OPS, but he struckout 117 times while walking just 34. With the Twins, he struckout another 30 times with ten walks. Itís possible that he struggles enough to be let go in June or July. Eduardo Escobar could take over at shortstop.

    After being the Twins minor league hitter of the year in 2011, Brian Dozier really struggled in his debut with the Twins in 2012. He posted just a .603 OPS. He posted an uncharacteristic 16 to 58 walk to strikeout rate. He even struggled in the field. Although heís been impressive at second base with the glove so far this spring and he has some playing time at the position in the past, it is a relatively new position for him.

    Jamey Carroll will likely get a lot of playing time regardless of how well Florimon and Dozier do. If he gets 401 plate appearances during the season, his 2014 option will vest, although it will be at just $2 million. Carroll got off to a slow start last year with his batting average. He turned 39 years old last month. At Twins Fest, he acknowledged that his goal is to play in the big leagues as a 40 year old. How much is left in the tank?
    If there are injuries, the likes of Ray Olmedo, Doug Bernier and Jason Christian are the middle infielders in Rochester. James Beresford will be in New Britain with Danny Santana.

    Best Case Scenario


    Much of the Best Case Scenario for the Twins middle infield will come from its defense. Pedro Florimon is known for his glove. He has great range and a very strong arm. If his performance can match the hype and he can play Gold Glove caliber defense a shortstop, there is a lot of value in that even if he posts an OPS below .650. Itís vital for a pitching staff that, aside from Glen Perkins, appears allergic to strikeouts.

    Likewise, all reports from Ft. Myers indicate that Dozier has taken to second base very well and very quickly. He has been making highlight reel plays on a regular basis. In 2011, he played 49 games in Ft. Myers, and as he turned 24, he was promoted to New Britain. Combined, he hit .320/.399/.491 (.890) with 33 doubles, 12 triples, nine homers, 92 runs scored, 56 RBI and 24 stolen bases in his second full minor league season. I donít think that an .890 OPS is very realistic for 2013 for Dozier, but he certainly can be much better than the .603 OPS that he posted in his big league debut.

    Jamey Carroll is so steady, offensively and defensively. He makes all the plays he gets to, and he takes quality at bats. His .660 OPS in 2012 was the lowest heís had since 2007 in Colorado. He was over .700 the last two years in Los Angeles.

    Eduardo Escobar was the late-inning defensive replacement for the White Sox throughout the 2012 season until he was dealt to the Twins. He will likely play a bigger role with the Twins in 2013.

    Signs to look for


    The biggest thing to look for, the most important thing, will be improved defense. Can Pedro Florimon make the routine plays consistently? Will Brian Dozier be able to smoothly make the move to second base?
    Florimon is not going to hit, but can he reduce the strikeouts a little bit? Also, how much offense will Twins fans want to see from Florimon to accept gold-glove caliber defense? How little offense will the manager require to keep him in the lineup if he is hitting ninth?

    As Parker wrote last month, will Brian Dozier be able to stay fundamentally sound with his approach at the plate. In the minors, he had very good plate discipline and walked nearly as often as he struckout. That will be an important number for Dozier. He will likely be batting second for the team, so it will be important for him to get on base and control the plate.

    And, it will be interesting to follow Jamey Carrollís Countdown to 401 plate appearances.

    A strong defensive middle infield is very important to a team, and specifically to a pitching staff. Defense should be a strong factor in determining who plays up the middle. But again, it is the same question that we often ask with Drew Butera. How much offense is required if a player is providing great value with the glove? Brian Dozier has a chance to be a solid hitter, and Jamey Carroll has proven to be just that over the last decade. Florimon and Escobar come with plenty of questions, and until (or if) Eddie Rosario is ready with his glove, there are lot any high-upside middle infield hitters.

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    This article was originally published in blog: Top Stories for 2013: What to expect from the middle infield started by Seth Stohs
    Comments 28 Comments
    1. tjsyam921's Avatar
      tjsyam921 -
      How much offense is required when a player is providing great value with the glove? I've always wondered.....How much defense is required when a player is providing great value with the bat? I haven't seen Rosario play but how good will his defense have to be to get his bat to the majors?
    1. Seth Stohs's Avatar
      Seth Stohs -
      That is the great, fair opposite question that is also fair to ask. Most Twins fans say that Drew Butera doesn't provide enough offense to make up for his lack of offense. But we rarely hear the opposite.
    1. fairweather's Avatar
      fairweather -
      "That is the great, fair opposite question that is also fair to ask. Most Twins fans say that Drew Butera doesn't provide enough offense to make up for his lack of offense. But we rarely hear the opposite."--Not since Delmon left anyway. Something tells me that any sort of extended slump at the plate for Willingham would bring back those same grumblings.
    1. fairweather's Avatar
      fairweather -
      I expect good things out of the Twins middle infield this season. I don't expect those things to happen until Florimon and Dozier are replaced by Escobar and Carroll. Am I the only one who thinks Florimon and Dozier aren't ready to be big league starters? I'll take consistency over potential up the middle.
    1. LoganJones's Avatar
      LoganJones -
      Wouldn't surprise me to see Carroll traded as part of a deal absorbing salary to take on a starter. Someone like Capuano, Lilly or someone from another team that is on the last year of a pricey deal.
    1. MNTwinsinCT's Avatar
      MNTwinsinCT -
      The thing to be seen if both Dozier and Florimon play well in the field will be if their bats can contribute and keep innings alive. Dozier has more upside offensively and would fit in nicely in the 2 hole giving some balance to the lineup with Hicks switch hitting and Willingham likely in the 4 hole. The Twins lineup, if healthy could be set up pretty well, especially if Parm can hit too out of the 7 or even 8 hole. I thought going into 2012 the lineup looked nice, and I feel the same way this season. The lineup should be good enough to make a splash...now for the starting pitching...
    1. stringer bell's Avatar
      stringer bell -
      Offensively, Florimon's track record looks substandard to the point that he can't be a regular player. However, he has a better chance at developing an acceptable hit tool than Jamie Carroll has of turning back the clock and also developing extra base pop. Of the four MIs mentioned here, I like Dozier the best. I was extremely impressed with his "D" in Florida, including doing a fine job of turning double plays. He has enough pop to turn on a few pitches and get several extra-base hits. I think he will be a regular until Rosario takes over. I have openly asked if Escobar has the speed and range to be a plus defender. In watching him a few games last year on TV and a few more in person in Florida, I can't tell. If his range is only average or adequate, his good glove and strong arm make him only an average middle infielder defensively and no one is expecting him to be a strong hitter.
    1. stringer bell's Avatar
      stringer bell -
      Quote Originally Posted by tjsyam921 View Post
      How much offense is required when a player is providing great value with the glove? I've always wondered.....How much defense is required when a player is providing great value with the bat? I haven't seen Rosario play but how good will his defense have to be to get his bat to the majors?
      Don't the Twins have the flip side of Drew Butera in the person of Ryan Doumit? IMHO, Doumit offers enough offense as an occasional catcher to make up for his shortcomings as a receiver.
    1. Halsey Hall's Avatar
      Halsey Hall -
      I feel what will be intersting is to see how Florimon and Dozier handle struggles. With young players so often the struggles in the box are taken onto the field and vice versa Probably every player playing has gone thru that. Hopefully both can develop very short memories and just play in the moment.

      As far as Carroll goes, I really enjoy watching him play the game. He knows it inside and out, and others can learn by watching him. He plays hard on every play. He'll get alot of playing time and I wouldn't be a bit surprised alot of it comes with Florimon and Dozier also on the field.
    1. old nurse's Avatar
      old nurse -
      Quote Originally Posted by tjsyam921 View Post
      How much offense is required when a player is providing great value with the glove? I've always wondered.....How much defense is required when a player is providing great value with the bat? I haven't seen Rosario play but how good will his defense have to be to get his bat to the majors?
      The components of WAR are fielding and hitting. You would have to find how each position counts the fielding. MI fielding counts more so I would think it would have to be quite a bit better hitting.
    1. cwzimmerman's Avatar
      cwzimmerman -
      Fingers crossed here. I fully expect that with the relative lack of quality MIs in the minor league system, Dozier and Florimon would have to almost horrific to be yanked from the lineup, and that's not to say that it can't or won't happen with either one. Of the two, I would imagine that Dozier will have a bit longer leash because there is at least some reason to believe he can provide a bit of offense to boot. Harder to say with Florimon vs. Escobar, as neither one is likely able to hit his way out of a wet paper bag for anything resembling a reasonable period of time.

      Kind of makes one long for the days of Christian Guzman and Luis Rivas.
    1. diehardtwinsfan's Avatar
      diehardtwinsfan -
      I think you could have summed up this article in two words: "Not much".

      I have hope for Dozier, but the rest of the guys listed there don't look like much more than backups.
    1. TheLeviathan's Avatar
      TheLeviathan -
      Quote Originally Posted by diehardtwinsfan View Post
      I think you could have summed up this article in two words: "Not much".

      I have hope for Dozier, but the rest of the guys listed there don't look like much more than backups.
      i was thinking they warranted the invention of a new word: "pudridity"
    1. ALessKosherScott's Avatar
      ALessKosherScott -
    1. Badsmerf's Avatar
      Badsmerf -
      The Twins are not trading Carroll for a starter... (I'm not going to verbally assault you because its against the rules, but you might deserve it for that). How that comment as gone unnoticed so far is beyond me.

      The only guy that deserves a starting spot out of all these guys is Dozier. Carroll is a legit back-up and has been his entire career. Basically, the MI is most likely going to be bad again.
    1. Seth Stohs's Avatar
      Seth Stohs -
      Quote Originally Posted by DJ Smith View Post
      I feel what will be intersting is to see how Florimon and Dozier handle struggles. With young players so often the struggles in the box are taken onto the field and vice versa Probably every player playing has gone thru that. Hopefully both can develop very short memories and just play in the moment.

      As far as Carroll goes, I really enjoy watching him play the game. He knows it inside and out, and others can learn by watching him. He plays hard on every play. He'll get alot of playing time and I wouldn't be a bit surprised alot of it comes with Florimon and Dozier also on the field.
      I'd say how anyone handles struggles tells a lot. Hicks will be the same, Parmelee, Plouffe. What makes Mauer so great is his ability to handle them so calmly, and then quickly.

      I enjoy watching Carroll too. I truly think that Dozier will take off this year. Not like All Star level, but to a .700-.720 OPS which would be about league average for 2B. Florimon will struggle. Escobar is the youngest of the group by quite a bit. I think they'll be OK once they settle in.
    1. chuchadoro's Avatar
      chuchadoro -
      For the sake of Twins fans mental health, Twins Daily should try to avoid posting articles regarding RF, MI and the rotation in a 12 hour span.
    1. Brock Beauchamp's Avatar
      Brock Beauchamp -
      Quote Originally Posted by chuchadoro View Post
      For the sake of Twins fans mental health, Twins Daily should try to avoid posting articles regarding RF, MI and the rotation in a 12 hour span.
      Hah. Fair point.
    1. 70charger's Avatar
      70charger -
      I'm bullish on Dozier, bearish on Florimon, and uncertain on Escobar. The article really didn't have much on him at all (not knocking it; it was a good article).

      I think Dozier OPSes at around 700-725. I think Florimon may very well be demoted half a season in. I think Jamey Carroll actually does better this year than last, given last year's very slow start.

      What's a realistic expectation for Escobar?
    1. ashburyjohn's Avatar
      ashburyjohn -
      Quote Originally Posted by 70charger View Post
      What's a realistic expectation for Escobar?
      If 2012 was a fluke and his minor league progression before that is any guide, I think .250/.300/.350 is very attainable and he has potential for more. I see the Florimonster as 50 to 100 OPS points below that; I would love for him to prove me wrong of course. I know better than to trust spring numbers, and yet it happens that both of them have spring numbers roughly in line with this.
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